EASTRIP: Bridging East Africa’s skills gaps through targeted, high impact training

Photo credit: IUCEA

The East Africa Skills for Transformation and Regional Integration Project (EASTRIP) is a five-year initiative funded by the World Bank and the Governments of Ethiopia, Kenya and Tanzania to increase access and improve the quality of TVET programmes offered by selected Regional Flagship Technical and Vocational Education and Training (TVET) Institutes (RFTIs). Nation.Africa spoke with the Regional Project Coordinator of Inter University Council for East Africa (IUCEA). Following are excerpts:


Tell us more about EASTRIP?

The project was launched in June 2019 with a total budget of $293 million from the World Bank and the governments of Ethiopia, Kenya and Tanzania, to address skills shortage and mismatch by providing technical, financial and industry partnerships towards improving the relevance and quality of training programmes in the 16 selected Regional Flagship TVET Institutes (RFTIs).

The project supports the development of highly specialised TVET programmes at diploma and degree levels, for training of technicians and TVET faculty, as well as industry recognised short-term courses targeting regional priority sectors in transport, energy, manufacturing, and ICT. 

The 16 RFTIs (Seven in Ethiopia, five in Kenya, and four in Tanzania) will become regional TVET centres of excellence providing skilled workers in priority sectors required by the economies in the region. It is expected that these RFTIs will become TVET centres of excellence that trigger and guide continent-wide TVET reforms. 

In addition, the project’s institutional beneficiaries include the ministries responsible for TVET and education, and national TVET agencies. More specifically, these are the Ministry of Skills and Labour and the Federal TVET Agency in Ethiopia; the Ministry of Education (MoE), TVET Authority, and Curriculum Development Assessment and Certification Council (TVET CDACC) in Kenya; and the Ministry of Education, Science and Technology (MoEST), National Council for Technical Education (NACTE), Vocational Education and Training Authority (VETA), and Tanzania Commission for Universities (TCU) in Tanzania.

Through the project, the World Bank and the respective Governments have committed to provide support and resources to create and implement policies that allow TVET institutions to re-engineer their learning platforms and modes of delivery to meet the dynamic and ever-changing skills requirements of the marketplace. EASTRIP also facilitates regional integration by providing a platform to promote exchange of policies and practices, students and faculty mobility and harmonisation of occupational standards and qualifications framework.

The project is being implemented at three levels, including through RFTIs; national ministries responsible for education and TVET, and regional coordination. The Inter University Council for East Africa (IUCEA) hosts the regional component of the project as the Regional Facilitation Unit (RFU). 

Please explain the role of IUCEA in the implementation of EASTRIP?

IUCEA is a strategic institution of the East African Community. It is responsible for the development of higher education and research in the region. IUCEA was competitively selected by the World Bank as the RFU of EASTRIP. In this respect, it is responsible for coordinating the regional component of the project, including supporting project implementation and capacity building in the 16 RFTIs and the three national TVET systems. Its role also includes harmonisation of TVET occupational standards in close collaboration with industries, specifically the private sector, and mutual recognition of qualifications in EASTRIP priority sectors, which include manufacturing, power and energy, transport and infrastructure, and ICT. IUCEA also facilitates staff and student mobility exchange programmes. It further carries out monitoring and evaluation (M&E) of the project’s coordination.

You have said that EASTRIP priority sectors include transport and infrastructure, power and energy, manufacturing, agro-processing, and ICT. Why did you choose to focus on these sectors?

Countries in East Africa have rolled out several initiatives, including the Northern Corridor Integration Project (NCIP) and the Central Transport Corridor Project. Tanzania and Uganda recently signed an agreement to construct the East African Crude Oil Pipeline (EACOP).   

In addition, African governments have embraced industrialisation as part of the strategy for sustainable economic development and job creation. This has resulted in increased demand for skilled labour to support the growing sector of the economies. However, there is a shortage of skilled labour to support key growth sectors. Skills shortage is particularly acute in the fields of ICT, transport, energy, manufacturing and agro-processing. While industry in general complains about lacking qualified workers, youth unemployment and underemployment is also prevalent. 

EASTRIP has focused on these critical sectors of the economy because it is believed they are critical to spur industrialisation and support economic development of our nations and the region in general.

Photo credit: IUCEA

EASTRIP is in its third year of implementation. What have been some of your major achievements?

