Half of Niger's population is under age 15. Niger's young people ought to be seen as an asset, but with a population growth rate of 3.9%, the country faces the challenge of providing all its citizens with good-quality education. Over 1.5 million Nigeriens aged 12 to 19 would like to complete a vocational training programme but only 1% are currently enrolled in such a programme.
To assist the Nigerien authorities, in 2011 the SDC launched a programme to support vocational training in rural areas. The aim was to contribute to the establishment of a vocational education and training system in rural areas to facilitate the integration of young people into the labour market. To best meet the needs of young people and the local job market, local communities and local authorities are key partners.
Strengthening existing training structures
Thanks to the SDC, various training structures have been initiated and/or strengthened in the rural regions of Dosso and Maradi in southern Niger. These include "integrated agricultural training sites" which offer practical courses in agriculture, livestock farming, market gardening and farm machinery. Meanwhile, "community development training centres" train young people who want to become mechanics or carpenters or learn how to sew or cook professionally. In both cases, the SDC funds facilities, the training of tutors, equipment and the design of new courses.
Since 2013, some 15,000 young men and women have started a vocational training programme in one of the training centres, where they are acquiring the basic knowledge and skills necessary to pursue a professional activity.
Dual vocational training setting
One of the innovative projects supported by the SDC is a dual vocational training programme that has been introduced by several local artisans’ associations. Much like Swiss apprentices, young people attend a training centre while working in a company or a workshop. The programme allows them to combine theoretical and practical apprenticeships. To enable as many young people as possible to do an apprenticeship, the training is given in local languages. The apprentices can acquire basic skills and also take literacy courses.
The seamless integration of basic education and vocational training enables young people to enter the job market. With that objective in mind, the SDC also supports a mobile service comprised of vocational information and guidance platforms accessible in all of Niger’s regions. The aim is to offer young people guidance and support to pursue their professional plans.
Replicating the pilot projects throughout Niger
The SDC sees its work in Niger as a long-term endeavour. Since 2011, it has invested considerable energy in clarifying and then strengthening the roles and responsibilities of various public and private actors involved in the vocational training sector. Based on positive experiences in the regions of Dosso and Maradi, the vocational training supported by the SDC is expected to gradually become widespread.
By 2020, some 43,000 young people could benefit at the local level. On their side the national authorities responsible for education and vocational training shall step up their commitment to these various programmes.