Not everybody can make it past primary or secondary school education. Similarly, not all those qualifying for university education make it in life.
Also, it is not always that there is a direct link between academic achievements and a successful and happy life although it would not be very right to say that how well one plays one’s cards does not matter.
It is chiefly because of this fact that the education and training systems of many countries incorporates all three major levels. In Tanzania we have institutions of education and training that are overseen by the Tanzania Commission for Universities, the National Council for Technical Education and the Vocational Education and Training Authority (VETA).
It was once common for people to look down upon attending and graduating from VETA-level colleges in that most of the trainees had not gone beyond primary school and were therefore sweepingly considered as “failures”.
It mattered little that it was those very young men and women who so excellently served both the public and private sectors and both formal and informal sectors as masons, electricians, electric motor rewinders, fitters and turners, plumbers, welders, drivers, motor vehicle mechanics, and in various other capacities.
The government thought differently, though, and hence its setting up of VETA in 1994 as an agency charged with the broad tasks of coordinating, regulating, financing, promoting and providing VET in the country and therefore as an agent capable of supporting the nation’s social and economic development.
It was not for nothing that the agency sought – and promised – to ensure provision of quality vocational education and training “that meets labour market needs, through effective regulation, coordination, financing, and promotion, in collaboration with stakeholders”.
The agency’s objectives include providing vocational education opportunities and facilities for tailor-made basic and specialised training, with a view to satisfying the demands of the labour market for employees with trade skills with which to help improve production and productivity of the economy.
Only hard-core cynics will say VETA has not lived up to expectations in fostering and promote entrepreneurial values and skills as an integral part of training programmes.
Indeed, it has succeeded in promoting on-the-job training in industry for both apprentices and technicians seeking to upgrade their skills, among the beneficiaries being disadvantaged groups, which helped balance supply and demand for skilled labour in both wage employment and for skills needed for self-employment in rural and urban areas.
A world-acclaimed authority on VET aptly notes that the economies the world over are changing into knowledge-based economies and that the changing face of technology the world over requires people specialised in particular skills.
He also observes that only an expert in a particular field can get a good job, adding that VET institutes impart specialised and practical knowledge to people and help them become independent.
Tanzania’s own experience shows that VET can be provided for a number of courses and even working people can enrol as per their convenience and nature of jobs.
This makes the government’s plan to build at least one VET college in each district in the country, with the first phase involving the constructing of 28 with African Development Bank support, especially laudable.