Vocational training set to take off in a big way

RIYADH: Vocational training in the Kingdom is poised to take off in a big way, especially for girls who will now have access to specialized training in different vocations.

The Technical and Vocational Training Corporation (TVTC) has launched an ambitious project to set up 39 training institutes exclusively for girls by 2014. The new institutes will have a cumulative enrollment of some 120,000 students on different technical and vocational courses at any given time.

“But, the biggest impediment to this plan will probably be human resources, including qualified trainers,” said Saleh A. Al-Amr, chairman of the organizing committee of the fifth Saudi Technical Conference and Exhibition (STCEX).

Al-Amr, who is also the TVTC vice governor, was speaking during STCEX’s concluding session yesterday. “The most important problem in implementing training programs is the poor performance of trainers and teachers due to their poor training and lack of field experience,” he said.

On the regional level, the Arab Labor Organization (ALO) has geared itself to address some of the problems, said Ahmed M. Luqman, ALO’s secretary-general. He said ALO has prepared a report on labor issues in Arab states, which reveals that the overall rate of unemployment in Arab countries is more than 14 percent.

The region, as a whole, has more than 17 million unemployed men and women. The problem is acute among women as unemployment rates among them, excluding Saudi Arabia, exceeds 23 percent.

Luqman said there was a need to do more on the training and employment front. He pointed out that ALO, together with TVTC, had planned to hold a conference on how to address technical and vocational training issues on the national and regional levels. He appreciated the Kingdom’s efforts in terms of human resource development and said there are challenges ahead, keeping in view the fact that the total population of Arab states now exceeds 340 million.

Referring to the recommendations made by the conference, he said the STCEX has sought to promote awareness about vocational training among Saudi youngsters. The conference has also recommended setting up a technical and vocational university, and forging closer partnerships with the private sector. On the other hand, the conference recommended boosting cooperation between the TVTC and ministries of Education and Higher Education, while a proposal to establish a unified national occupational skills standard at the level of the six-nation Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) was also made.

The conference called for intensifying efforts to promote and implement the National System for Joint Training. Students enrolled under this system, which is currently being implemented in Riyadh, Makkah, Madinah, Qassim, Hail, Asir and Tabuk, are taught basic vocational, computer and English language skills.

Referring to the TVTC’s plan to set up vocational training institutes for girls, Al-Amr said, “The program is designed to cater to the needs of public and private sector organizations … we don’t have enough people or trainers with the required skills and educational background.”

But efforts of many other local and international institutions, such as the British Council, will make up the shortfall both in terms of training efforts and providing skills to the trainers. “There is a plan to establish some 16 joint colleges in the Middle East, including Saudi Arabia, where more than 100,000 youngsters will be trained by 2011,” said Millry Rilton, the British Council’s regional director for vocational training.

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