morocco tunisia

30 years, 30+ stories: The ETF's impact on education and skills in Morocco and Tunisia

Both Morocco and Tunisia are among the countries that have cooperated with the ETF as of 1998. Almost 30 years later, both countries continue their transformative journey in education and training.

The Southern and Eastern Mediterranean region is characterised by profound socio-economic challenges and opportunities. Morocco and Tunisia are no exception. Unemployment rates were 10.5% and 16.1% respectively in 2022, while the phenomenon of young people not in education, employment or training (NEETs) affected around 30% of 1524 year-olds in both countries (11.7% of 1529 year-olds in the EU). 

Governments are aware of the structural problems in the labour market in terms of skills shortages and relationship between jobseekers and employers. Since 1998, the European Training Foundation (ETF) has been helping the central government and local actors in Morocco and Tunisia to strengthen an inclusive social dialogue on skills and vocational training policy, focusing on human capital development and entrepreneurship to tackle youth unemployment. 

“In Morocco, cooperation with the EU over the past 30 years has been a success. This has contributed to alleviate illiteracy and access to education, including in rural areas,” says Mariavittoria Garlappi, ETF country liaison for Morocco from 2009 to 2014. “A key feature of the Moroccan vocational education and training (VET) system are public-private partnerships on training to tackle labour shortages. The state pays for the infrastructure of the VET centres and for the trainers, while the outcomes in terms of quality and relevance of the training and graduates' employment rates benefit from the deep involvement of the employers who are responsible for the training centres.” 

Mohamed Slassi Sennou is a member of the Moroccan Higher Council for Education, Training and Scientific Research (CSEFRS) and Chairman of the Commission permanente chargée de la gouvernance du système national d’éducation et de formation. He tells us how an approach of reciprocity between Morocco and the EU, particularly in the field of skills development, “has led to concrete examples, including the establishment of regional governance for skills development, the implementation of the National Qualifications Framework, work-based training initiatives and quality assurance in VET systems”.  

Initiatives such as the Torino Process, partnerships in VET governance, mobility programmes for the recognition of qualifications, and skills development for the green transition are a tangible proof of such benefits.

“The Morocco-EU cooperation in vocational training, led by the CSEFRS, provides a comprehensive overhaul for lifelong learning. The Council, with its status, plays a crucial role in the transformation of the national education system, and the ETF has been playing a key role,” says Slassi Sennou. “Harmonising efforts with national development agencies aligns with our reform objectives, ensures sustainability and long-lasting impact, and underlines our commitment to long-term development.”

Morocco's international openness has been reflected in its political and social achievements. Several Moroccan training centres joined the ETF's Network for Excellence, while Rabat hosted the launch of the sixth edition of the Torino Process in 2023.  

Over the last 15 years, the political and social situation in Tunisia has undergone a challenging transition towards a more democratic political context. Building on this positive evolution, Tunisia has made significant progress, particularly in the areas of VET reform strategies and support to youth entrepreneurship, with an important support from the ETF. 

“Already in the early '90s, Tunisia was the most innovative country in VET and a beacon for the whole Mediterranean, an inspiration for everyone in the region. The government, with the help of the EU, started to look at the demand side, which was not so obvious till then,” says Garlappi, who was also ETF country liaison for Tunisia between 2014 and 2019. “After the revolution, I felt a renewed bottom-up inspiration, a new spirit in the society which was reflected in our cooperation and resulted in promoting entrepreneurial learning across the entire VET system.” 

ETF expert Marie Dorleans experienced the aftermath of the Jasmine Revolution first hand when she was country manager for Tunisia between 2008 and 2014.  

The Arab Spring began in Tunisia on 17 December 2010, when a young higher education graduate who struggled to earn his living as a street vendor, set himself on fire. After the 28 days of civil resistance that led to a change of government, “there was an incredible energy in society, including among civil servants, a feeling that a new era was coming. That period became a kind of golden age for the ETF’s work in the country,” says Dorleans. 

“After the revolution, we had a clean slate to implement our programmes, with great interest from the state," continues Dorleans. "Beyond our standard operational codebook, we also had a duty to help address the root causes of the revolution, namely social inequalities, geographical disparities and high youth unemployment. We initiated new projects, giving priority to supporting decentralised governance and offering concrete activities with visible results also at a local level, something the ETF had never done before.”

Empowering decentralised institutions and giving a voice to the users of the education and training system became an impetus that the ETF continues to follow. 

“Today, our cooperation with the Ministry of Labour and Vocational Training remains strong and agile. Skills development and youth employability are at the heart of the current work, which will be accelerated by the newly signed EU support programme PASE,” says Donatella Di Vozzo, ETF expert and country manager for Tunisia. “Our policy advice to national authorities promotes a lifelong learning perspective that is inclusive, gender transformative and tailored to the specific needs of the Tunisian context.” 

Borhene Chakroun, Director of Policies and Lifelong Learning Systems at UNESCO has worked with the ETF both as a staff member and as a partner. He believes that the ETF has consistently lit the way for progress in technical and vocational education and training (TVET).

“For three decades, the ETF has been an example of excellence in the field of TVET, consistently guiding policy learning and fostering robust inter-agency cooperation on TVET,” explains Chakroun.

During his experience at the ETF in the 2000s, Chakroun led the EU-funded regional project Education and Training for Employment (MEDA-ETE).  

“Throughout its 30-year journey, the ETF has not only adapted to evolving educational landscapes but has also played a pivotal role in shaping them, benefiting experts and stakeholders alike,” argues Chakroun. “As a lighthouse in its field, the ETF is committed to enhancing the sustainable development agenda including SDG4 and SDG8 respectively on quality education and lifelong learning opportunities, and inclusive growth and decent work. In advancing TVET and the broader goals of SDG4, the ETF stands as a testament to what can be achieved through enduring commitment, collaborative effort, and a forward-thinking approach.”  

Another area of fruitful cooperation between the EU and Morocco and Tunisia is a common approach to migration  a key issue in both countries, each one having about 10% of their population living abroad.

“As skills needs are very similar between Morocco and Tunisia and the EU, we're working directly together to avoid a massive brain drain while anticipating the skills needs of the future,” says Garlappi. "This triple-win approach to migration is intended to benefit all sides, the EU, North Africa and the migrants themselves.” 

Political development and consolidation in both Morocco and Tunisia have not been able to escape the profound challenges and changes that have been affecting the world for at least a decade.  

An ETF recent study was presented by ETF expert Abdelaziz Jaouani in Turin in December 2023 at an event organised jointly with the Union for the Mediterranean, one of the ETF's main partners in the Southern and Eastern Mediterranean. The study aims to highlight the main trends in new forms of work in the region, namely the impact of online work on and off digital platforms and on-location platform work on the labour market and the political-social environment as a whole. 

“Any kind of research must be linked to the main issues of this region. Namely, participation in the labour market, which is the lowest in the world, with only one in four women active, which doesn't mean employed,” says Jaouani. “The second problem is the high level of informality in the region's economic system.” 

The latter gives rise to issues such as tax evasion and lack of social protection in employment contracts, which need to be addressed by governments and donors.

“For me, the most important priority remains regulation. And Europe's pioneering approach in this field continues to be an inspiration for the entire Southern and Eastern Mediterranean region,” concludes Jaouani. 

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