Although skilled in his craft as a constructor Iddy Rwechungula,30, suffered missed opportunities and low professional self-esteem due to lack of formal training.
Iddy never attended secondary school and like over 4 million workers in the country, entered the informal sector in order to earn a living. Iddy learned construction under the tutelage of his father who was a mason.
In countries with large informal economies like Tanzania, informal apprenticeships are the only option for millions of young people to acquire skills.
Informal apprenticeships have key features: There is a training agreement between a young learner and an experienced craftsperson to transmit the skills of trade between Iddy and his father. Under his father’s guidance, Iddy learned from practical on the job training rather than formal education.
While a teenager, Iddy left his home town, Bukoba to Dar es Salaam where he explored his different talents in acting while supporting himself with construction work.
“I was a good actor, but I also found the time for construction jobs, particularly as a casual worker,” he said. After taking a few odd jobs, Iddy secured work at Dar es Salaam port, as a cargo carrier. “I worked there for a long time, and one day one of the walls at the port collapsed. I asked to re-construct it,” he said.
The re-construction of the fallen wall put him in contact with the owner of Shedori Construction Company who hired him. After three years, Iddy was employed by an Indian construction firm, then moved to Greek and Chinese Companies where he gained more experience.
“I learned a lot of things but no one was ready to hire me because of my lack of education. I also had not attended any vocational school and had no certificates at hand,” he said.
Iddy’s story shows the shortcomings and challenges of informal apprenticeship. Apart from offering sub-par and even dangerous working conditions, long working hours, low wages and little or no social protection; informal apprenticeships also lead to a lack of skills upgrading and formal certification.
The agreements are often oral and are embedded within the traditions norms and customs. The training programme is unregulated with no external quality assurances.
But Iddy’s high skill level did secure him work and he was awarded a tender to re-build a dilapidated mosque. “I did thorough research of the place, re-designed and draw a new map. I finally managed to build it, fixing the previous problems,” he said.
Iddy’s work gained him recognition from the Staff of Ardhi University who visited the site and asked for his qualifications, CV and certificates, but he had none to show. Ardhi University called after a month and connect him with the Recognition of Prior Learning (RPL) programme run by Vocational Educational and Training Authority (VETA) with support from the International Labour Organisation (ILO). The ILO supports the RPL programme under its Skills development (Skill Up) programme funded by the government of Norway.
RPL is a process used to identify assess and clarify an individual’s knowledge, skills and competencies regardless of how, when and where the learning took place against prescribed standards for modular or full qualifications.
In March 2015, Iddy Rwechungula has officially enrolled in the RPL programme joined the other six youths from Kinondoni and many others from Temeke (60), Ilala (24), Kigamboni (30) and Ubungo (15). To date, 3694 candidates have received their VETA RPL certificates.
Iddy and his peers filled in a basic competency application form in their area of expertise mainly, masonry, carpentry, food and beverage production, vehicle mechanics and tailoring. Candidates also submitted an evidence portfolio of their work to showcase their skills capacity.
After the initial application and self-assessment, Iddy was assigned to an RPL assessor who took him through several stages of competence testing such as a technical theory interview, practical skills assessment whereby the VETA assessor monitored Iddy while at work against a checklist of competences developed by VETA.
Iddy passed the assessment and moved to the next stage of technical theory training, business management, marketing and customer service modules at VETA. Iddy then received his VETA certification. Things have been looking up for him ever since. Iddy now has access to bigger and better building projects and is more confident in his skills. “I am now building multi-story buildings, so I have to employ more people, in total I have worked with more than 40 people.
I am also looking forward to starting my own construction company.” Iddy’s story shows that RPL not only raises the confidence of informally skilled workers and artisans, but it facilitates a major shift from informal to formal employment and self-employment.
How does it work?
In a nutshell, the RPLA process involves the following steps; an informal apprentice, who meets the criteria applies for RPLA through filling a skills competency form in their area of expertise.
RPLA facilitator guides the candidate about the RPL procedures, eligibility, competences required for assessment and portfolio development as part of evidence; Candidates submit the application, VETA assessors screens it and interviews the candidates. The candidates get prepared for assessment. Candidates get assessed against prescribed standards for the selected qualification;
Who does the RPL programme target?
RPL targets workers like Iddy who have been working in the informal sector for a minimum of five years. It targets workers who have acquired occupational skills through non-formal training or through life or work experience but never recognized and/or certified.
The benefits of RPL
Upgrading informal apprenticeship is crucial because:
• It provides pathways to formal training for those who missed out and or those who previously did not qualify.
• Moves workers to the formal economy and gives them access to apply for government tenders (which they would not be able to access due to lack of certification).
• Introduces candidates to basic business management and gives them the skills to manage a team of employees.
• Encourages further learning and skills upgrading and linkages with formal training.
• It promotes equity and social inclusion, promotes flexible learning through multiple entries and exit learning mechanisms.
• It also benefits employers, through more skilled workers and helps them to meet quality assurance standards of TBS and ISO.
Where is the programme now?
VETA in collaboration with enterprises and with support from ILO has finalized a national guideline for RPL, competency standards for 4 sectors including motor vehicle mechanics, Carpentry and joinery masonry and bricklaying and food production have also been set.
VETA is also currently making moves to expand the RPL programme across Tanzania and is currently conducting training of over 240 assessors from all over Tanzania in Singida. More occupations have also been targeted with directives from the government on occupations needed for the country’s industrial drive.
Furthermore, the ILO is also currently working with the government of Zanzibar and Vocational Training Authority (VTA) to pinpoint top occupations for RPL assessment as an initial stage of developing Zanzibar’s first RLP programme.