30 years, 30+ stories. Algeria and Libya: developing through vocational education

Both countries face unique challenges in skills development. Their reliance on oil revenues highlights the need for diversified economies

Algeria and Libya are two EU neighbouring countries with similarities and complementarities, the former with a population of 40 million people and the latter of 7 million. In both countries, the European Training Foundation (ETF) has supported the development of skills throughout the years. 

In Algeria cooperation with the ETF has constantly grown in the last 15 years, and it is “currently gaining momentum”, according to Floriana Folisi, ETF Human Capital Development Expert and Country Liaison for Algeria. In Libya cooperation has been suspended since 2014 due to civil unrest and security concerns. However, Prof. Mokhtar Jwaili, Chief Advisor at the Libyan Ministry of Technical and Vocational Education, asserts that: "Although the relationship with the ETF has been somewhat delayed from our side, there are continuous efforts to rejoin cooperation with the ETF, which we hope to resume in 2024–25." 

Algeria's efforts to diversify its economy 

In recent years, the ETF has supported Algeria's efforts to diversify its sectors, responding to the request of national authorities and social partners to invest in digital skills and work-based learning.   

In 2023 and 2024, the ETF has had the opportunity to support the Algerian government in digital education, an area of extreme importance in the country's education and training strategy.   

“Using its Digital Education Reform Framework methodology, the ETF has carried out an in-depth mapping of existing initiatives and developments in all areas of digital education, from infrastructure to teachers' development to digital pedagogies and resources,” says Fabio Nascimbeni, ETF Human Capital Development Expert. 

This work culminated in a workshop in Algiers in February 2024, where the findings were discussed with various stakeholders, providing evidence-based starting points for future initiatives in this area.  

A key moment highlighting the importance of the ETF's partnership with Algeria was the publication of the first Torino Process report in 2024. 

"The culmination of our growing activities over the last two years was in February 2024, during our last mission to the country, rich in content and exchanges, as we had the opportunity to support the Algerian government in finalising and validating the Torino Process findings," says Folisi. 

"The mission was also an opportunity to discuss the results of the monitoring exercise (based on an ETF methodology) on work-based learning, which was led by employers, representing both the public and the private sectors, demonstrating their interest in maintaining the quality of 'apprenticeship' in which Algeria is championing among Southern Mediterranean countries," Folisi continues. 

"Algeria has set itself the target of increasing the proportion of graduates with an apprenticeship to over 70%," adds Nacira Mennadi Haddad, Vice-President of the CAPC (Confédération algérienne du Patronat citoyen). "A key area of focus remains the need to continue and strengthen the essential adaptation of training programmes to the development needs of the economic sector, in order to provide the necessary skills to support the economic diversification that the country is seeking." 

With continued efforts to strengthen and improve the quality of social dialogue, partnership councils at national and local levels represent a milestone in skills development. The EU is actively involved in reform initiatives in cooperation with national stakeholders, such as the Ministry of Employment, Labour and Social Solidarity and its agency for employment (ANEM). Programmes such as PASEA (Programme in support to employability in Algeria) and AFEQ (Matching training, employment and qualifications) are examples of joint efforts to boost employability. 

Algeria's private sector offers an alternative to the public sector as an engine of economic growth and diversification, according to Haddad, as evidenced by major reforms in 2022.  

"In fact, the strengthening of SMEs through active policies in support of private investments set itself the objective of diversifying the Algerian economy," continues Haddad. "The diversification of the non-hydrocarbon economy, but also the creation of local economic dynamism, is pursued by developing the potential and wealth of the land and subsoil present in the territories." 

Libya seeks to re-launch partnership with the ETF 

Mounir Baati, ETF Senior Human Capital Development Expert and Country Liaison for Libya, provides an insight into the ETF's engagement with Libya since 2012. At that time, the EU Delegation in the country launched the ETF-designed EU-Libya technical and vocational education and training (TVET) development project. 

"The start in 2012 was really good and there were many cooperation activities with the ETF, including the assessment of the Libyan TVET system, which led to the EU-funded TVET development programme. Joining the Torino Process was another positive mark, as it led to a more professional assessment of the Libyan TVET system, and the comparison with other countries," says Jwaili. 

The EU-funded TVET project was blocked in October 2014 due to security concerns during the civil war, which ended with the October 2020 ceasefire agreement.

"The problem with Libya is the instability of the political and security systems and the fighting between different groups, which has created chaos in many cities," Jwaili adds. 

The political situation in Libya remains tense, but "efforts to resume cooperation continue, reflecting a commitment to support Libya's development agenda in the midst of challenges," says Baati. 

Similarly to Algeria, although to a larger extent, the public sector continues to dominate the labour market, employing over 90% of the Libyan workforce.

"In many cases, people would work in both the private and the public sectors, and those who are employed in the private sector are also registered as job seekers in the public sector," says Jwaili. "People would consider themselves employed if they get a job in the public sector because they see it as a secure and permanent job, whereas the private sector could easily reduce the number of people it employs." 

Libya continues to rely on expatriate workers to do a lot of the technical and day-to-day work in many fields such as construction, maintenance, catering and bakery, and many other jobs that are needed in the market.

"The problem remains that there are job opportunities, but locals don't see themselves taking those jobs, and those vacancies are usually filled by foreign workers," Jwaili continues.

Like many Libyan officials and experts, Jwaili recalls how networking with the ETF has enabled the country to see how other countries are tackling similar challenges.

"We all hope that the time is near when Libya can start this process again."

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