The Federation of Egyptian Industries boosting vocational education and migrants' skills
Interview: Shaimaa Bahaa El Din, Director of International Affairs and Development Partners’ Relations, Federation of Egyptian Industries
Industry is one of the backbones of the Egyptian economy, contributing nearly 12 percent of the country’s gross domestic product (GDP). With Egypt’s population growing by 3 million a year - currently at 104 million - and around 60% of Egyptians under 24 years old, creating jobs in the sector is essential for sustainable economic development.
Under government plans, industry is slated to account for 15 percent of GDP, and employ 28.2 percent of the workforce in the near future.
Developing vocational education in the public and private sectors is a crucial part of these aims, with the Federation of Egyptian Industries (FEI) the primary conduit for doing so. The FEI has 19 industrial chambers and represents nearly 102,000 industrial establishments, 90 percent of which belong to the private sector, employing more than 2 million workers.
In October, the federation celebrated its centenary. At the event, the Chairman of the FEI pledged a greater role in reforming technical and vocational education and training (TVET).
'The FEI wants to raise awareness around labour law, the social responsibility of enterprises, and how the private sector can transform TVET in Egypt,' said Shaimaa Bahaa El Din, Director of International Affairs and Development Partners’ Relations, in Cairo.
One recent move was a new law enabling the federation total independence, with the board of chambers elected rather than appointed by the Ministry of Trade and Industry.
'It is an important development as it gives the right to each of the chambers’ boards to have one-third representing small enterprises, another third medium-sized enterprises, and the last third large enterprises. SMEs are well represented in the 19 chambers,' she said. 'The newly assigned board is interested in playing a role in the dual education system and a new model, the Applied Technology Schools.'
Applied Technology Schools
In 2018, the government started educational reforms through the launch of the Technical Education 2.0 programme, which includes the Ministry of Technical Education-backed Applied Technology Schools (ATS). The dual education system combines publicly run technical schools with industrial experience.
There are 42 ATS in 19 governorates, and a target has been set to reach 300 in the near future.
The FEI-connected schools require full sponsorship by the private sector.
'It is very costly, as it requires the infrastructure, developing curricula, training teachers, and accreditation. We are trying to raise awareness for more companies to take care of more schools, and for enterprises to provide TVET training opportunities in the dual education system – at schools and at factories – for students to know how the manufacturing process works,' said Bahaa El Din.
An example is the gold and jewellery manufacturing school. 'Everything from A to Z was developed from scratch as there were no curricula in this sector, including the training of teachers,' she said.
The FEI has signed a memorandum of understanding with the Ministry of Higher Education to develop cooperation in technical colleges, particularly (although not limited to) engineering and healthcare, as a start.
Several companies have created training stations within facilities to provide hands-on experience.
Companies with their own schools include IT giant IBM, Germany’s VW, El Sewedy Applied Technology School, and Egypt’s Al Arabi home appliances and Ghabbour Auto. Programmes are offered in mechanical engineering, electrical engineering, the food sector, vehicle maintenance, artificial intelligence, furniture and printing, among others.
Qualifying blue-collar workers
Egypt is working with development partners from Germany to establish centres of competencies as well as train blue-collar workers to work in Germany.
'Germany is willing to receive migrants, especially in the blue-collar sector, so there will be more activities in the coming period to qualify blue-collar workers to apply and go as formal immigrants to Germany. We have started, together with the Ministry of Education & Technical Education and all the key players of the TVET sector in Egypt, scanning the market to see what companies are offering, and how we can combine the existing workforce with the required calibres needed by Germany,' said Bahaa El Din.
FEI is also involved in efforts to improve accreditation through the National Qualification Framework, and the recently established Egyptian Authority for Quality Assurance and Accreditation in Technical and Technical Education and Vocational Training (ETQAAN).
'This is very much needed, to have the criteria for fulfilling requirements, and as a solution for qualifications mismatch,' she said.
The mismatching of education and the skills needs of the market is a challenge for Egypt. 'There is no perception of what is needed in the future. Germany is seeing now what they need 10 years later, but in Egypt we’re not at this point. We need to prepare education and jobs for 20 or 30 years down the line,' she said.
Bahaa El Din expressed the need for exchange programmes for students to learn about industrial developments in Europe and elsewhere.
'It would make a big difference for students, and for life skills in their career, as well as getting to know and accept others from both sides. It would be a very good programme to be offered in connection with companies in ATS and the dual education system,' she said.
Training opportunities for teachers is a further area that could be developed. 'For the ATS model, it would encourage businesses to play a larger role and adapt to bigger schools,' said Bahaa El Din.