Incorporating micro-lending Programs with Internship Programs: A Project Proposal for Queen Sheba Vocational Technical School

Professor Asayehgn Desta
May 02 2010

Introduction
The proposal is about the metal and wood work vocational training program housed at the Queen Sheba Vocational School located in Adwa, Tigray, Ethiopia. The wood and metal work department of the Queen Sheba Vocational School was financed and constructed in 2005 by Professor Desta Asayehgn, where he was once a student. The underling vision of the metal and wood work department is to act as the transferor of academic, vocational skills and internship so vital to productive employment to the trainees. More specifically, the wood and metal departments of the Queen Sheba vocational school envisions to contribute significantly to the threshold educational and training necessary to develop a viable human resources capacity that is fundamental to the economic revitalization of Ethiopia. To achieve these endeavors, the proposal focuses on the need of getting micro financial services to those graduates of the vocational school to get started on their own on environmentally sensitive projects.

Rationale: The key of the Queen Sheba Vocational School strategy is to increase human resources capacity by integrating academic with vocational training programs. In addition to skills development, internship, job placement, job creation and support to entrepreneurial ship are the critical elements of the wood and metal work department of the Queen Sheba vocational School. Thus, social and private entrepreneurship are the driving force behind the metal and wood work department of the Queen Sheba Vocational School. Nonetheless though the vocational trainees have the energy, creativity and relevant skills many cannot find jobs after the graduate. The proposal strongly believes that exposing the students to role models, private entrepreneurs, and innovative financial agents can help them to gain access to vital ingredients that could facilitate sustainable placement opportunities.

To help the learners combine entrepreneurial skills with business planning efforts, the proposed plan also intends to train the teachers of the vocational school to master the development of designing the state of the art business plans so that their trainees could put into action what they have learned in their classes and further establish professional connections to secure long-term job. Finally, through microfinance loans the proposed plan envisions to bridge the training at the Queen Sheba Vocational School with productive and stimulating employment which might achieve long-term environmentally sustainable development.

In short, the proposed programs intend to help the vocational teachers of the metal and work department of Queen Sheba School to:

  1. get the necessary training in the state of the art of designing business plans to the trainees so that they could be involved from the beginning to acquire employment training in their areas of preparation.
  2. give the trainees the opportunity to hone their craft by placing each trainee in an apprenticeship program.
  3. participate in developing and presenting project proposal seeking start-up funds or microcredit to support the learners’ business initiatives.
  4. help the graduates of the vocational school initiate the establishment of new business or micro-enterprises through micro credit financial programs.
  5. Strengthen existing micro-business enterprises in the community so that graduate trainees could find employment that eventually earn them a sufficient living to feed their family.
  6. Actively research the possibility of providing microloans to the poorest graduates of the program.
  7. produce opportunities for productive, stable and rewarding work for the graduated skilled worker force,; and
  8. Strengthen existing micro-business enterprises in the community so that graduate trainees could find productive employment.

The objectives of the proposed programs for the vocational trainees include:

  1. acquiring knowledge and skills needed for employment through service-learning;
  2. initiating the establishment of new business plan for micro-enterprises through micro credit financial programs;
  3. ensuing that the graduates find and seize opportunities for productive work, and lead lives in which creativity, initiative, and hard work are rewarded;
  4. participating in developing and presenting project proposal seeking start-up funds to support their business initiative through microloans.

Project Implementation
To fully operate the integration of the vocational training program at the Queen Sheba Vocational School with microfinance ventures, the school-based proposal navigates through the following strategies:

  1. Establish a board of directors from the local community, regional government, private sector, alumni, and international donor community.
  2. Use two Queen Sheba School Alumni, and one practically-oriented administrator from Adwa, Tigray, Ethiopia to provide intensive educational programs so essential for the establishment of innovative tools of integrating microfinance with vocational training to at least ten teachers of the Queen Sheba vocational School.
  3. Identify the twenty talented graduates and give them specialized training how to prepare business plans to secure microloans to have the largest impact possible to track the success of the proposed program.
  4. Develop the infrastructure (internship, job placement, and microfinance office) needed for the operation of the program.
  5. Train and supervise local researchers to monitor and evaluate the program in order to track the success of the proposed program.

Given the above proposal , a number of verbal and written feedbacks were forwarded to Professor Desta. For example, Dr. Tefaye Teklu, an alumni states :
Dear Professor Desta,
I would like to express my gratitude for including me in your mailing list in connection with the proposal for "incorporating micro-lending Programs with Environmentally Sensitive Training and Internship Programs for the Queen Sheba Vocational School in Adua, Tigrai, Ethiopia". In my humble opinion, the tentative proposal hits the nail on the head. I do share with the proposal that the critical issues that have created a large number of trained unemployment in the Adua are: a) lack of capital, b)poor entrepreneurial skills, c) lack of market for products, and d) less than adequate business skills, etc.

