Building a skilled workforce in Tunisia
Typically, attaining high education is expected to increase one’s probability of joining the labor force. In Tunisia, people with high education face a high probability of being unemployed. More than half of the Tunisian working-age population remains outside the labor force. Reconsidering the role of TVET is critical in bridging gaps in the supply and demand of skills for the labor market and possibly increasing employment rates. Critical stakeholders such as employers and other private sector actors are barely involved in the design and curriculum offering in Tunisia’s TVET sector.
In 2015, the Minister of Employment and Vocational Training (MEFP) requested the World Bank support in implementing its Technical and Vocational Education and Training (TVET) Sector Operational and Implementation Plan 2014-2018. The Plan called for a complete transformation of the TVET sector aimed at building skills needed for economic growth and social inclusion.
The Minister expressed strong interest in learning from the concrete experiences of other countries comparable to Tunisia in terms of context and economic reality. The key priority was to learn from successful strategies implemented to improve the supply of a skilled labor force and increased youth participation in TVET and the labor market.
Through a knowledge exchange supported by the South-South Facility, Tunisia sought to learn from the Malaysian experience to strengthen capacities in three main areas:
• Rebranding of the TVET sector to better mainstream and improve perceptions of TVET particularly in lagging regions and among future graduates
• Rationalizing TVET provisioning to meet the economic and employment needs
• Scaling up private TVET training provision
TVET is a top priority for Malaysia, a country that has focused extensively on improving the quality and skills of its workforce to transform its economy. Malaysia’s priorities for its workforce go beyond increasing knowledge and skills to building new and specialized skills to meet future industry needs.
With an unemployment rate of 15.4 percent in 2015 and a staggeringly high rate of graduate unemployment, it became necessary to reconsider TVET and skills training necessary to start bridging the gap between supply and demand.
Tunisia lacked the direct know-how to implement its TVET reform strategy, more specifically in the following areas:
• Building strong leadership support at the highest levels of Government
• Mobilizing stakeholders
• Creating the fiscal space to finance TVET
• Appealing to the aspirations of the youth to increase enrollments to TVET
• Make TVET provisioning more effective and efficient in responding to the demand for skills from employers
In a quest to attain the status of a developed country by the year 2020, Malaysia prioritized retraining and upgrading the skills of its workforce. The TVET sector was identified as a key driver of this transformation. The Government undertook significant reforms and investments to successfully rebrand vocational and skills training. Malaysia continues to promote and share its experiences with other middle-income countries which provide it with opportunities for developing future partnerships and economic cooperation. Tunisia identified Malaysia as an ideal knowledge partner and sought to learn directly from the Malaysian experience.
The knowledge exchange visit took place from November 9-18,2018 in Kuala Lumpur and Penang in Malaysia. The Tunisian delegation comprised four high level officials from the Ministry of Employment and Vocational Training (MEFP) and the Ministry of Education (MoE). These senior officials are key decision makers and important change agents in this reform. The delegation met with a selection of key stakeholders from government, public agencies, and private sector responsible for labor training in Malaysia.
In Malaysia, the Tunisian delegation met with the senior officials from the Ministry of Education(MoE) and the Ministry of Human Resources (MoHR). They had discussions about the education and training strategy implemented by the Malaysian Government to rebrand and make the TVET sector more attractive to future school graduates and improve the quality of skills training.
The delegation also had meetings with the Malaysian Quality Agency (MQA) which is responsible for accrediting TVET programs, supervision, qualifications and regulating the quality and standards of public and private TVET providers. The delegation learned about the role of MQA in establishing and implementing the Malaysian Qualification Framework as a basis for quality assurance, the reference point for the criteria and standards for national qualifications and quality assurance and accreditation of TVET programs.
When meeting with Talent Corp, a Malaysian Government Agency responsible for attracting, nurturing and retaining the top and highly in demand talent, the delegation was familiarized with its key initiatives and approaches. One of them is the Critical Occupations List (COL) which is an evidence-based list of occupations in Malaysia that reflects the most sought-after and hard to fill occupations by industry. The COL is collected and published annually by the Critical Skills Monitoring Committee and is used to shape, influence and align policies related to higher education and TVET sectors.
The Tunisian delegation had meetings at the Department of Skills Development (DSD), an agency under MoHR, responsible for coordinating and controlling training skills for Malaysian citizens. DSD researches and develops standards to evaluate job expertise and competency. The agency is also responsible for elaborating the National Occupational Skills Standards (NOSS) which outline the level of competency required by a worker to perform a specific job at different levels. The NOSS are developed by the Industry Lead Bodies made up of industry experts within their specified fields.
The delegation visited and met with TVET providers namely the German Malaysian Institute, the Penang Skills Development Center and the School of Skills. This was a firsthand experience to better understand how training providers work directly with employers to design, adjust curriculum, develop training programs and pedagogy that meets the rapidly evolving needs of the firms. Some of these TVET providers have programs driven and supported by their corporate members. These programs are designed to be directly relevant to immediate and forecast industry requirements ensuring graduates have very high employability rates.
