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Urban jobs in Haïti: making professional training more relevant to development
Cécile Bérut

A study by the Groupe URD Haiti Observatory on new urban jobs in the post-earthquake context, analyses the job market in the formal and informal sectors, and describes the state of the professional training system in Port-au-Prince and its nearest suburbs. The study highlights the main factors which are holding up the development of professional training: the lack of reliable data on employment; the lack of links between training centres, businesses and the authorities in charge of regulating this sector; the difficulties in gaining access to training; and, the poor quality of course content and its lack of relevance in relation to what businesses need. It describes current and future needs in terms of organizing the professional training sector and insists on the need for in-depth reform with a view to adapting training to current economic and social development dynamics. This article provides a brief summary of the study report, and a link to the full report.

 Isolated efforts by humanitarian and development actors after the earthquake aimed at preparing people for jobs

During the post-earthquake years, in order to strengthen livelihoods capacity, humanitarian and development organizations supported professional training, employment and income-generation in some neighbourhoods of Port-au-Prince. Different projects were conducted by NGOs like CARE, Concern Worldwide, the French Red Cross, Entrepreneurs du Monde, the GRET, FOKAL, etc. These involved business creation, integrating young people into the job market, capacity building, and urban development projects with specific support for professional training (artisans, librarians, photographers, journalists, etc.).

These projects have evolved since the immediate post-earthquake period into more formal training courses. They have established links with training institutes and diplomas which are recognized by the Institut National de Formation Professionnelle (INFP), and there has been a desire to strengthen training centres rather than develop professional training internally. Each of the organizations mentioned above has also established links with recognized professional schools.

There have also been initiatives to allow more young people to find work (onsite training, funding of training and employment on construction projects, the setting up of organized professional activities, etc.). Businesses have implemented strategies such as internal training, special relations with training centres, recruiting people with references, and taking on interns or apprentices. However, the businesses who were met expressed little confidence in the diplomas and in the professional training system. They are not very involved in the definition of training content and have very few links with the Institut National de Formation Professionnelle.


Relevant assistance, given the context of unemployment, non-qualification, self-employment and coping strategies in the neighbourhoods of Port-au-Prince

Haiti has a high rate of unemployment and has few opportunities for young people from the country’s urban centres to find work or jobs. According to the Haitian Institute for Statistics and Information (HISI) the net rate of activity is 47% and unemployment is as high as 16.8%. Employment is mostly informal and agriculture remains the biggest sector of activity involving 38.5% of the population. 29% of the population are involved in trade. Unemployment is more prevalent amongst urban communities, with 33.3% unemployed in urban environments, compared to 9.45% in rural environments.

In neighbourhoods, the most accessible jobs for young people involve self-employment in construction and services (plumbing, electricity, etc.), motorcycle repairs and trade. Small food-processing businesses (processing cocoa into chocolate, processing peanut paste, and alcohol and fruit juice production) use local and traditional know-how, without effective or careful attention to the presentation or commercialization of the products. Apart from these small food-processing businesses, few businesses have developed in the neighbourhoods, at least formally.

Young people in the neighbourhoods are nevertheless aware of the need to go towards jobs with more added value. They chase diplomas and certificates, a strategy which is not new. The majority of young people who were met during the study [1], of whom at least 80% have reached secondary level (in terms of rhetoric, and philosophy), have registered in different professional schools. The most popular training courses for young women are accountancy, bank clerk, and travel agent. For young men, they are plumbing, mechanics and electricity. The majority have difficulty finishing the courses due to lack of funds to pay the fees. Many young people begin the training course but then stop in the middle of the year or during the course if it lasts more than a year, and then start again a year or two later. Sometimes, they even lose the benefit of the first months that they have studied and have to start the course again. Schools are chosen on the basis of information gained from friends in the neighbourhood (their experiences), from adverts, and also on the basis of the cost. The choice is not based on how well the training course is recognized, or the diploma that is obtained or the ease with which students can find a job at the end of the course. Surprisingly, many of the people interviewed admitted that they did not know what kind of diploma or certificate they would receive at the end of the training course. The length of courses varies a great deal and few of these institutes organize internships.

The various, isolated activities of different organisations are therefore undoubtedly relevant. It is nevertheless strongly recommended that they should be brought into line with a clear policy and a management framework established and consolidated by the INFP. It is also necessary to formalize the platform of institutions who work on professional training – the INFP, representatives of training institutes, of the private sector, of businesses, NGOs and foundations who work in the sector – and thereby create a forum for exchange between different organizations working in the sector. This platform would bring together the different players in the sector and could, for example, carry out work on the legal framework with the introduction of a framework law on professional training.

[1] In the neighbourhoods of Delmas 7-11.