Employability skills are a necessity for every Technical and Vocational Education and Training (TVET) graduate.
Unfortunately, a sizeable number of TVET trainees are unable to secure internship placements in industry to prepare them for the labor market as a strategic means of reducing the rate of graduate unemployment, writes YUDAYA NANGOZI.
The Uganda Business and Technical Examinations Board (Ubteb) says there’s need for deliberate attention by government paid to implementation and review of the regulations guiding the industry attachment and apprenticeship.
Speaking at the release of the November/December 2020 end of programme examination results, the Ubteb chairperson, Dr Eng. Silver Mugisha, said the situation should change, to commit the industry in providing zero sum opportunity to the TVET trainees for industrial attachment.
While institutions have an obligation to teach the theory and practical components, he insisted that the industry needs to be at the center of training TVET graduates.
“It is pointless for industries to say that we release to them half-baked graduates when they are not willing to participate in making them fully- prepared for the job market by way of giving them opportunities to practice before they are finally assessed,” Mugisha said at the Ubteb secretariat in Ntinda on Friday last week.
He added that government needs to expedite the formulation of the TVET bill that will regulate the provision and assessment of TVET in addition to the TVET policy direction.
This, he believes, will help to streamline the laws and regulations defining mandates of players in TVET and later enhance a tripartite TVET assessment by the training institutions, the industry, and the assessment board.
Currently, he said, the lack of a supportive system during transition and the disconnection between curriculum and business needs affects trainees. At least 16,144 candidates registered for the 19th series of these examinations conducted between March 12 and 26, 2021 in 511 examination centers across the country. Of the 16,144 candidates, 4,732 were female and 11,412 males.
The candidates sat for their examinations in five categories of; advanced craft, national certificate, community polytechnics, business diploma, and business certificate programmes.
At the examination release, the board noted that some students were unable to complete their courses due to lack of training placements catapulted by the COVID-19 pandemic.
To further improve the quality and competitiveness of TVET graduates, the Ubteb signed Memorandums of Understanding with the National Water and Sewerage Corporation, Uganda Industrial Research Institute (UIRI) and the Uganda National Chamber of Commerce and Industry at the release of results.
Mugisha said the MoUs will link assessment to the industry and in turn speed up the process of skilling and innovations uptake.
“The board is now working on the implementation of modular system of assessment. This is in line with TVET reforms as enshrined in the NDP III and TVET policy, and will guarantee graduates with flexibility in attaining TVET qualification and award that match the industry’s expectations,” he said.
The executive director of UIRI, Prof Charles Kwesiga, told The Observer that government needs to increase efforts towards creating industry and in turn, industry can participate in training of students.
“At UIRI, I don’t turn away trainees as long as you as you apply within our schedule for internship. However, most industry genuinely doesn’t have the capacity to train students. Internally, they are struggling. If we could have a more elaborate industry infrastructure, then they would be able to train students,” Kwesiga said.
He added: “When you operate as a small scale limited capacity, you don’t have the luxury to train. Being a third world country, there are many reasons that things don’t happen. The issue of industry, training and apprenticeship is not fully formed to our expected standard. If you look at the biggest tax payers, they are mostly the service industry not production. Yet, invaluable skills are needed in production which mainly operates on small scale with inadequate facilities like machines to train the students.”
DECLINE IN PERFORMANCE
Out of the 16,144 candidates that registered for the examinations, 15,019 candidates sat for the exams while 1,125 missed one or more modules. Ubteb executive secretary Onesmus Oyesigye attributed the various reasons for absenteeism to the COVID-19 pandemic and failure by students to meet tuition fees.
Of the 15,019 candidates, at least 11,334 successfully completed their respective programmes of study. Oyesigye noted a three per cent decline in pass rates from 78 per cent in 2019 to 75 per cent in 2020.
“Overall, male candidates performed better with 76 per cent pass rate compared to females with 73 per cent. Much as female candidates continue to slowly bridge the registration gaps, male candidates have continued to dominate TVET in both registration and pass rates,” Oyesigye said, calling for more combined efforts and affirmative action by government to encourage more for females into TVET.
Females only performed better than their male counterparts in Uganda Community Polytechnic Certificate category with a 93 per cent pass rate compared to 83 per cent respectively.
In the technical category, some 159 candidates sat for Advanced craft programmes, 10,901 technical national certificates, and 2,588 sat for community polytechnics certificates. There was a four per cent decline in pass rate from 80 per cent in 2019 to 76 per cent in 2020.
For the technical category, Agri- culture was best done with 90 per cent while Applied Technician Mathematics II and Workshop Technology II posed challenges to most students.
In the business category, there was a five per cent improvement in pass rate from 71 in 2019 to 75 in 2020. Out of the 1,371 candidates that sat for the examinations, 969 passed their programmes. Oyesigye said the board will undertake a study to establish the low performance in Accounts, Elements of Taxation, Economics, and Business calculation modules which candidates did not perform well.
Meanwhile, the board registered 36 cases of malpractice compared to 68 in 2019. Of the 36, results of 19 candidates have been recommended for cancellation while nine students did not show up for hearings by the board’s examination security committee.
The UBTEB deputy executive secretary in charge of examination management, Dr Wilfred Nahamya, said students with cancelled results smuggled unauthorized materials into the examination rooms, entered with phones, while others were caught copying from each other.
“For the minor cases, the board cautioned them because they only wrote on their question papers. The law doesn’t allow anything on the question papers beside your name,” he said.
Students whose results were cancelled have a chance to sit exams in the next academic year. However, the new rule dictates that once you are caught copying in one paper, results of the entire semester are cancelled. Nahamya said the board assumes that you were tempted to cheat in other papers but got away with it, thus cancelling all results.