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‘Graduates leave university unsure of what to do’

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Alex Ariho

What is the ‘no paper, pen skilling’ approach?

It is a mode of skilling where trainees get practical skills without a pen or paper (writing pads). The exchange between learners (trainees) and instructors occurs in a practical environment, and there is no writing.

What motivated you to come up with this model of training?

This kind of skilling is innovative, engaging, and encourages creativity among learners but there is also straight communication. We have a challenge in the country of producing graduates who are not skilled enough to offer practical solutions to challenges facing the country such as agricultural transformation.

Graduates leave university when they are not sure what to do despite excellent class degrees and diplomas and this is because of the kind of education that emphasises theory teaching. With this kind of teaching, even a graduate can easily master practical skills.

We have to come to the reality that the traditional way of skilling may never offer practical solutions to Uganda’s challenges, especially unemployment.

How has this approach helped in job creation and reducing unemployment?

As I told you, this approach helps trainees be creative, innovative, and engaging because after the training they are very eager to start up a project or business. We have graduates who have started businesses in value addition such as soap-making, wine-making, yoghurt-making, and urban farming and they are doing well. These people would be roaming on the streets if they did not get such training.

Since 1999 at Excel Hort Consult, we have skilled 250,000 people in different enterprises across the country.

Of these, 70 percent have been able to start enterprises that have since transformed into Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs).

We have skilled people in both formal and non-formal sectors, rural and urban areas, especially women and youth, and also refugee communities in Nakivaale and Rwamwanja settlement camps. 

How have you been successful in skilling such big numbers?

The training module has gained the trust of many partners because of its impact. Some of these include the World Food Programme, Food and Agriculture Organisation, Office of the Prime Minister, USAID, Uganda National Research Institute, Operation Wealth Creation, African Development Bank Makerere, and Bishop Stuart Universities, among others. That is why we have been able to skill and incubate such numbers and businesses. 

How are your trainees assessed?

We have a memorandum of understanding with the Directorate of Industrial Training and our trainees undergo a competence-based assessment and are awarded certificates.

We have different start-ups where we train these incubates and they include piggery, poultry, livestock, crop production, beauty and cosmetics, carpentry, fashion and design, and tailoring, among others.

What are your plans going forward?

My future plan is to establish a No Paper, Pen University of Business Incubation. It will be the first in Africa and I think it will have a great impact in offering practical skills.