Vocational training for young people

Effective vocational training can provide skills for both agricultural and nonagricultural livelihoods, and sustainable employment and self-employment opportunities. Many adolescent girls and boys have the ability, the desire, and the need to engage in economic activities, and in crises they are often forced by parents to contribute to the household income. In addition, after conflict or in high HIV prevalence contexts, there may be a large number of adolescent household heads, orphans, and other vulnerable children who will need to learn skills to make a living and to manage their money.

To read about vocational training in practice, click the link below:

Vocational training, Share an Opportunity Uganda

When should we use a vocational training programme for young people?

  • In the later phases of an emergency, particularly in protracted situations where young people may not have access to further education and are seeking to be in employment
  • When the context has a basic level of stability that will enable continuity

How to set up a vocational training programme

Carry out a market assessment

Youth consistently expect that participation in vocational training will increase their capacity to find employment or self-employment opportunities and achieve greater self-reliance. However, there can be a disconnect between participant expectations and programme objectives, which can lead to disappointment and frustration. Post-training employment or entrepreneurial opportunities are needed before vocational skills training programmes are put in place. A poor analysis of labour market opportunities may flood the market with large numbers of young people trained in sectors with little or no economic growth. Therefore market analysis should be incorporated into each stage of vocational training programming to improve decisions and, ultimately, increase employment and self-employment opportunities for youth graduates.

The analysis should include:

  • an overview of general geographic, demographic, cultural and economic information
  • a survey of infrastructure (physical, education, public health, etc.)
  • local places of interest (if any)
  • organizations working in the community
  • community problems
  • existing access to education and training opportunities
  • time constraints on young people with regard to agriculture, childcare duties, etc., as well as material constraints such as living conditions, nutrition and transport
  • traditional livelihoods in the community and neigbouring areas
  • identify potential areas for employment and entrepreneurial activities

Overall, the analysis provides a true context for creating specific and relevant technical and vocational skills training activities that are based on real economic needs and opportunities in the area, rather than what courses of study are currently available at existing vocational institutions. In other words, training must be “demand-driven” and defined by the needs of the community and market.

Use the toolkit Women’s Refugee Commission, Market Assessment Toolkit for Vocational Training Providers and Youth and Technology-based Vocational Skills Training for Marginalized Girls and Young Women for detailed guidelines on carrying out market and community assessments.

Build partnerships

Vocational training works best when delivered through a partnership model. Develop links with:

  • the relevant vocational secondary school or vocational training centres
  • the relevant district and/or city education office
  • local or regional NGOs with experience in activities related to the programme
  • community leaders
  • members of the business community  – e.g. those offering internships, employment or micro-business support (e.g. marketing), and business organisations such as the Chamber of Commerce or a Rotary Club

Develop training programmes

  • All skills development activities must be tailored to the specific geographical, social, cultural and economic context of the relevant community and participants.
  • You may choose to supplement the vocational skills training with learning in other life skills areas such as financial management, business development, administrative and language skills. These topics should be based on the result of the initial needs assessment.
  • Set a timeframe – the timeframe of a course will depend on the skills being learned, although on average it can take at least six months for young people to learn a set of skills that enables them to find employment and/or set up a viable micro-enterprise.  In many courses, this six-month timeframe includes a practical group project or an internship with a private sector business. In other courses, however, an apprenticeship occurs subsequent to the training and, thereby, the total training timeframe is longer.
  • Identify learning goals based on the skill being learned as well as the additional life skills, with indicators and activities showing how these goals will be achieved through the vocational programme.

Select participants

Develop selection criteria (e.g. target age range and education level, personal skills and motivation, economic background, location) and tell the target community about the programme and invite applications. Select those who meet your criteria; you may choose to carry out family visits as part of the process.

Provide training and mentoring

Develop agreements with indentified partner institutions and organisations and with the selected young people, and carry out the vocational training course.

  • The programme must ensure adequate safety for the trainees while they are learning their new skills. Examples include proper safety clothes and equipment (safety glasses (for working with machinery), mouth/nose air filters (when working with chemicals and poultry), hair covers (for food processing), gloves, rubber boots and hats for agricultural field work, etc. You may also wish to consider including first aid skills as a part of the curriculum. Another safety issue is to avoid heavy lifting and teach correct skills for lifting larger objects.

Follow up and support

It is critical to develop a “tracking” system for following graduates in order to provide assistance and support that helps them find employment and/or establish a micro-business. The technical and vocational, entrepreneurial and general life skills learned and reinforced during the training course will quickly deteriorate if there is no meaningful employment or work immediately forth-coming after the training. Employment also reinforces the learned skills and provides relevant rewards such as income, a sense of self-reliance, satisfaction and increased self-confidence.

Assisting graduates to find employment

  • This is most likely to happen through contacts made during internships and other linkages with local business partners
  • NGO partnerships can also help to form links between young people in vocational institutions and business partners

Assisting graduates to establish micro-enterprises

  • Where programmes are incorporating entrepreneurial activities into the vocational training curriculum, it is helpful to follow up with appropriate support in setting up micro-businesses
  • In addition to a start-up grant, young people may also benefit from mentoring and support in the initial stages of setting up their micro-business

Monitoring and Evaluation

Use indicators such as:

  • To what extent are the trainees learning the knowledge and skills defined in the curriculum?
  • Is trainee motivation to continue learning and selfconfidence high? (include attendance data)
  • What proportion of graduates are in employment six months or one year after finishing the training?
  • In what ways are their new skills and employment and/or business affecting their lives, their family and the community?

Tools and Resources

Information on this page is primarily taken from:

Women’s Refugee Commission, Market Assessment Toolkit for Vocational Training Providers and Youth

Technology-based Vocational Skills Training for Marginalized Girls and Young Women 

Additional tools and resources are here

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