Eight Ugandan vocational students have been selected to represent the country at the Africa Skills competition due in Rwanda from November 19 to 24, 2018.
The business, technical, vocational education and training (BTVET) department under ministry of Education selected second-year students from public and private vocational institutions.
The student representatives were selected out from the 65, who had excelled at the first-ever National Vocational Skills competitions held at UMA show grounds in Lugogo last week.
Some 213 students from various institutions participated in the regional competitions before the number was halved to the national level. The finalists will compete in seven vocational fields with students from countries such as Rwanda, South Africa, Nigeria, Namibia and Zambia.
The eight students are Nicholas Sekatawa (plumbing) from St Kizito Technical Institute in Madera, Soroti, Harika Mpologoma (building construction) of Nakawa Vocational Training Institution, Claire Nakiyimba (hair dressing) of Victory School of Beauty, Nateete, John Patrick Mugisha (cooking) of Millennium Business School, Hoima and Victor Ndiwandinda (electrical wiring) of Rukungiri Technical Institute.
Vicent Muganga of Sunmaker Oil and Gas Institute in Kampala will compete in the welding field while two students whose names are yet to be announced from Nakawa Vocational Training Institute will represent Uganda in the mechanics and electronics field.
According to the BTVET coordinating officer of the competitions, Dominic Kyambadde, the ministry will on Monday next week attach each finalist to an industry related to their field for a one-month mentorship and training programme.
“We want the finalists to get all the necessary skills before we set off for Kigali, Rwanda in November. These field attachments and trip to Rwanda have been catered for by our sponsors so that we emerge winners at the African level,” Kyambadde said.
“This is our maiden competition and all we need is success.”
At the national competitions, students competed in 14 fields but only seven were selected by the WorldSkills, also organisers of the Africa Competitions.
Kyambadde said selected students in fields such as bakery, woodwork, automotive mechanics, practical nursing, pharmacy and agriculture are not part of the competitions but will be allowed to take part in the exhibitions in Rwanda.
While awarding the finalists at Lugogo, Education minister Janet Museveni said government is paying critical attention to skills development owing to the fact that it provides key building blocks to the country’s development.
“Skills competitions will go a long way to develop talent, to reveal the entrepreneurship spirit and get industry to pay attention to what can and should be done in the country at the TVET [technical, vocational education and training] level,” Museveni said.
She added that training of students in vocational fields is a fundamental factor that will bring the true self-realization that any nation needs to reach the summit of a mountain. Ms Museveni related Uganda’s education system to a traditional kitchen that always needs three stones for one to prepare a meal but only two stones have been utilised, thus affecting production.
“The kind of education we have had all this time has been focusing on two areas; the head and heart. Now even education requires three building blocks meaning the head, the heart and the hands. Therefore, our development has been shaky because it has been standing on only two stones,” she said.
She cited areas in which students competed such as electrical, motor vehicle; building, tailoring and woodwork as strong bedrocks on which the BTVET education and training system is constructed.
The commissioner BTVET, Hajjat Safina Kisu Musene, said the finalists were selected through a rigorous process of judges analyzing their time on task, customer relations and output of their products, among others.
“We hope that the finalists will get more expertise in what they are working on during their stay in Rwanda,” Musene said.
“When students compete, their expertise increases and they learn new things in the field. We shall also make linkages with international organisations while in Rwanda to help fund our BTVET sector.” Musene said Uganda will utilise the competitions to also tap into the WorldSkills competitions held after every two years.
“WorldSkills competitions are the gold standard of skills excellence. They inspire young competitors to reach new heights, helping them turn their passion into a profession,” reads part of the write-ups on its website.
Next year, the WorldSkills competitions will be held in Russia. Musene said Uganda will also attend the competitions as it prepares to compete in 2022 in China.
“Already, we have got an expert from Austria from the WorldSkills competition to prepare us for the next stage  at the world level,” she said.
In future, Museveni urged the Uganda Manufacturers’ Association (UMA), National Chamber of Commerce and Industry and other line institutions to invest into subsequent competitions as well as play lead roles towards the development of a highly competitive skilled workforce to support the country’s economic growth and transformation, as envisaged in Vision 2040.