Matching Skills with Growing Agribusiness Labor Market Needs

EPFV student interns placed at IF Foundation. Photo courtesy of Ecole Professionnelle Fondation Vincent

Agriculture is the most important source of employment and wealth in Haiti. Sixty percent of Haitians are farmers, and land represents the most productive asset accessible to the majority of the population. However, through generations of neglect, the sector has not realized its potential, resulting in the fact that Haiti imports nearly sixty percent of all food consumed in country.

The largely informal workforce is untrained, lacking the skills and competencies that would allow the sector to meet international standards. Ecole Professionnelle Fondation Vincent (EPFV) ─ a leading Technical Vocation Education and Training (TVET) school in Cap-Haitian ─ is a forerunner in agriculture skills development training, offering several trades for which the agriculture technician program has the highest level of certification available – “Diplôme Technique” (Technical Certification) recognized by the Institut National de Formation Professionnelle (INFP), the government regulator of vocational training in Haiti. This program requires a total of 2,700 hours of training over a period of three years to complete. EPFV’s program is respected in the community and the school continues to work to reinforce its linkages with the marketplace, and expand its outreach capacity. To address this issue, USAID’s Local Enterprise and Value Chain Enhancement (LEVE) project worked with EPFV to develop and strengthen their outreach capacity in order to create and establish linkages with the private sector in the northern region as well as help bridge the gap between the region’s skilled workforce and the private sector.

Interns received on-the-job training and evaluations from the firms. Photo courtesy of Ecole Professionnelle Fondation Vincent

Upon the establishment of a placement system which includes the creation of a company database, the Placement Officer at EPFV was able to identify 43 agriculture job opportunities for EPFV graduates. Since the program’s inception, 31 out of 34 graduates from the 2016 class and 12 out of 14 graduates from 2017 class were able to secure jobs with agriculture sector firms. “My days of training in the field of agriculture was an exceptional experience. I made new discoveries in practice sessions on the premises and in the laboratory,” explains Rosemania Jean, an agricultural technician graduate of EPFV. “In fact, it is important to emphasize that this placement program is a necessary and even indispensable tool for us. The visits and support I received from the school motivated me to make the best of this experience.” A total of 20 entities participated offered students internship opportunities, including but not limited to Agroservice S.A., MARNDR (Ministry of Agriculture), Caritas, Sustainable Organic Integrated Livelihoods (SOIL), AGRITECH, Agropest, IF Foundation (NGO).       Non-governmental organizations (NGO) represent over 50% of these entities now collaborating with EPFV to provide internship and employment opportunities. While considerable improvements have been achieved in the placement program at EPFV, the school needs to further streamline their engagement with the private sector. Nevertheless, close to 90% of graduates from the last two graduating classes have benefited from placement opportunities, verifying the need for qualified agricultural technicians in the job market.

Since the program inception, EPFV students and graduates have been placed in more than 15 companies. Photo courtesy of Ecole Professionnelle Fondation Vincent

Partnerships between TVET providers and the private sector is a useful strategy to help TVETs align and improve their course curricula to better reflect market demands; the result being that students learn relevant skills that ensure permanent employment post-graduation. EPFV’s successful placement program launch and collaboration with the private sector has nearly doubled enrollment in the school’s agriculture program ─ from 79 last year to 107 this year ─ leading to increased revenues and visibility in the community. With USAID LEVE’s support, EPFV will continue their engagement to strengthen their career counseling and placement services, and create more aligned curricula that will produce better trained graduates with skills that reflect the private sector’s needs.