Here are some of the specific steps we can take to give vocational training the image makeover it deserves:
- Advocate for the value of vocational degrees. Connect with educators, state and local leaders, and private industry to realign the value of higher education in Uganda and enable a path to prosperity for everyone.
- Debunk the myth that vocational degrees inevitably result in huge student debt. Compare that to a 4-year degree, and the choice can be obvious, purely from a cost perspective.
- Educate potential students about the wide range of vocational jobs that are essential right now. We need more than just plumbers and electricians. Highly skilled tradespeople in technology and renewable energy are also in high demand.
- Invest in technology to help institutions and students succeed. For too long, organizations of all kinds have relied on horizontal software, i.e., general productivity software, rather than vertical software, which is more customized. For example, industry disruptors are emerging to support administrators and students in every stage of the vocational education process, from enrollment through job placement.
Hiring managers know that Uganda needs more skilled workers, and for many, vocational education provides a path to new skills and job placement. But the stigma associated with a degree in the trades has held us back for far too long. To close the skills gap in Uganda and start filling those jobs, we need to enlist advocates across the education and HR spectrum, and we need to be more active and engaged with the people who make Uganda run.
We need to invest in vertical software that can take our trade schools into the 21st century. Such software can aid enrollment, retention, compliance (there are many federal and state regulations around achieving a trade certificate), and finally, job placement.
There are also recruiting tools built for the trades out there, such as BlueRecruit, which connects skilled tradespeople with hiring companies across Uganda.
And we need to build on the momentum created during the pandemic to stop treating skilled tradespeople as somehow “less than” and celebrate them for their essential work. There is no Future of Work (or future of our country’s critical infrastructure) without more skilled tradespeople.