No development without suitable technical skills

A meeting in Ivory Coast sheds light on the need to develop relevant technical and vocational education programs for youth in rural areas.

How can we provide relevant training opportunities to youth in cocoa communities in order to boost development? This was the question that a group of stakeholders tackled at the International Cocoa Initiative (ICI) partners meeting in Abidjan, Ivory Coast, on the 6th of November 2017. The event received the support of TRECC – the Jacobs Foundation’s program in Ivory Coast. The goal was to have participants think of ways to improve the accessibility and affordability of educational and vocational training opportunities for 13-17-year-olds. Research indicates that it is the older children who are more at risk of hazardous child labor.  Therefore, besides contributing to development, the possibility of joining educational and vocational training can be a powerful tool to prevent child labor.

The event gathered delegates from the Ghanaian and Ivorian civil society and government, as well as members from the cocoa industry and international organizations. They all sat down to discuss the challenges and opportunities that the technical and vocational training sector faces. When the third bridge was built, while we lacked qualified labor, there were plenty of unemployed people out there,” said Raoul Koné, cabinet director at the Ivorian Ministry of Education and Technical Training. He was referring to bridge HKB, one of Abidjan’s most notable piece of engineering, finalized in 2014.

Many programs do not respond to the demands of the economy

The Ivorian Government aims to raise the degree of inclusion in the labor market to 70% by 2025 for people who have been through technical and vocational training programs, in 2013, inclusion levels were at 62%. A common observation during the meeting might explain the low rates of insertion: many of the speakers felt that current programs do not necessarily respond to the demands of the economy. Cleophas Mally, ICI co-president, said that “the State trains individuals to acquire skills that do not align with the development needs of this country.” In this regard, the Ministry of Education and Technical Training hopes to have revised 100% of the curricula to ensure they respond to the needs of the economy, keeping the 2025 horizon in mind.

Another predominant idea shared among some of the participants was that, for rural youth who drop out of school because they lack the required  skills to continue, the possibilities to acquire relevant skills through training programs are practically non-existent. ICI has therefore decided to devote efforts to vocational training in their target communities. “The vocational training area is quite new for ICI. We are working with the Jacobs Foundation, who are real specialists in that realm and who have a good network,” said Nick Weatherill, ICI Executive Director.

cocoa companies are important actors

A group of important actors in the development of training opportunities for youth in rural areas are cocoa companies. As part of their sustainability strategies, some cocoa companies support training programs in the areas that they source products from. For Patrick Sekongo, country director at IECD, identifying the gaps in training is the first step to a functional situation for youth in Ivory Coast, and the companies are key to that: ”The industry can help to identify the needs of the job market,” he said, “and also contribute to developing the content of training programs”.

Towards the end of the meeting, representatives from all the participating organizations gathered in working groups and thought of opportunities and angles to tackle this issue. With this input, ICI and other stakeholders can help build future strategies to contribute to training a future generation in cocoa communities. Relevant skills, will improve the lives of cocoa farmers and ultimately boost development.

Since 2015, the Jacobs Foundation supports the development of technical and vocational training opportunities for youth in Ivory Coast. We do this through our TRECC program (Transforming Education in Cocoa Communities), a social impact vehicle seeking to sustainably improve the lives of cocoa farmers and their children and contribute to an effective education system across Ivory Coast.

The International Cocoa Initiative (ICI) is a leading organization promoting child protection in cocoa-growing communities. ICI works with the cocoa industry, civil society, farmers’ organizations, communities and national governments in cocoa-producing countries to ensure a better future for children and contribute to the elimination of child labor.