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A skilled workforce will drive growth

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Access to tertiary education and vocational training remain the important levers to building a skilled workforce – and an employed skilled workforce can fuel growth and help expand the middle class.
Yet access is often limited for those hindered by social and economic barriers and by remoteness from cities where most universities are located. At the same time, availability and enrollment in technical and vocational education and training (TVET) remain very low despite the demands from growing economies in several countries.
With noted exceptions, TVET is often fragmented and receives limited attention from governments. As a result, some philanthropists have focused on providing the capital, training and mentorship needed for entrepreneurship and the education and skills training needed to fill the jobs that await.
The combination of smart policy, strategic philanthropy and long-term investment in Africa’s greatest resource – its people – can help conquer the “jobs challenge”, assuring that Africa’s growth is both inclusive and sustainable.
This subject was recently unpacked at the African Philanthropy Forum 2015  (APF) which was held in Kigali, Rwanda, which drew together a group of leaders who are committed to the advancement of philanthropy, and to the role that a network of African donors and social investors can play in advancing broad-based growth and inclusive development.
APF, launched in 2014, is a community of African philanthropists who share a commitment to the success of the continent. APF The members create strategies to advance broad-based growth throughout Africa. It is an affiliate of the Global Philanthropy Forum – a network of more than 1 800 donors worldwide.
Speaking on the panel addressing the subject of the role of government, business and philanthropy in helping build a skilled workforce and lowering the barriers of access to technical education and vocational training was Richard Lewis, head of corporate strategy for the Artisan Training Institute (ATI).
Lewis outlined the long-standing and successful partnership which ATI enjoyed with the Tiso Foundation, whereby the Artisan Development Programme partnered with leading South African companies to train over 500 unemployed youth and assist them in industry apprenticeship placements. This relationship is a clear example of how a partnership between a philanthropic organisation and a quality-focused training institution can contribute to supporting and enabling talented young people, for the good of the country as a whole.
Lewis stressed the impressive outcomes that could be attained in relationships being developed between philanthropists and training institutions such as ATI, but emphasized that funders need to ensure that there is a need for the type of training they are funding; fund those training institutions that produce quality; and ensure accountability where the training provider fails to deliver quality outcomes.
Lewis stated that South Africa was fortunate in comparison to many of the other countries in Africa, in that it had a clearly defined institutional framework in the National Qualifications Framework and the Skills Development Act.
The grants provided for “pivotal training”, as identified by each sector, also helped to ensure that more training took place where the need was strongest.