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Saudi Arabia 2017 | HEALTH & EDUCATION | VIP INTERVIEW

TBY talks to Dr. Fahad Al Tuwaijry, CEO of the College of Excellence (COE), on vocational training, aviation training, and links to the private sector.

At the outset of this talk, can you give us an idea about the Colleges of Excellence?

The Technical and Vocational Training Corporation (TVTC) established Colleges of Excellence (CoE) a limited liability company in 2013, for the purpose of expanding and improving the quality of Technical and Vocational Education and Training (TVET) in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. CoE operates through three distinct models: the International Technical Colleges (ITCs), the Strategic Partnerships (SPs), and the Capability Building Contract model (CBC). A fourth model has been introduced recently which is for customized training for employment. ITCs are operated by international training providers to ensure high quality technical and vocational training and to prepare Saudi youth for the labor market. CoE currently oversees the operation of 31 ITCs, 14 male colleges, and 17 female colleges. One more college is also overseen by CoE that offers bachelor degree in Applied Engineering. SPs are highly specialized training institutes established in partnership with both the Human Resource Development Fund (HRDF), and the private sector. All SP trainees are enrolled in training programs by signing an employment contract with a specific employer. Thus, trainees are employed from day one of their training and are guaranteed employment upon successful graduation. HRDF supports employers by funding a portion of the cost. However, the employer is responsible for the remainder of the cost. Currently, there are 24 institutes in different sectors and locations across the Kingdom. The CBC program aims to transform current traditional TVTC training units by contracting international training providers to work alongside the existing units and enhance their performance. This program aims to enable traditional TVTC training units to reach the highest international standards and to improve outcomes. Last but not least, “customized training for employment” also known as short training courses, is very similar to the SP model. However, there are two key differentiating factors. First, the duration of the training program is a lot longer in SP institutes. Second, the Human Resource Development Fund generally covers the full cost of training unlike the SP model. This model is the most flexible of all, and has been utilized in collaboration with the Ministry of Health and the Ministry of Labor and Social Development, to rehabilitate recipients of health degrees with low-level competencies, and to be a bridge for natural science graduates to enter the health sector.

How does the CoE differentiate itself in the TVET system in the Kingdom?

When TVTC embarked on planning and establishing the CoE, it was blessed with the support of His Majesty the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques. The Kingdom's leadership firmly believes in the mission of CoE, which is to provide Saudi youth with relevant skill sets in preparation to enter the labor market. Likewise, the support of the kingdoms leadership has been firmly rooted in the National Transformation Program (NTP) of 2020, and the Kingdom's vision of 2030, where TVET plays a vital role. What differentiates our programs is the way we conduct our business. First and foremost, comes our attention to high quality standards throughout all stages of the training process. This includes training methods and curricula, administration policies, and third party quality assurance, such as Saudi Skills Standards (SSS), in addition to other internationally renowned quality assurance and accreditation bodies. It should be noted that CoE depends solely on international expertise; this alludes to the fact that English is a mandatory competence for all trainees. Moreover, internally CoE has a highly qualified education team who is specialized in TVET quality assurance. The team conducts routine field visits and raises periodic reports about various colleges and institutes. Another criterion that differentiates CoE from others is its updated five-year strategy (2016-2020). This strategy has been pioneered by renowned international consultant agencies. The five-year strategy ensures alignment with the vision of 2030 and the NTP of 2020. Furthermore, a new branding identity has also been launched simultaneously with the new strategy. The third point I will mention in this regard is our flexibility in catering to the demand of the national labor market. CoE offers numerous specializations through ITCs, SPs, and customizable training for employment. Durations of training programs can be long or short depending on an employer's labor demand. Furthermore, training units are very well distributed over the kingdom. In conclusion, international standards and benchmarks, flexibility in specializations and durations, quality assurance, logistics, and strategic alignment with national interests and objectives, are the primary components of CoE's uniqueness and value proposition.

Where did the idea to set up the aviation college come from and who are your partners in this college?

A decade or more ago TVTC started planning to provide the aviation sector in Saudi Arabia with highly skilled technicians. Over the last decade, TVTC has worked closely and diligently with Boeing, BAE Systems, Airbus, and Saudi Airlines to determine what different types of skills the sector is looking for, and to determine the number of technicians needed. In 2013 with relentless efforts and strong determination CoE with the support of its primary stakeholder TVTC, established a state-of-the-art technical college in the area of King Khalid International Airport in Riyadh to provide the Kingdom's aviation sector with highly skilled national technicians. The development of the curriculum and the entire setup was done in collaboration with several parties. Subsequently, through a robust tendering process, CoE attracted the best international training providers in the field. As a result, Australian Aviation College was awarded the contract to operate and maintain the “International Aviation Technical College at Riyadh.” Many employers have developed partnerships with the college by sponsoring trainees, to secure qualified national technicians. The Saudi Royal Air force is the college's largest sponsor. Also other branches of the Ministry of Defense have shown interest in sponsoring trainees.

What do you look for in partners and sectors when you are selecting them to work with?

We have a rigorous selection process for the international training providers. Before we select a training provider, we have pre-qualifications process and other criteria that must be met. CoE's aspirations and anticipations are nothing less than excellence, and with that spirit all procurement and tendering is carried out. The sectors that we are currently looking into are characterized with job growth and suitable occupations for Saudi nationals. It is key to understand that CoE's strategy for choosing sectors depends significantly on the national strategy.

What other sectors are you examining now?

As previously mentioned, we are looking for sectors characterized with job growth and suitable occupations for Saudi nationals. Moreover, in our efforts to be aligned with the national strategy, CoE is currently looking to expand in areas of renewable energy, mining, and maritime.

How do students benefit from close partnerships with the private sector?

As previously mentioned, all SP trainees sign an agreement with a partnering employer as soon as they are enrolled. Upon signing, they are immediately considered to be employed. Such programs are known as “employment starting with training”. The employer bares the cost of training and the Human Resources Development Fund (HRDF) assists the employer by reimbursing a portion of the training cost. The Technical and Vocational Training Corporation (TVTC) and CoE only provide the building and some other basic equipment. However, the training provider in collaboration with the Employer, provide the main lab equipment and any other remaining equipment. CoE oversees the operation of a state-of-the-art institute for plastic manufacturing in Riyadh's Industrial region, and the operation of an institute for mining in the northern region of the Kingdom. The mining institute was established in partnership with Ma'aden in 2012. Currently there are about 24 SP institutes, the objective by 2020 is to have 35 SP institutes and to have trained more than 1 million nationals. We are proud of the institutes we have established, which are all state-of-the-art facilities and cover a number of different sectors. CoE contracts different training providers from the UK, USA, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, and Spain. Each of our partners brings a different variety of resources, rich and diversified. CoE is keen on selecting only the best from abroad to build, develop, and enhance the national workforce of the kingdom. The first pillar of Vision 2030 is to develop human resources. We need strong vocational education and specialized training; and we are committed to that. CoE has a solid conviction that its collaboration with International training providers (ITPs) is governed by strategic importance. Thus, CoE is looking into genuine partnerships, where both parties are committed to a long-term prosperous relationship.


 

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