A couple of numbers are enough to understand how important the challenges related to the employability of young people on the African continent are.
Currently, 15-24 year-olds represent 20% of the African population, but more than 40% of the unemployed . By 2030, according to UNESCO projections, approximately 100 million young people will enter the African labor market due to the demographic structure of the continent.
Meanwhile, many companies and employers are looking for qualified  and therefore employable individuals. There is a mismatch between available training programs and the specifics of the labor market, which is undergoing constant restructuring, in many sectors,.
Therefore, one could ask whether the great challenge today is not to train more, but to train better? Especially in the context of technical and vocational education and training, which obviously have a major role to play in promoting the integration of young people into the workplace.
In this article, we will explore three paths to improvement, based on the experience of an African SME in Côte d’Ivoire which specializes in professional training: the Institut de Management, de Gestion et d’Hôtellerie (IMGH), founded by Augustine Bro in 2009. Between December 2020 and July 2021, IMGH employees (managers, middle-managers, trainers) participated in capacity building training organized by GIZ Côte d’Ivoire.
Pathway 1: negotiate the shift to digitalization
Technical and vocational training courses are the first to have to adapt to globalization and the resulting technological changes, as they are oriented towards practice, learning, and the acquisition of work techniques. The transition to digital technology, which was supposed to be gradual, has been drastically accelerated by the Covid-19 crisis, which has had a major impact on the training sector and has redefined the demands of the labor market.
The prerequisites to successfully negotiate this shift are first of all material. In West Africa, household connectivity is not guaranteed in many rural or isolated areas. In addition to internet coverage issues, there are also the costs of the packages needed to consult the online tools necessary for learning. Finally, the acquisition of computer equipment to access the content of online courses is an additional burden for students.
To overcome these material difficulties, IMGH has put training capsules online which can be consulted via computer and mobile phone. This initiative solved both the impossibility of holding face-to-face classes at the height of the Covid crisis, and the connectivity of learners, insofar as most had at least access to the internet via their smartphones. Financial efforts will still be required to ensure that all students have access to online courses.
Since the start of the Covid crisis, IMGH has adopted a mixed approach, combining face-to-face and distance learning. This format offers many advantages: self-paced learning, customizable content, cost savings, etc. It is also a proven model that will be able to adapt to future crises, whether they are health, economic, or political.
Beyond concerns about equipment and connectivity, the greatest challenge of this transition to digital could be that of the competence of trainers and the transmission of knowledge (theoretical knowledge, but also and above all, know-how – techniques, professional gestures, practice, behaviour, quality, values).
Some of these elements, already difficult to transmit in a face-to-face environment, are even more so in distance or hybrid teaching and require much more involvement and pedagogy from the trainers. Hence the need to train trainers and any other person involved in the transmission process beforehand.
Pathway 2: Update trainers’ skills
The quality and relevance of any professional training is directly related to the professional competence of the trainers.
In the case of vocational training, most of the courses offered are taught by teaching teams from the trade. This situation responds to the logic of transmitting techniques specific to each profession, which would otherwise be difficult to share. Nevertheless, this empirical knowledge, acquired thanks to years of experience in the field, tends to become fixed in time. The risk being that once transposed onto the job market, the skills transmitted to students turn out to be obsolete. Consequently, it is essential to constantly renew the skills of trainers.
The training of managers and middle-managers is also an essential aspect to take into account. In the age of digital transformation. The success of a new development strategy depends on the ability of all employees to adopt it. They contribute fully to the internal transformation of the company and thus participate in the process of skills transfer.
The GIZ training, which the IMGH team attended, is based on the logic of alternating practice and theory, which allows the knowledge acquired to be updated and transferred directly to the workplace thanks to a point of view and experience from outside the organization.
According to Augustine Bro, founder of IMGH, this training has enabled her entire team to be more aware of the changes taking place in the professional market and to adapt their training offers in the long term.
Pathway 3: Capacity building through the co-development method
Finally, there can be a more collective approach to the new problems linked to the transformation of professions. Updating skills and knowledge to adapt to the demands of the job market is a necessity, and being in contact with other professionals would be an effective way to overcome one’s own shortcomings and acquire new knowledge.
A professional co-development group is a development approach for people who believe they can learn from each other to improve their practice. Individual and group reflection is facilitated through a structured consultation exercise that focuses on issues currently experienced by participant.
Thus the co-development method makes it possible to directly approach the practical side of a job, or of a task to be carried out, in a concerted manner. In contrast to a normative approach that only offers a single point of view, co-development, through the plurality of contributions, increases the development perspectives tenfold. This approach encourages everyone to consider a situation from a different and complementary angle, to think much deeper and to adapt new and more productive solutions.
“The adoption of the co-development method has brought new life to our organization. A new and very positive dynamic has taken hold and everyone is now voluntarily contributing to it, whether it be in terms of training, management, or governance. For example, those who are more comfortable with computers do not hesitate to give a helping hand to their colleagues in difficulty, and those who are struggling with other issues do not hesitate to ask for advice or help. So far, this method has been nothing but beneficial, both in terms of accounting and the work atmosphere” – Augustine Bro
The mismatch between existing training programs and the needs of an ever-changing labor market hinders the economic development of African countries. Opportunities exist and are being created, but the continent is still struggling to provide a skilled and employable workforce.
Vocational training actors, such as IMGH in Côte d’Ivoire, need to offer up-to-date and relevant content. We have mentioned here some of the practices implemented by IMGH since the Covid-19 crisis and the GIZ training (digitizing its training offer, strengthening the skills of trainers and teams…), but many other ideas can still be formulated to bring relevant and quality vocational training to African youth!
 Jean-Michel SEVERINO, RFI 20/01/19 https://www.rfi.fr/fr/emission/20190121-afrique-manque-emplois-qualifies-investir-formation
 En se référant à la définition donnée par l’Organisation internationale du travail (OIT), l’employabilité est « l’aptitude de chacun à trouver et conserver un emploi, à progresser au travail et à s’adapter au changement tout au long de la vie professionnelle »
 Adrien PAYETTE, Claude CHAMPAGNE, PUQ, 1997 ( https://www.puq.ca/catalogue/livres/groupe-codeveloppement-professionnel-573.html )