Focusing on micro and small enterprises (MSEs) is believed to help tackle unemployment and poverty. The assumption is that they require relatively less financial and human capital and absorb a significant portion of the labour force.
But in Ethiopia, MSEs are not only constrained in usual areas such as finance, inputs, and marketing; they also lack relevant technical skills. Leather product businesses, for example, exhibit notable gaps in product design and pattern-making skills. These foundational skills play an important role in determining the final appearance of a product.
Lack of relevant technical skills limits revenue generation and subsequently MSE contribution towards employment creation.
TVET college deficiencies inhibit MSE development
In Addis Ababa, there are around 10 public Technical and Vocational Education and Training (TVET) colleges providing training for leather footwear, goods, and garment occupations. These TVET colleges are expected to support and strengthen MSEs by providing them with the skills to improve competitiveness, productivity, and ultimately profitability.
The challenge, however, lies in TVET colleges’ lack of equipment and materials, as well as in the capacity gaps of their trainers. For example, most trainers lack skills in leather product design and pattern and prototype-making because their background is either in leather processing or non-leather sectors. They also lack experience with computer-aided design (CAD) software.
Ensuring MSEs have the technical skills needed to grow requires addressing the deficiencies of TVET colleges.
Addressing the gaps through a market-based intervention
LIWAY partnered with Skyline Leather Fashion Training PLC on an intervention to build the capacity of the TVET colleges. The intervention was piloted with two colleges. In each college, a product development centre was established and equipped. The centres include a manual design and CAD room, prototype-making room, and showroom to display sample products. Skyline trained trainers in leather product design and production, as well as developed and supplied nine product development manuals. Various readymade and tailored designs, patterns, and prototypes were also made available to MSEs.
During the pilot period, 1,097 target group members from 50 MSEs benefitted through skills development, access to product designs, patterns, and prototypes, and technical assistance during production.
Following the pilot phase, the two TVET colleges have continued providing the service to MSEs, which includes assigning manpower and budget to run the product development centres. More MSEs will therefore benefit from an improved ability to produce diversified leather products that meet the ever-changing demands of their customers.
Observing and learning from the results
LIWAY and programme donor, Sida, visited one of the TVET colleges, Entoto Polytechnic College, to observe the intervention achievements. During their visit, they met with several beneficiaries, one of which was leather product enterprise, Ayenetu, Zewdu & Friends, which is made up of members with disabilities.
Ayenetu, Zewdu & Friends had previously produced leather products in a traditional manner. They lacked skills in design, pattern-making, and using patterns in mass production. Through the intervention, they were able to acquire these skills and receive technical assistance during mass production.
They are now able to produce different products to satisfy customer demands and have increased their revenues as a result. They have also been able to hire 10 new employees.
The success of the pilot and ongoing commitment of the TVET colleges demonstrates that strengthening their capacity to deliver technical training and support to MSEs can provide a sustainable solution to benefit MSEs’ through improved technical capacity. This type of intervention should therefore be considered within the arsenal of interventions to help realise the potential of MSEs to address poverty and unemployment.
LIWAY´s work in the skills system focuses on improving skills development to unlock wage and self-employment opportunities for women and youth. Within this system, LIWAY aims to improve the quality of trainers, curricula, and content, as well as improve marketing and institutional strength of TVETS and coordination among stakeholders. The skills system is led by Save the Children International.