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 skill and a roadmap to transform many depressed pockets of the society. Nearly 35 % of males and 42 % of females in the youth category in Liberia are disconnected from both the labor market and opportunities that promote future employability due to the lack of appropriate skills. 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% stands at 35 and younger.
The majority of Liberia’s youths do not have the literacy, numeracy and communication skills needed in the labor market. Many have little or no skills or formal work experience while a significant number lack the strong network or social capital that could allow them to obtain the necessary skills to source job opportunities. Since the end of the civil war, our education strategy has not been aligned with vocational training or job 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 our society. This is because over the past decade, Liberians did not take advantage of targeted employment strategies. Consequently, there need to be a paradigm shift in our national dialogue and educational strategy regarding tangible developments in human capacity building, especially when dealing with youth unemployment and 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 a 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 the 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; unrealistic wage expectations on the part of youths; discrimination, and; 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 vocational skills development programs like those at the Booker T. Washington Institute (BWI), Monrovia Vocational Training Center (MVTC) and NetLib Vocational Institute (NVTI). This is because the trajectory of labor demands in our economy favors skilled workers and, in the light of the limited job opportunities available for low skilled workers, the government should support programs that offer employment training as part of the package in the provision of essential basic services to vulnerable youths.
About the author: 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 protected] or [email protected]