Technical and Vocational Education Training (TVET) can end youth unemployment in Liberia. The country’s unemployment rate is among the highest in the world. And youth unemployment has been one of our major socio-economic challenges for decades, even though, technical and vocational education training is the ‘Silver Bullet’ that can end this chronic social menace.
Throughout Liberia, youth unemployment has remained inordinately high, quadrupling in some quarters due to the lack of skills and a roadmap to transform many depress pockets of the society. Nearly 35 % of male youths and 42 % of female youths in Liberia are disconnected from both the labor market and opportunities that promote future employment due to the lack of appropriate skill sets.
Our population has become more youthful, with youth as a proportion of the total population projected to reach over 63% by 2030, according to the United Nations. In view of this fact, over 40% of our population is 24 years of age and under; while 65% of the population stand at 35 years of age and under. The majority of Liberia’s youths do not have the literacy, numeracy and communication skills needed in the Liberian Labor Market.
Many have little or no skill or formal work experience; while, a significant number lack strong networks or social capital that could allow them to obtain the necessary skill sets to source job opportunities. Since the end of the civil war, our education strategy has not been aligned with vocational training or jobs skill-building to support and boost our labor market. Some analysts believe that the right policies have not been implemented, nor has the right personnel been put in place to curb youth unemployment in a more meaningful and methodical way to impact the society.
This is because, over the past decade, Liberians did not take advantage of targeted employment strategy to curb our country’s chronic and unrelenting youth underemployment situation. Consequently, there needs to be a paradigm shift in our national dialogue and educational strategy regarding tangible development as regards to human capacity building, especially dealing with youth unemployment and youth empowerment.
Liberia needs a national education and empowerment strategy to guide the building of valuable skill-sets to enhance proficiency amongst the most vulnerable segments of our population. Technical and Vocational Education Training (TVET) can put significant dent in youth unemployment in Liberia, while providing valuable skill sets to a generation of underprivileged, marginalized, war-affected and needy youths.
Again, Liberia needs a national strategy to prepare our youths for entry into the labor force. We need to provide opportunities to harness successful careers that can improve livelihoods, and standards of living of our youths. Moreover, TVET is the solution to improve opportunities for youths who drop out of school or those who lack the resources, skills or motivation to attend college or university.
Irrefutably, TVET is indeed the ‘Silver Bullet’ to end youth unemployment in Liberia. This is because some of the most powerful barriers to employment opportunities for young people are: lack of job creation, vulnerability to layoffs, high labor costs, and unrealistic wage expectations on the part of youths, discrimination, as well as, poor access to fundamental education.
Additionally, we need to reexamine policies that discredit youths for being inexperienced, and the compounded labor-market disadvantages that accompany poverty. Today, over 80% of Liberian youths find work in the informal sector; but we need to provide employment initiatives for them in the formal economy, though the vocational skills-development programs like those exhibited at Booker Washington Institute (BWI), Monrovia Vocational Training Center (MVTC) and Net Lib Vocational Institute (NVTI).
This is because the trajectory of labor demands in our economy favors skilled workers and, in light of the limited job opportunities available for low skilled workers, the government should support and fund programs that offer employment training in the provision of essential basic services to vulnerable youths.
Mr. Francis Nyepon is Executive Director and Chief Operating Officer of NVTI – NITLIB Vocational and Technical Institute. He is a Public Policy Analyst, Managing partner of TEWOR Corporation, and owner of Monrovia Shuttle. He can be reached at email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org