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NUEYS Technical and Vocational Training: Learning for the World of Work

By :- Dr. Fikrejesus Amahazion

Last week, a group of youths in Massawa sub-zone completed a technical and vocational training course. The course is part of a larger technical and vocational training program that has been conducted by the National Union of Eritrean Youth and Students (NUEYS), an organization that was founded a half-century ago during Eritrea’s independence struggle. The training programs, which combine a comprehensive theoretical study component with extensive practical, hands-on training, are delivered free of charge for all students. Boasting a long history and numerous graduates, both male and female, the technical and vocational education programs serve as a useful reminder of Eritrea’s continued investment in human capital, as well as its longstanding efforts to promote inclusive socio-economic growth, achieve sustainable development, and tangibly improve the living standards of all of its people. The following paragraphs briefly outline several important, albeit often underdiscussed, points about technical and vocational training while also highlighting Eritrea.

The importance of technical and vocational education and training, which is basically understood as comprising formal, non-formal, and informal learning for the world of work, is reflected in its prominence of place within the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. Equal access to affordable, high quality technical and vocational education is a target of the SDGs, along with a commitment to substantially increase the number of youths and adults with the relevant skills for employment, decent jobs and entrepreneurship by 2030.

Additionally, alongside the fact that technical and vocational education programs help provide qualified manpower that is needed across all sectors of the economy, another important dimension is how they may contribute to opening the doors to decent employment and viable livelihoods for a large (and steadily growing) number of young people.

Within this broad context, the various types of skills, competencies, and mindset that are acquired or honed within technical and vocational education programs can provide youth with a viable avenue toward integration into the formal labor market. In regard to Eritrea, through developing critical technical and vocational skills many young people are finding more opportunities to work. Over the years, numerous young Eritreans, both male and female, have completed technical and vocational education programs, including those conducted by NUEYS. Upon completion, many students have been able to secure steady and secure employment in jobs directly related to their specific skills training, thus allowing them to practically apply their learning, increase their earnings, and take concrete steps to positively change their lives.

Another important point meriting consideration is how through providing young people with much-needed skills, developing their competencies, and helping to expand their opportunities for decent, dignified employment, technical and vocational education programs, such as those offered by NUEYS, are playing a positive role in the fulfillment of a range of fundamental rights as spelled out in a range of international instruments.

In addition, technical and vocational education can be a critically important tool for establishing a fairer society and cultivating social cohesion, promoting social justice, and supporting gender equality and empowerment. For example, vocational and technical education provides a great platform for young people who aspire to succeed but may experience challenges with traditional academic programs. Around the world it is also widely recognized that the development of technical and vocational skills is an effective strategy to strengthen the social inclusion of disadvantaged communities and empower marginalized groups by increasing their employability and expanding their opportunity for independence.

A quick look at the enrolment lists from NUEYS training programs nationwide, showing students that are from across the spectrum of society, including those from disadvantaged groups, historically marginalized regions, and rural areas, is a powerful demonstration of this point. So is the fact that the programs are delivered completely free of charge for students.

Finally, in terms of gender equality and empowerment, the technical and vocational education programs organized by NUEYS have helped young Eritrean women develop skills in numerous trades that have traditionally been restricted to men (such as carpentry, construction, woodwork, and metalwork, among others). The programs also play a role in empowering and inspiring these young women, many of whom have gone on to thrive in these various areas and fields, thus demonstrating autonomy, voice, and agency, as well as tangibly shifting, if not dramatically upending, powerful, deeply-rooted socio-cultural stereotypes and outdated beliefs or perceptions.

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