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Reducing the Skills Gap in Tanzania to Ensure Local Populations Benefit from Future Investments in the Country

July 8, 2014

Reducing the skills gap in Tanzania to ensure local populations benefit from future investments in the country Tanzania is a country full of potential!

Abundant natural resources, attractive geographic location and world class tourism attractions have allowed the country to grow with a yearly average of 7% over the last 10 years. And following recent discoveries of large quantities of gas offshore its coasts, the prospects for growth in the coming years are even better!

But as we all know, growth is not enough to reduce poverty and the percentage of people living in poverty has decreased only marginally over the past years. 80% of the population still lives on less than 20 a month and the country is one of the world's least developed (ranked 148th out of 169 countries in the Human Development Index).

One of the biggest challenges is the poor quality of the education system and the long term impact it has on the ability of Tanzanian to secure jobs in growing markets. Most companies currently investing in Tanzania face challenges in recruiting local workers and employ expatriates instead.

This is particularly evident in the gas sector where without improved training capacity very few Tanzanians are likely to be able to access employment opportunities beyond the lowest level of skills.

In order to address this, we set up an innovative project with the Government's Vocational Education Training Authority (VETA) and BG Group, a major gas company. The project aims at raising Tanzanian standards for craftsmanship skills in line with internationally recognized levels in different areas that are relevant to the gas industry (e.g. plumbing, welding, carpentry, electrical installation) and induced services (e.g. catering).

It is a "win-win" partnership: the Tanzanian Government increases its capacity to train its workforce in line with international standards, international investors are able to recruit better trained local staffs at lower costs than bringing expatriates and the local populations are able to access jobs they could not access before.

This "win win" situation is a guarantee for long term sustainability. Too many projects have indeed failed in the past in Tanzania as they were mainly driven by a donor or an NGO, without an initial request from local partners or with the local partner not really perceiving the benefits of the project to them.

Another exciting aspect of the project is the provision of long term tailored coaching as opposed to one-off training. Many development projects have failed in the past (and are still failing) as they rely on short term training that people attend because they have financial incentives rather than because they need or want to attend to it. As a result, ownership and motivation is poor.

To ensure this long term coaching, we recruited 9 volunteer international experts. They will coach VETA trainers on a one-on-one basis to qualify as internationally accredited and certified tutors. Those volunteer experts are not development professionals but rather technicians with years of experience in their related field.

They bring not only expertise but also a fresh perspective to local problems which often lead to innovative solutions.

This often results in higher motivation, ability and performance of the people we work with. This is a far more sustainable and effective model than isolated training initiatives offer! I have for example been very impressed with the impact our volunteer Claude Reysenn has had so far.

Before coming to Tanzania, he was the owner and chef of a Michelin star restaurant in the UK. After years of hard work in its restaurant, he decided to sell it and applied for the volunteer position in Tanzania!

He currently coaches VETA trainers and students in food preparation. He has been in country for only 8 months but his expertise and enthusiasm already made a huge difference, preparing VETA students for jobs in the growing catering businesses that start to develop in Mtwara or setting up their own businesses.

The current phase of the project will last 3 years and is expected to ensure 500 young people in Mtara find a job in the gas industry and related services.

VSO has been working in Tanzania since the independence of the country in 1961 and has established a strong network and reputation of professionalism within key ministries, local civil society organizations and the private sector. We currently work in the country under a Memorandum of Understanding with the President's Office. Our main objective is to reduce poverty by working with government and non-state agencies to improve access to quality education and health services and to strengthen the ability of disadvantaged people to make a viable living. We also promote greater citizen engagement, youth development and gender equality across the sectors where we work.

Jean Van Wetter is the Country Director of VSO in Tanzania. He has a Master of Sciences in Management from the Solvay Brussels School of Economics and Management and worked several years as management consultant for Deloitte Consulting before dedicating his career to the humanitarian and development sector. He has more than 10 years of experience in project management in different contexts and has successfully managed several multi-million pounds development projects, notably in the field of education. He is fully proficient with latest project management tools and techniques and is very involved in current debates on delivering better value for money in the Tanzanian development context.

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Source: AllAfrica

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