Technical training key to Yemen’s development

Abdul Hafez Noman  Abdul Hafez Noman, minister of Technical Education and Vocational Training.

Technical training key to Yemen’s development: Yemeni Minister

Faisal Darem, Al-Shorfa, Sanaa, 2013-05-01

Technical education and vocational training are the key to Yemen’s industrial development, said Abdul Hafez Noman, minister of technical education and vocational training.

For this reason, the ministry has initiated a number of projects to support this type of education, he said.

Al-Shorfa spoke with Noman at his Sanaa office, where he described current programmes and the ministry’s role in safeguarding youth from the influence of groups that seek to exploit them.

Al-Shorfa: How far has the ministry progressed in implementing its national strategy for technical education and vocational training?

Abdul Hafez Noman: The political and economic circumstances Yemen experienced in the past two years have hindered the achievement of desired goals. The ministry had hoped 15% of all students would enrol in its institutes and colleges by 2014, but the actual rate is only 3.4%.

As for ministry projects, we have 48 new institutes and 12 new community colleges under construction. These have a combined capacity of between 80,000 and 90,000 students, on top of the 79 institutes and seven community colleges that already exist. We hope students will enrol at our institutes and colleges, given that technical education and vocational training are key driving factors in developing and advancing societies.

Al-Shorfa: What is new this year?

Noman: We have large projects [planned]. India will build six institutes and we will also inaugurate the Yemeni-Turkish institute in December, a well-equipped [facility] that will include new specialisations, including departments involving carpet-making, precious stones, goldsmithing, silversmithing and ceramics. Furthermore, in June, China will renovate Sanaa’s industrial and vocational institute, originally built in 1970, as well as another institute in Taiz.

Al-Shorfa: What is the importance of technical education and vocational training in Yemen?

Noman: There are political and security reasons that propel the government to pay attention to this kind of education, especially as Yemeni society is a young society, with youth representing the largest segment of the population. As far as political reasons, many young people join political parties and become preoccupied with politics instead of their issues and futures, while the security reasons apply to young people who are influenced by negative forces that exploit them. So it is important we protect the youth from these forces and we seek to draw them [to technical education and vocational training] because they are the future.

Al-Shorfa: Is one of the reasons for the rise in unemployment low enrolment in technical and vocational training?

Noman: This is true. Thus we find that many countries attach great importance to technical education and vocational training, because those countries’ development depends on the outputs of this kind of education, considering that the relationship between higher education and the labour market is limited, as higher education is often limited to research and graduate studies. The labour market is indifferent to this type of education and this led many developed countries to think seriously about downsizing higher education and focusing on technical education.

Technical education is middle education that lays the foundation for building a society, development-wise and industrially.

Al-Shorfa: Do the institutes and community colleges offer all specialisations of technical education and vocational training?

Noman: We have 93 areas of specialisation but this is not sufficient. However, before thinking about increasing the number of specialisations […] we aim to deepen our study of our current specialisations, so as to advance them and improve their technical and practical aspects.

Al-Shorfa: Is there an assessment of the outputs of technical education and vocational training?

Noman: The World Bank is working on an in-depth, comprehensive study of the needs of the Yemeni labour market. So far, we have not been able to assess the outputs of technical education because our private sector is still volatile, and it is the future of the private sector and its development that governs the relationship between technical education graduates and labour market needs.

Al-Shorfa: How do you evaluate the ministry’s relationship with donor organisations?

Noman: They are supporting some projects but mostly on the theoretical side. We are now reviewing, alongside friends and donor countries, how to convert this aid to help meet the needs of technical education and vocational training here, instead of having a specific project imposed on us that does not take the needs of technical education in Yemen into account.

Thus, we reached an understanding with some donors to jointly discuss the projects they would support or fund, to line them up with our needs. We need all the aid, particularly aid allocated for technical and technology equipment, as we want the hands of students in this field to be as active as their minds, so they are ready for the labour market both theoretically and practically.