Skills for a better future

03 August 2017
Unemployment, especially among young people is very high in Uganda. The Uganda Bureau of Statistics estimates that 64% of the unemployed are between the age of 18 and 30 years. Uganda has the second youngest population in the world. Ugandan youth account for 7 million out of the total population of 39 million. This is a huge challenge for the Ugandan government especially given the rapid growth of the population.

One of the problems is that many youths do not have the skills employers are looking for. This is due to the disconnect between the degree achieved and the vocational skills needed for the jobs that are in demand for workers. The Ugandan government is aware of this challenge and is implementing a 10-year strategic plan known as 'Skilling Uganda'. The Belgian Development Agency (BTC) supports the government’s call for more skilled youth and works closely with the Ministry of Education and Sports to improve the quality of the Ugandan vocational education and training on both the local and government level.

Image problem

Currently vocational training is not popular among Ugandan youth. It is mostly regarded inferior compared to a university degree. A change in thinking is needed. Uganda doesn't only rely on doctors and lawyers. Good welders, carpenters, electricians and others are as vital to the development of a country such as this. In general, these vocations provide more employment opportunities and the option of becoming self-employed.

I have always known I wanted to be an architect. The fact that I'm a girl shouldn't hold me back. I want to do what is in my heart.

Hawa, architecture student at Kyema technical college, Masindi

Skilling Uganda firmly believes in the need for a paradigm shift. BTC in partnership with the Ministry of Education and Sports are working with 5 technical colleges in the Western region of the country; and 2 colleges in Karamoja – northern Uganda to become Centers of Excellence. This will spread a positive image for vocational training skills and will boost the number of young girls and boys being trained in the skills they want to acquire. This effort is funded by the Belgian Government, Irish Government and the European Union Trust Fund (EUTF).

Granting girls equal access to training

Today vocational training is mostly taken up by boys. Girls account for only about one fourth in public vocational training centers. Most of them are concentrated in what is called: 'traditionally female occupations'.

BTC and the Government of Uganda want to make sure both boys and girls have the opportunity to study what they want. Girls should be able to aspire to o become engineers, car mechanics, or welders, while on the other hand boys can be seamstresses, hairdressers or cooks.

The project will spread a positive image for vocational training skills and will boost the number of young girls and boys being trained in the skills they want to acquire.

© BTC /Thea Mathues

Partner up with the private sector

A lot of public vocational training centers are managed as an ordinary school. This has not always been effective. Therefore, BTC is encouraging Public-Private Partnerships. Engaging employers and the business community is very important. Employers are looking for skilled personnel and students need access to actual work-based learning. This win-win collaboration is currently underutilized.

One of the ways to promote a better relationship between vocational training centers and the private sector is to get people from the private sector on board in the Governing Councils of the vocational training centers or get private sector practitioners to become part-time instructors at the colleges. This way, it becomes easier to adjust vocational curricula to the changing needs of the labor market.

Find out more about the project on OPEN.BTC

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At a glance


  • 5 technical colleges in Western Uganda will become ‘Centres of Excellence’
  • 2 technical colleges in Karamoja – Northern Uganda will become ‘Centres of Excellence’
  • 2000 women & youngsters will receive vocational training in refugee settlements in Northern Uganda.
  • Vocational Training has a bad reputation but can deliver jobs
  • Duration: 2015 - 2020
  • Financing: Belgium, Uganda, Ireland and the EU
  • Budget: 24 million euro
Two men working hard
© BTC/Thea Mathues
Youth Vocational training Decent work
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