Senegal: Reform of vocational education and training

Interview with Robert Koch from GIZ Senegal

Robert Koch is a former GOVET colleague who works for the GIZ in Senegal, where he is supporting the country’s vocational education and training reform. In this interview, he speaks about the challenges he faces in his work in Senegal and also looks back at his time at GOVET.

You’ve been working for the GIZ in Senegal since the start of 2021 and are supporting the reform of vocational education and training. What challenges do you face?

VET in Senegal primarily takes place in the informal sector. Many companies are micro-enterprises, such as the “ateliers” or “garages”. These are small workshops which offer craft trade services and frequently carry out production or repair works in a very confined space. They are a characteristic part of the street scene in Senegal’s major cities and towns. Many of these micro-enterprises exist precariously from one order to the next. Their employees have informal working arrangements. Young people who find a training place on a traditional programme (“apprentissage”) learn informal competencies at the side of an experienced tradesman or master craftsman during the everyday work routine.

At the same time, however, the country is experiencing matching problems. 40% of companies (World Bank 2014) complain that there are insufficient trained skilled workers and recruit their staff from abroad. The shortage of appropriately qualified skilled workers thus constitutes a structural barrier to sustainable growth in the Senegalese economy. Hotels and hospitality, industry and the construction sector are all affected.

And there is a further problem. VET predominantly takes place in a school-based form and has often not seen further development for decades, meaning that pupils use obsolete learning materials which take very little account of the reality of the labour market or of innovations in sectors such as agriculture. A few years ago, Senegal introduced a dual approach in VET in order to address these problems. And this is now being implemented – off the printed page and into reality. This is the process which my colleagues and I are supporting.

What are the current main focuses of your advisory work?

Our project is operating at three levels. Together with our Senegalese partners, we are pursuing the objective of improving the governance of the country’s VET system. To this end, we are advising the the ministry responsible for vocational training (MFPAI, Ministère de la Formation Professionnelle, de l'Apprentissage et de l'Insertion) on how to strengthen its governance capacities. Within this context, we have been supporting the Senegalese in setting out a legal framework for the formal recognition of skills acquired by informal means. We are also currently assisting the ministry with the development of a strategy which sets out the goal that thirty percent of lower secondary school leavers will progress to VET by the year 2030.

The focus of the second level is on strengthening cooperation between the state and trade and industry. Senegal has a Governance Committee comprising representatives of the employers, employees and of the Ministry of Training, Learning and Crafts which is supporting the introduction of a dual system.

We are, however, assisting with collaboration between stakeholders in the regions too. Civic stakeholders such as parent representatives also have a role to play at regional level alongside the private sector economy. We are also reinforcing the links between vocational schools, companies, supervisory structures, professional associations and the chambers.

The “Programme de Formation Ecole-Enterprise (PF2E)”, instigated by the Senegalese state, constitutes a third level. The aim is for young people to spend part of their training at a company and part of the training at a school. This represents a very specific dual approach. Our partners closely align themselves to the German-speaking model (I use the term ‘German-speaking’ deliberately because colleagues from Switzerland have also been engaging in detailed collaboration with our partners). Helping to facilitate this programme is the principal emphasis of my work.

We are supporting the programme in twelve training occupations what may be deemed intermediate secondary level. Training of two to three years’ duration takes place after year nine. The programme encompasses five sectors: industry, construction, agriculture and agricultural transformation, hotels and hospitality and IT. We have worked with representatives of trade and industry to adapt existing training regulations in a way that usefully supplements the competencies imparted at the various learning venues whilst also covering the requirements of the economy.

This is precisely the point at which we are encountering the challenge I just mentioned – the high degree of informality. It emerged that the continuing training delivered by company-based trainers and by vocational school teachers would be an important area of adjustment. For this reason, we have provided targeted training to staff at the learning venues. Trainers and vocational school teachers have been taught how to impart the contents of the curricula to the trainee skilled workers. We have specifically bolstered the technical and pedagogical competencies of the trainers in order to ensure trainees receive well-founded training. We will soon have completed the first year of training and, after a few delays, the next trainees will commence their programmes before the end of this year.

When you were at GOVET, your main focus was on advising ministerial and institutional partners on development cooperation. Which of the experiences you gained from your work at GOVET can you now use in your current tasks?

Part of my work centres on integrating impetuses from Germany into the consultancy services we offer the different partners and on keeping an eye on Germany. My work at GOVET helped me to obtain a profound view of the stakeholder structure in international VET cooperation and also honed my understanding that these stakeholders need to be included in matters relating to dual VET.

To what extent do you continue to make use of provision from GOVET?

Materials from GOVET are deployed regularly in my work. The most recent instance of this was an event involving representatives from various vocational schools which are planning to open up a dual class. I draw upon GOVET presentations and on the films available on YouTube. We use these as a knowledge base and recommend them to our Senegalese partners.

The “Strategy of the Federal Government on one-stop international cooperation” was adopted ten years ago. This sets out the framework for coherent and complementary implementation by the stakeholders involved in the process. How effective is the strategy proving to be at the implementation level, and how is it making its presence felt in your work specifically?

A multitude of German stakeholders are actively involved with measures in Senegal, and these are coordinated in a highly valuable and beneficial way. At GOVET, I was also working at an interface. I therefore know what it means to bring different interests together.

The GIZ in Senegal, for example, is now operating in the same region as the KfW Development Bank. In some cases, we work with the same vocational schools in order to ensure that technical and financial cooperation go hand in hand. Our actions are thus closely coordinated with the KfW. It is important for all German stakeholders on the ground network with each other so that synergies are created and work can come from a single source.