Adapting Workforce Training to Meet Today’s Job Demands

Speeches Shim

Wednesday, January 5, 2022
Leatherworking is one area in which USAID supports in-house pre-employment training for businesses in select growth sectors to complement vocational educational programs.
Photo: ERLP

“Our curricula were developed years ago and had become outdated. High competitiveness and rapid evolution in scientific and technological advancement forced us to step up and meet new requirements to fulfill the demands of the labor market.”

— Salem Salah, Vice Dean for Student Affairs, Seyoun Community College

In its early days, Seyoun Community College in Hadramout Governorate was known as a pioneer in the technology sector. Established in 2003, the institution prided itself on graduating highly qualified students, armed with an arsenal of skills needed to succeed in the modern Yemeni job market.

Over the years, the high-growth sectors offering exciting job opportunities for young Yemenis evolved very rapidly – quickly outpacing the ability of training institutes, like Seyoun Community College, to keep up. 

“Even the students felt that the teaching methodology and materials were too traditional. So, they requested that we update the curriculum and cover more aspects in depth, so that they could be more fully equipped for employment,” says Salem Salah, Vice Dean for Student Affairs at the community college. 

Now, thanks to USAID support, Seyoun is offering totally revamped curricula in three specialty areas that match some of the fastest-growing labor demands in Yemen. Since the launch of the 2021-2022 academic year, students have been able to work towards a diploma in renewable energy, software programming, or health management that is tailored to the skills needed in those industries. The three-year courses of study feature interactive teaching methods covering both practical and theoretical modules, including a focus on critical soft skills along with enhanced technical ones. 

Last summer, the USAID Economic Recovery and Livelihoods Program (ERLP) offered intensive training to the community college’s instructors, updating their teaching methods, competencies, and certifications. The sessions were designed to bring pedagogical practices in line with modern workforce demands, moving away from rote-based approaches and towards real-world application and best practices. 

To inform the development of the new curricula, Seyoun and the ERLP team reached out extensively to garner stakeholder input via surveys and discussions with such entities as local chambers of commerce, non-government organizations, and the Curriculum Development and Programs Unit within the Ministry of Vocational Education. As noted by Mr. Salah, “If you are aiming for improvements, you can’t work alone. You must involve all stakeholders.” 

In addition, ERLP solicited feedback from the many small- and medium-sized enterprises with which it partners to enhance their competitiveness and capacity for generating new jobs. The program garnered specific information for fine tuning the curricula to address particular skills gaps and technical needs. For example, ICT start-up companies described the types of up-to-date expertise in software and application development that they could not find, and green technology companies noted the lack of workers versed in the details of solar panel installation and maintenance.

To complement the development of new training curricula for vocational education, ERLP also organizes in-house training and upskilling for businesses in key growth sectors. For example, ERLP delivered pre-employment training to the National Company for Leather Industries in Aden, which has experienced rapid rise in demand due to a drop in imports resulting from supply-chain disruptions. Leatherworking is not taught in vocational education programs, so ERLP designed training modules on fine leather design, cutting, and assemblage that could be delivered in the factory itself. They trained 19 craftspersons, all of whom were then hired by the company. Similarly, the program developed customized training for three women-owned garment factories in Mukalla and Seyoun to train several dozen qualified seamstresses, who were then hired to help ensure on-time production of new clothing orders for the growing enterprises.

Private vocational institutions are at a key growth point themselves, as demand for training expands with increasingly widespread recognition of the value of market-relevant vocational opportunities. For Seyoun Community College, the collaboration with ERLP has provided a head start in establishing its institutional capacity for keeping ahead of the curve, adjusting to job market change, and regaining a reputation as a source for cutting-edge technical training. 

“We consider what we did so far as a foundation for future curricular changes,” says Mr. Salah. “We obtained new skills that will help us replicate those efforts, such as how to reach out to the private sector, how to involve the students, and how to develop the necessary feedback tools.”

Seyoun Community College is collaborating with ERLP to offer employability skills workshops for its graduates, and to host a job fair in partnership with the Seyoun Chamber of Commerce and dozens of hiring companies. This holistic approach has resulted in some 1,500 new jobs for young Yemenis over the past year, and is forging a pipeline of employment and skills growth meant to generate many more.

USAID’s Economic Recovery and Livelihoods program (ERLP) addresses critical economic stabilization challenges in Yemen. At the macroeconomic level, it works with public and private institutions to restore economic stability, enhance fiscal management, and increase international trade flows. At the microeconomic level, ERLP strengthens agricultural, fisheries, and private sector performance and competitiveness—creating jobs, raising incomes, and improving livelihoods.

Last updated: May 11, 2022

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