CAIRO: The shortage of properly trained staff is the most common complaint of industrial businesses. Policymakers and economists also cite the mismatch in the supply and demand for skills as one of the biggest challenges to the nation s economic growth.
To address this issue, parliament passed a law in 2003 creating the National Fund for Vocational Training and requiring all companies with 10 or more employees to contribute one percent of their profits to the fund, which was placed under the authority of the Ministry of Manpower and Emigration.
The original idea, as we proposed it for the training fund, was one percent of the wage bill, Samir Radwan, managing director of the Economic Research Forum, told The Daily Star Egypt earlier, and not to be supervised by the Ministry of [Manpower and Emigration] but to be autonomous. The original idea was to create a training fund as a semi-independent organization where the private sector has a majority in the board.
The reluctance of businesses to disclose details of their profits and to contribute to a fund over which they have little to no control resulted in a standoff between the private sector and the Ministry of Manpower and Emigration, with the former refusing to pay its dues. The fund itself was consequently ineffective and its activities were dubious, although the ministry has not responded to The Daily Star Egypt s numerous queries in this regard.
Thereafter and despite various isolated projects, a coherent strategy for vocational training seemed to be missing from the government s economic agenda. Now, a pilot project for ready-made garments is beginning to bear fruit and may be expanded to five other sectors.
The project began in November last year with the signing of an agreement between representatives of the private sector, the government and donor-funded agencies, whereby the parties would work together to design a training program for graduates and ready-made garment producers would commit to employing the trained graduates. The Industrial Modernization Center (IMC) was assigned the role of administering the project.
The project will train 27,000 graduates during a four week program designed by international experts. An announcement was posted earlier this week in a local newspaper to recruit the first batch of graduates for whom training will begin at the end of the month.
The number of graduates to be recruited is based on the requirements of some 2,800 textile producers that are represented by the ready-made garments chamber of the Federation of Egyptian Industries. These producers have underwritten in order to employ the graduates upon completion of their training, which will cost approximately LE 1,000 per individual; the employer will also fund 15 percent of this cost. Sixty-five companies have provided the space and the equipment for in-house classrooms to be used for both their own employees and those of other companies.
IMC Managing Council Member Helmy Abouleish explains that the review of the country s vocational training capacity, which was conducted in preparation for the project, revealed the extent of the divide between the training system and economic realities. Egypt has some 2,500 technical institutes and training centers under the wing of seven ministries and the private sector. These produce approximately 360,000 graduates, of which only 2,800 are prepared for work in the ready-made garments sector.
Abouleish adds that the efficiency of the workforce will be the defining factor of global competitiveness in the long-run and that the present state of workers’ skills is a result of the historical protection of the domestic industry. The private sector has accepted that such protection is no longer sustainable, and Abouleish explains that competition from other countries has forced companies to require better efficiency from its employees. This drives the demand for improved education and training as manifested in the pilot project.
The pilot project will be presented next week to representatives of the furniture, chemicals, building materials and engineering sectors. Companies from these five sectors will then be invited to join similar initiatives.