Every year 15th July is a special day for the youth who are invited to join the global community in commemorating the World Youth Skills Day. The day was set aside by the United Nations General Assembly meeting in November 2014. The National Council for Higher Education (NCHE) joins the youth of Malawi in commemorating this day as it attaches great value to skills development for and among the youth.
Skills matter for the youth
The Youth make up over 40 percent of Malawi’s population, according to the 2018 Population and Housing Census. Therefore, the youth represent not just the future but also the critical resource if developed and nurtured appropriately in line with skills development needs and priorities. Skills development targeting the youth is also a necessary condition for harnessing and redirecting the contribution of the youth to national development.
The reality is the Youth need skills to counter the challenges of high unemployment and dependency ratios which are some of the situations affecting their transition to adulthood. The youth need meaningful jobs and self-employment avenues to realize their dreams of a meaningful and prosperous future. Developing in the Youth the love for education and training focusing on employable skills and entrepreneurship in priority areas will indeed have transformative effects on the life and futures of the Youth. Less skilled Youth represent a lost opportunity as they are unprepared for work as employees or self-employed or entrepreneurs.
NCHE’s stand on skills development for the youth
On this auspicious day, the question is what is the National Council for Higher Education (NCHE) doing for the youth of Malawi, especially as we are commemorating the World Youth Skills Day? The mandate of NCHE is to regulate the higher education sector in Malawi by setting standards, registering private institutions and accrediting both public and private institutions and their programmes. Setting standards and ensuring that all the players in the higher education sector are operating within acceptable parameters is a means to ensuring that the youth of Malawi access quality higher education and relevant skills.
NCHE contributes indirectly to increasing access to higher education through harmonisation of selection of students to public universities and the provision of more space through private universities it registers or accredits in line with the National Council for Higher Education Act. NCHE’s mission is to champion accessible, relevant, quality higher education for all deserving Malawians, the majority being the Youth. Hence, NCHE’s services are pro-youth and pro-skills development among the youth.
The mission of NCHE complements national and international commitments such as target number three (3) of goal number four (4) of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). The target is about ensuring access for all women and men to affordable and quality technical, vocational, and tertiary education including university. Therefore, this year’s theme for the World Youth Skills Day: “Youth Skills for Work and Life in the Post -2015 Agenda,” is very much in sync with NCHE’s mission.
Besides registering and accrediting programmes offered by higher education institutions (HEIs), NCHE has been coordinating the Skills Development Project (SDP), a Government of Malawi project implemented with financial support from World Bank. The project seeks to improve education facilities and learning environments thereby help the country increase capacity to equip young people with market relevant skills needed for jobs in high-priority sectors. The priority areas include engineering, natural resources extraction, agriculture, construction, training of science teachers, tourism and hospitality. As the project strives to increase market relevance and results orientation of supported skills development institutions in the priority areas, it is an answer to the needs of the youth for the much needed skills and opportunities. It is also a direct response to the commitment of the Government of Malawi to improve access, equity and quality of tertiary education as provided for in the National Education Sector Plan (NESP).
Benefits of the Skills Development Project
The skills development project (SDP) is being implemented in 4 public universities namely Chancellor College (CHANCO), the Polytechnic, Lilongwe University of Agriculture and Natural Resources (LUANAR) and Mzuzu University (MZUNI) and the Technical, Entrepreneurial, Vocational Education and Training Authority (TEVETA). To date, through the project, there have been at least 12,120 cumulative direct project beneficiaries, both male and female, enrolled into the participating institutions (PIs), and 6,500 of these in TEVET colleges. New programmes have been developed across the five PIs and staff development and continuous professional development promoted to a level whereby the PIs will be responsive to current and future skills needs of the youth. Another component under the project is construction of modern infrastructure which will facilitate achievement of the need to increase access among the youth to tertiary education offered by LUANAR, Polytechnic, CHANCO and MZUNI. Under this component, over 70 percent works have been completed as a whole with individual achievements ranging from 60% to 92% by June 2019. There will be a state of the art Tourism and Hospitality Centre at MZUNI apart from ODEL satellite centres in Lilongwe, Mulanje, Karonga and Balaka; satellite centres for LUANAR in Lilongwe city and an ODEL Hub on campus; laboratory and lecture theaters for the Polytechnic in Blantyre and CHANCO in Zomba among others.
Developing viable skills for the youth requires partnerships. NCHE recognizes the World Bank as a true partner in the development of a skilled youth in Malawi. World Bank has supported the Skills Development Project, which has enable the Government of Malawi to address the space and equipment needs in the PIs in response to the specific skills gaps and needs amongst the youth of Malawi. Many youth of Malawi are already using the facilities provided under the project and many more will equally benefit in the years ahead.
Management and staff of the five PIs have demonstrated unparalleled commitment to the youth of Malawi by ensuring the success of the project. NCHE Council, Management and Staff have worked hard to ensure that the project indeed bears fruit and the Youth of Malawi will stand to benefit over several generations to come.
NCHE’s commitment towards the Youth
The Council, Management and staff of NCHE will continue to serve the Youth of Malawi by ensuring that they have access to quality and relevant higher education. NCHE will continue working diligently to ensure the Youth attain higher education training and qualifications that are comparable and of equivalent merit to qualifications offered by accredited higher education institutions internationally. NCHE encourages the Youth to derive value and support efforts that serve to add value and secure their futures through quality education and skills development. Efforts like regular monitoring and evaluation of education institutions and sanctions for nonconformance, benefit the youth, their families, community and the country at large.
Memorable World Youth Skills Day!