‘I am proud to be part of a program that brings significant change, not only for me but for the youth, employers and my country.’
These are heartfelt words by Ms Leena Ramtohul from Mauritius, who has made a difference in her country’s development by tackling high levels of youth unemployment. She has done so using the knowledge and skills she gained from an Australia Awards short course.
As a Senior Research and Development Officer at the Mauritius Human Resources Development Council (HRDC), Ms Ramtohul witnessed growing levels of youth unemployment in her home country. During her short course in Technical and Vocational Education and Training (TVET) in 2013 at the Chisholm Institute of TAFE in Australia, she learned how to identify the most appropriate TVET model for Mauritius. She also built her understanding of how Australia developed a long-term vision for TVET.
Ms Ramtohul’s visits to Australian training centres and interactions with industry associations also built her knowledge of how government agencies can link their work to industry priorities with great success.
‘I learned about the many ways to engage with industry to create win-win situations, ways to support the professional and vocational currency of TVET staff and ways to encourage professionalism in TVET,’ she says.
Using her new-found knowledge and skills, Ms Ramtohul developed the National Skills Development Program (NSDP), a plan to reduce youth unemployment by supporting them to build skills considered scarce in Mauritius. With the support of her HRDC colleagues, the program was launched in 2016 with an integrated approach, including industrial placement, free training and a stipend for the young people participating.
Since its launch, 5,629 youths have started training and over 2,212 have found employment.
Along the way Ms Ramtohul navigated significant challenges. Not all young unemployed people have access to the Internet, needed to register into the program. Ms Ramtohul and her team made available the local HRDC employment offices for the youth to register and participate. Other challenges included high drop-outs rates and low interest in certain sectors. To mitigate against these, Ms Ramtohul increased program outreach and information activities, including through radio and television.
Beyond the NSDP, Ms Ramtohul continues to contribute to the Mauritius Government’s goal of reducing high levels of youth unemployment, using the expertise and knowledge she gained in Australia to lead the development of Mauritius’ Skills Development Strategy 2018–2022. This began in 2018 and is expected to be completed by mid-2019.
Ms Ramtohul is also leading a team responsible for developing the Career Development Stairway in Mauritius, a tool to support new entrants and current workers in the Information and Communications Technology sector with information about career opportunities and planning.