I’ll outline them as follows:

Project Implementation: Institutional structures for ensuring effective project implementation have been put in place, including the establishment of a Regional Steering Committee (RSC), with members from Ethiopia, Kenya and Tanzania. TVET institutes benefiting from the project have established fully-fledged project implementation units. National coordination offices at ministries of education have been established. A fully-fledged project regional implementation unit at IUCEA, as the EASTRIP Regional Facilitation Unit, has been set up too.

Collaboration with Industries: Collaboration between TVET institutes with industries and other productive sectors is a strong requirement for EASTRIP. Most of the 16 TVET institutes have established Industrial Advisory Boards with private sector representatives. The institutes have also signed Memoranda of Understanding (MoUs) with industries to collaborate on curriculum development and industry attachment, and involvement of experts in curriculum review, development of delivery of academic programmes.

Construction of ultra-modern training facilities for TVET institutes: The project has provided technical and financial support to TVET institutions in Ethiopia, Kenya and Tanzania to establish TVET centres of excellence with the construction of modern training facilities. The facilities are at various stages of construction.

Harmonisation of TVET Qualifications Framework: The process of harmonising TVET occupational standards and qualifications frameworks is underway. Harmonisation of TVET qualifications and occupational standards is expected to create an enabling policy environment to enhance skills development and service delivery among TVET institutes in East Africa. Specifically, the harmonised qualifications framework will facilitate mutual recognition of qualifications and mobility of learners and professions. A draft regional TVET qualifications framework has been developed and it is currently under discussion.

A number of stakeholder engagements have been held to ensure that the final document will include views of the majority of stakeholders in TVET in the region. Once developed and implemented, the regional qualifications framework will facilitate mutual recognition of TVET qualifications in East Africa. This will in turn encourage movement of skilled labour in the region, promote integration and facilitate implementation of the East African Community Common Market Protocol.

Support to Technical and Vocational Institutes to respond to COVID-19: During the COVID-19 disruptions, EASTRIP supported 16 selected TVET institutes to develop e-Learning platforms so that learning could continue during COVID-19 lockdowns and even in the long-term. The support provided included both financial and technical, to develop specifications for setting up eLearning platforms and modern ICT infrastructure.

Scholarships for tutors from TVET Institutes: The Chinese Government, through the Ministry of Education, signed a Memorandum of Understanding with IUCEA, and the World Bank to provide 100 postgraduate scholarships to tutors and lecturers in the selected 16 flagship TVET Institutes in East Africa. Every year, about 20 faculty members from the EASTRIP colleges will be selected to pursue relevant technical and engineering master’s or Ph.D. degrees in top Chinese universities and technical colleges. So far, 36 young tutors and lecturers have benefited from two rounds of scholarship selections. We believe that the scholarships will help build long-term core capacity of TVET institutes to enhance the sustainability of the EASRIP support to TVET institutes.

Photo credit: IUCEA

What do you hope to achieve over the lifetime of EASTRIP?

By the end of the project, the 16 flagship institutes will have at least doubled their capacity to collectively enrol 20,000 students on an annual basis in both long-term and short-term training programmes. Cumulatively, the project will have directly benefitted close to 60,000 students. It is also projected that at least 30 percent of the enrolment will be female students.

Furthermore, at least 310 staff will benefit from industrial attachment programmes and 230 staff will benefit from foreign exchange programmes at the end of the project. Furthermore, the project will indirectly benefit all students who are enrolled in the flagship TVET institutes due to the improved management, teaching, and infrastructure.

The project will also benefit students and faculty who are in non-project TVET institutes that have partnership arrangement with the flagship TVET institutions. Employers in the targeted industries will also benefit from an expanded and more qualified pool of skilled labour.

Finally, and most importantly, is that the region will benefit from the policy and project implementation levels in that the model and design of the project requires mind-set change and the need for close and continuous interaction and involvement of policy makers, TVET practitioners and other stakeholders, in ensuring that the relevant and dynamic skills needs are adequately met to fill existing gaps. This is even more critical as the national economies of countries in the region are growing towards industrialisation. Therefore, the need for a sustained supply of relevant and skilled labour cannot be overemphasised. This is expected to also contribute to addressing youth unemployment, a challenge that countries in East Africa, if not the whole of Africa, face.

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