Finally, the Tunisian delegation had discussions with Intel to learn about how Intel recruits engineers and trains them on the job through a two-year induction program.
Key lessons and takeaways by the Tunisian delegation included:
• An appreciation of the collective effort and contribution of all key stakeholders, in the success of Malaysian TVET reform. This collaboration and partnership approach has positively impacted Malaysia’s economy and significantly increased graduate employment rates. These are outcomes Tunisia desires from its TVET reform.
• Learning from comparable aspects of the Malaysian education and training strategies implemented to integrate the national TVET system with national human resource development.
• The importance of creating a national agency responsible for accreditation, supervision, regulation and quality standards of both public and private TVET providers. The Malaysian Qualification Agency (MQA) was a good example of such an agency which can be used as reference point for Tunisia during the implementation stage of their reform.
• How to effectively align the demands of the labor market with the skills training supplied by TVET providers. TalentCorp, The School of Skills, Penang Skills Development Centre and the German Malaysian Institute each shared their approaches to attracting, training, nurturing and retaining top talent and skills for their immediate and forecast industry needs.
• Practical outreach activities that Malaysia undertook to raise the profile and appeal of TVET. SkillsMalaysia is an agency dedicated to promoting and showcasing TVET innovations both nationally and internationally.
Beneficiaries / Participants
Special Advisor and Director, Implementation Project Unit for Reform of Labor Training, Ministry of Employment and Labor Training
Division Director, National Center for Training of Trainers and Training of Engineering
Special Advisor, Ministry of Employment and Labor Training
Director, National Center for Continuing Education and Career Advancement
World Bank Contribution
The knowledge exchange with Malaysia was financed through the World Bank South-South Facility and additional contributions from World Bank programs in Malaysia and Tunisia. The Tunisian delegates gained critical knowledge on how to effectively embark on the implementation phase of their TVET reform and approaches to rebrand TVET. A dedicated team of World Bank staff in Tunisia, Malaysia and Washington DC provided technical and advisory support during the design, planning and implementation stages of the process. The ongoing Tunisia Education Sector Improvement Project, will benefit from the technical knowledge and experiences gained from Malaysia.
Based on the experiences and knowledge gained during the knowledge exchange visit, the Tunisian delegation will explore possible ways to establish a partnership with The Malaysian Qualification Agency (MQA) to improve quality assurance and improve its accreditation system. They expressed interest in revamping the Critical Occupations List with a view to piloting it as an annual publication.
The delegation will engage with other stakeholders to determine promotional activities to raise the profile and attractiveness of TVET in Tunisia.
A final report of lessons learned and their relevance for Tunisia was prepared and discussed. This report will be disseminated and used to inform policy dialogue with the Tunisian Ministry of Employment and Labor Force Training. This could facilitate the development of a roadmap to strengthen a partnership approach among key actors in reorienting TVET to better meet industry economic needs and the additional demands for employment.
The delegation gained valuable and practical knowledge to reorient vocational training in Tunisia to better meet economic needs and additional demands for employment.
Change Objective # 1: Tunisia gaining new knowledge on how to rebrand TVET interventions
The knowledge exchange exposed the Tunisian delegation to several key actors responsible for TVET in Malaysia and got a better understanding of the different roles each agency plays to ensure the TVET success. They were able to see how collaboration and effective coordination among Malaysian key stakeholders has positively impacted the Malaysian economy.
The delegation also got real life examples of how TVET providers design and structure their programs to the principles of continuous learning to meet the industry immediate and future needs. Malaysia shared how they were able to raise the profile and attractiveness of TVET through several activities such as setting up SkillsMalaysia in 2011, a unit dedicated to promoting TVET and increasing awareness of job opportunities. Promotional and outreach activities include media advertisement campaigns, roadshows and skills competitions both nationally and internationally. Malaysia holds the National Skills Competition annually for local TVET students to showcase their innovations and winners represent Malaysia in International Skills Competitions. It is worth noting that Malaysia has won four gold medals in the World Skills Competition.
Change Objective #2: Tunisia gains new knowledge to rationalize TVET offerings
During the knowledge exchange, the Tunisian Delegation learned effective approaches to TVET program accreditation, supervision, quality assurance, regulation of public and private TVET providers as well as having a reference point for criteria and standards for national qualifications. An equivalent agency to MQA, is lacking in Tunisia.
Change Objective #3: Tunisia gains new knowledge to scale up private TVET training provision.
The delegation was able to observe the close links and collaboration between Malaysian TVET providers and industries. During meetings and field visits, the Tunisian delegation was able to observe several ways industry-driven demand for skills and talent are matched with the dynamic program offering of TVET providers. This effective partnership has increased graduate employability rates in Malaysia. The knowledge exchange provided practical examples of successful partnership approaches to skill building, talent management and continuous learning matches industry needs as well as advances in technology.
• Malaysian Ministry of Education and Ministry of Human Resources
• Malaysian Qualification Agency
• Talent Corp
• Department of Skills Development
• German Malaysian Institute
• Penang Skills for Development Center
• School of Skills