Toward Addressing Skills Development and Employment Crisis in Uganda: The Role of Public Private Partnerships
The paper explores the relevance of education in the transformation of the country through skills development. Socio-economic transformation is not based on mere education but on human capital development. The latter comprises skill formation manifested in innovation, and individual competitiveness which defines one’s employability in the competitive job market. The paper considers the role of Public-Private Partnerships (PPPs) in enhancing skills development and employment. It discusses the situation analysis on education in Uganda, employment levels, existing contradictions and the realities that prevail in the education system, the relationship between the education curriculum, job market and employment. It also captures the binding constraints to human resource development and ways of unlocking these constraints. The paper shows the need for Uganda to create a knowledge and skills-based economy and developing national ethos on human capital development. The paper is premised on a research conducted in twelve districts drawn from all the regions of Uganda. The major objective of the study was to analyse the changing character of education under the macro-economic policy reforms and the coping mechanisms adopted by households to ensure that their children access education. The methodology followed comprised: a quantitative survey conducted among scientifically selected households; focus group discussions with men, women and youth - both educated and uneducated - and key informants, including policy makers as well as local community leaders. The central argument is that, contrary to earlier suppositions, privatization and liberalization of the economy has not born much fruit because, while many institutions of learning have been established (largely by private entrepreneurs) and many graduates have been registered, the majority of these graduates are unemployable due to lack of skills demanded in labour markets. There is a contradiction characterized by soaring numbers of highly educated people amidst high levels of unemployment. In order for Uganda to learn lessons from success stories, “best practices” in human Capital and skills development are explored from countries like, Singapore, Malaysia, and Mauritius.
Without being overly pedantic, it is re-iterated that education and training need to be refocused toward vocationalisation. However, given the unpopularity of and the negative attitude toward vocational training in Uganda, it is recommended that vocationalisation should be integrated into formal training structures and systems in all institutions of learning. As a way forward regarding what should be done in order to address the critical issues of education, skills development, employment and productivity, the paper underscores the need to adopt a new national qualification framework comprising two strands of award, namely the
award for formal training, and its equivalent for vocational training. Such a framework will improve the recognition of vocationalisation and enhance the social status of the graduates of vocational training, hence, improved motivation for others to pursue vocational training. At the same time, it is pertinent that the private sector catalyze employment opportunities through increased investment and job creation.
Keywords: Human capital development, labour market penetration, investing in people, radicalizing the education system, transformative leadership