Afghan training institutes grow professionalism, profitability
By Aziz Gulbahari
November 12, 2015
A new generation of Afghan-owned and led private companies and nongovernmental organizations are leading Afghanistan into an era of growing independence from foreign funding.
With over 64 percent of its population under 25 years old, Afghanistan’s workforce potential is immense, but until recently it was largely untapped as training and vocational institutions faced many challenges connecting skilled job seekers to jobs.
This began to change in 2012 with the introduction of the Afghanistan Workforce Development Program. The USAID-funded program provides funding and capacity-building to Afghan vocational training providers to help them build networks with private sector employers and facilitate labor market demand assessments.
Training institutions then translate the findings of these assessments into workforce training based on the specific market-demand for skilled, semi-professional job seekers.
According to Sayed Moharam Khalid, head of Nangarhar Institute of Computer Education in Jalalabad, the model of conducting demand assessments has strengthened the institute’s relationship with employers.
“We now know the needs of private companies better than other training institutes. Our training rightly meets the demand of companies, employees and job seekers,” he says. “Recently, we have replicated this model in our business administration department as well.”
Khalid says that his institute envisions trained Afghan information and communications technology workers replacing those hired from other countries.
After completing their program grants, some training institutions have adopted the program model as a profitable business model, providing private sector employers with a range of support services.
The Impressive Consultancy Company, for example, completed two capacity-building program grants and “can now charge fees for its training for private sector organizations,” explains Muzhgan Wafiq Alokozai, vice president of the company.
By increasing its own capacity and better understanding the needs of the private sector employers, Alokozai says the company can also now better provide companies with support in start-up services, registration, office setup, recruitment and staff capacity building.
Quality standards for quality training
To further motivate Afghan training providers to base their training on the needs of the private sector and to encourage the standardization of training services, the Afghanistan Workforce Development Program developed a rating system of training providers’ performance in the challenging economic climate of Afghanistan.
In sectors such as project management, financial management, information and communication technology, marketing, and construction, the program monitors and scores 19 USAID-funded training providers to help inspire the most innovative institutes.
The Nangarhar Institute of Computer Education and four other training institutes in Mazar-e-Sharif, Kandahar, Herat, Jalalabad and Kabul were selected through three rounds of an electronic scoring system called “Team Performance Recognition Initiative.” These training providers achieved measurable success in job placements and promotions, meeting USAID-determined milestones, with more proficiency and accuracy compared to the other grant implementing partners.
Afghanistan Leading Management Consultancy, Afghan Mobile Reconstruction Association, Afghan Community and Health Rehabilitation Organization, Society Empowerment Organization and the Nangarhar Institute of Computer Education were awarded honorary certificates.
Since it began in 2012, the program has trained more than 23,000 mid-career/semi-professional job seekers and private sector employees. More than 14,000 trainee graduates were placed in new positions or promoted in their current jobs with salary increases of at least three percent.
Building the future with jobs for women & youth
These institutions have also placed a high number of women in jobs or secured promotions for them in geographic areas where employment for women is not easy. To date, more than 36 percent of job seekers placed by the Afghanistan Workface Development Program have been women, far exceeding the program’s target of 25 percent.
The program and its grantee training organizations are also successfully reaching Afghanistan’s unemployed and underemployed youth population, a large and critical demographic to grow the Afghan economy. Sixty-eight percent of those placed or promoted in jobs through the program are between 21 to 30 years old.
By better preparing these youth with the skills demanded for the types of jobs available and then connecting them to those jobs, training providers are helping businesses grow, as Sangar Amin, Program Manager for Afghanistan Leading Management Consultancy, explains.
“I tell employers ‘If you’d like to promote your business and grow it up, select someone qualified to work for you,” he says, noting that a large pool of young Afghans are now educated and eager to work.
Edited by Michelle Tolson and Jillian Slutzker