The European Union Delegation to Uganda has allocated funds for a two-year technical assistance project to support UIPE. The project is being implemented by IMC Worldwide. IMC have extensive worldwide experience in capacity development for institutions in the Infrastructure sector.

The TA team is made up of a Team Leader, as well as Branding, Professional Development and Finance experts. This core team is supplemented as the need arises.

It is not uncommon to hear employers complain that they can’t find the right kind of junior technicians and engineers for their projects. Of course, there are plenty of graduates and diploma holders out there, they admit, but when it comes to work, they lack the knowledge and experience needed to get the job done.

Also, it is not uncommon to hear college and university students complain that they find it really hard to find work placements but once there, they are barely noticed and fail to learn anything new. Thus, the end result is frustrated employers and unemployed young professionals.

But, with the help of the European Union, UIPE has begun to address this mismatch between young graduates and what industry really needs. The arrangements are still being finalised so things can kick off this September, but Professional Development Expert, Jim Clarke explains how this new initiative will work.

“We could see there was a gap between what students studied and what employers really needed. So, as a start, we’ve decided to bring industry associations like UNABCEC and UACE together with the five Uganda Technical Colleges to work out where exactly the existing curriculum needs topping up.

“Then we had to figure out who would do the training, and when. So, we’ve identified a team of working engineers to come into the colleges when the students have a break from their normal studies. These engineers really know their stuff, and will be able to get students up-to-speed, ready for their industry placements. As for the ‘when’, we had little choice: it had to be sandwiched between June and October, when students are not in lectures.

“The way it works is this: to begin with, each student will have two weeks of intensive practical training at the UTC before their placement, followed up by another two weeks at the end. The college’s own lecturers will facilitate, and the UTCs will provide accommodation and access to their labs and workshops.

“Next, it was clear that the students weren’t getting the best from their placements. So we had to find a way to make that work better too. Again, we’ve turned to the industry associations as they have the best links with enterprise. So in our scheme, UNABCEC and UACE will be identifying placements rather than students having to search for themselves. And they will choose businesses that take seriously the need to bring on young professionals, so the placements will be worthwhile.”

Jim Clarke continues: “But this only goes so far; the next challenge is to turn student placements into real work. So we have linked this UTC training to a new Graduate Training Programme that will make it easier for companies to take on new staff. Under the scheme the European Union will contribute almost 40% towards salaries with the employer finding the rest, while UIPE will handle the administration and check the quality of the structured in-work training that employers will be bound to provide.

“We expect to put through 80 technicians and 20 unemployed engineering graduates each year. And we’re hoping that many of the technicians that benefited from the UTC training will be taken up in the new GTP. After all, employers will have already had a chance to see what they can do, and will feel confident that taking them on as staff will pay off.”

UIPE President, Vincent Ochwo, adds: “UIPE believes this scheme has a good chance of success because it links academically qualified young professionals with the world of work, and links education specialists with industry. Uganda needs more joined-up thinking like this.

“This is a great opportunity for an organisation like UIPE because it fits neatly with our ambition to advance engineering for everyone in the profession. Through our connections to industry and to universities and colleges, we believe we are in a great position to get all sides working together on schemes like these.

“We believe it’s to everyone’s advantage. Of course, the students are the main beneficiary, but the idea is that the colleges will benefit too as a result of forging closer links with working engineers with real industry experience. And, at the end of it all, industry gets what it needs, young professional with enough practical experience to make a contribution to business.”