Africa is both the world’s youngest and fastest growing continent. Every year, 10 to 12 million young people enter the labor market, yet far fewer jobs are created. Because of skills mismatches, young people also sometimes lack the expertise required for the workforce.
Mauritania is a microcosm of these difficulties. More than 60% of the population is under the age of 25, yet this age group is twice as likely to be unemployed as those over 25 (42% versus 21%), according to 2017 figures from the National Statistics Office. Nevertheless, the youthfulness of its population is an asset for a country – provided certain conditions are met in terms of education, employment and social services.
Improving access to employment
As part of this partnership, companies from three major economic sectors – mixed farming, construction and public works, and fishing – have drawn up a list of “priority jobs” in three regions of the country. The idea was that if companies themselves identified the skills they needed most, training centers could adapt and young people could pursue more promising career paths.
Construction companies, for example, indicated a need for multi-skilled construction workers. Currently, these companies are required to hire three different apprentices to fulfill certain construction contracts. “This new profile could be interesting, especially for small businesses, which dominate the sector in Mauritania,” said I. Diallo. Thus, all training centers in Nouakchott that provide training in this field will offer a new course specifically designed to meet this need of the job market. Other jobs have been identified: machine operators, artisanal fishermen, fishing gear operators and outboard engine mechanics, among others.
Saleck Abderaouf, President of the Federation of Service Professionals of Mauritania and President of the Regional Partnership Framework for Construction, participated in the analysis of his sector for the Nouakchott region. According to him, “the establishment of a regional partnership – benefiting from the effective participation of private sector companies – can help us access qualified human resources by improving the quality of technical and vocational training”.
Are the training centers ready?
The next step in the partnership will be to analyze the capacities of the training centers. For example, do they have enough trainers in specialized fields or adequate equipment? A similar analysis will also be carried out for the participating companies to determine how they too can contribute to the training offer.
“With the methodology behind this partnership, we will be better able to identify key occupations,” Levrack said. “This will be useful in developing teaching guides and operational manuals, which will be used to implement the training courses in the targeted priority occupations”.
Harnessing the potential of Mauritanian youth
Quality education is the path to a better life – but this must be done with a central focus on vocational training, so as to improve the employability of young people and reduce poverty. These issues are at the heart of the public-private partnership established in Mauritania: technical and vocational education and training (TVET) can enable young people to acquire many of the skills sought after in the labor market. This has also become a continent-wide priority. However, only 6.5 percent of secondary school students in sub-Saharan Africa are enrolled in TVET, compared with 15 percent in North America and Western Europe. In Mauritania, the figures are even lower: only 4 percent of secondary school students are enrolled there.
Developing this sector will be essential to provide new opportunities for young Mauritanians, whose numbers are expected to increase in the near future. Taking into account the needs of businesses will make it possible to develop appropriate training – and thus employment opportunities.