In order to be competitive, one has to have an idea or a product that makes life easier or solves a problem. It also need to generate a profit to be sustainable. Training trainers on issues related to marketing and sales, research, and introducing them to state of the art knowledge in setting up business, soliciting start-up funds, developing small business proposals that can attract funders or appeal to micro-credit financiers is a step in the right direction.

I strongly believe that this project will also be more successful if it were to spread its scope to other relevant sectors of the Vocational program. My belief is that most other businesses will be less costly to establish and do not require heavy capital. Having said that, I would like to point out that, for those who intend to set up their own business after graduating from the woodwork and metal workshop of the Vocational School they would require a showroom as well as the tools to make their products. Is the proposal envisaging this particular issue? (emphasis added).

This is what Aite Mulu Beyene Kidanemariam, LLB, Mekelle University, Department of Law, has to say about the Queen Sheba Vocational School:

Dear Friends,

I went to Adwa to celebrate the Easter holiday with my family on April 1st 2010, and the following can provide a brief account of what I did in respect to communicating the proposed project to the concerned bodies in Adwa and some updates about the school.

On the noon of the day I arrived there, I went to the Vocational school and met the head/principal, W/ro Kiros Gebrehiwot. I informed her of the proposal, tried to give the general purpose to the extent I understand, and gave her a copy of it as she had no information about it. She explained to me how the school is functioning; the challenges it is facing, the fragmented programs and attempts to help the school out by different stakeholders and the need to bring them together, and the contribution that Professor has made in building the two workshops that I also visited.

The programs the school currently offers includes levels 1 - 4 in some 8 - 9 areas, all accredited and short trainings of up to 6 months, mainly to those in the MSE in the vicinity, which begun last year. W/ro Kiros explained to me that in terms of number of students the school is hosting the second largest in Tigray, following the Vocational School in Mekelle.

In regards to the curriculum though, I could not find a list of the courses offered, but I hope that can be forwarded by teacher W/ro Kiros on request. In relation to the proposed project I learned that courses on entrepreneurship, ‘Know About Business’, and another two weeks training known as ‘seife’ delivered in the native language, Tigrigna for the graduating students is in place.

Even after graduation, there is an assessment how graduating students are performing and areas on which further support is important to them. A recent survey is reported to have revealed that 60-70% of the graduating students are engaged in micro and small enterprises whereas the remaining 30% of students could not be traced. Additional trainings are also in order to graduates on areas they found to be difficult in the practical world.

According to W/ro Kiros the principal challenges are related to the workshop buildings and the lack of training equipments. All the labs and workshops are situated in rooms, which are not furnished and the setting of which was not meant for technical education purpose. I have also verified this when I visited the rooms, the ones I knew from some 13 years back are still all the same. Of course, there is some pressure and thus it is hoped that the government may somehow alleviate this problem.

Besides, even though shortage of qualified teachers is also visible, still the urgency lies in some other point. The chronic problem was said to be in the fact that the required workshop equipments/ machineries/are not in place and additional workshops are badly needed. It is reported that the school is by far lagging behind in terms of the machineries as compared to other related schools with relatively small number of students. Thus, W/ro Kiros said the metal and woodwork students are not getting the skills the program purports to give them, principally due to the lack of equipment and machinery.

Accordingly, W/ro Kiros disclosed that the proposed project may be promising, but it is better if it focused on the areas where the urgency is most visible. As to the establishment of the loan service to few graduating students on competitive basis to help them get started in a business of their own, she said it is appreciated and told me that they will be responding on how best that part of the project can be implemented.

I then visited the school, which incidentally reminds me of my golden childhood. I saw the teaching rooms, the labs, workshops and the rooms which were meant to be hired out for businesses to raise funds to the school but are now closed. The circle in the middle of the school, in which we used to have a radio program, is now removed so that graduating students will be building a water fountain on that open space. I also visited the two workshops that Professor Desta built. This fact can also be glanced from the inscription visibly posted on the gate to the block. It was also good for me to notice some creative works of students there.

After the visit as per the arrangement W/ro Kiros made for me to meet the Mayor, I met him on Monday amidst his busy schedule. I briefly tried to explain the project, handed him over of a copy of it, gave the regards that Professor told me to deliver, and asked him for his reflection on it. Firstly he explained how effective vocational schools were in quickly helping a huge number of families given the fact only about 50% of students would continue to a university.

The Mayor was very much interested on the ‘revolving fund’ the project establishes given the fact that, as things stand, securing finance to start a business has lots of complexities besides a high interest rate that many students cannot afford.

He made it clear that the foremost problem with the school has to do with workshops and materials, equipments, and machinery. Emphasizing on the commendable and effective contributions so far, he wanted Professor Desta to think of using his contacts and links and try to acquire used equipments for the TVET from institutions with which Professor has connections. He said his administration would do everything possible towards improving the program. He then told me that he will be responding to the proposal soon. This being my brief account of my stay in Adwa, I would hope it may give some updates and helps for the best achievement of the project.

Here is the e-mail address of W/ro Kiros, the TVET: kiros-saba@yahoo.com