Tonga launches groundbreaking apprenticeship program to empower youth and address skills gap

The Tongan government launched its first apprenticeship program today designed to tackle youth unemployment and the growing demand for skilled workers. The initiative, led by the Department of Labour under the Ministry of Trade and Economic Development, focuses on the culinary profession, with the potential to expand to other sectors in the future.

The Minister for the Ministry of Trade and Economic Development, Dr. Viliami Uasike Latu, who was chief guest at the event, said that this pilot program addresses the critical need to bridge the gap between employers, educational institutions, and young people.

The program seeks to improve communication and collaboration between employers, government, and training providers for a stronger education system. It also gathers data to develop a national apprenticeship system and equips graduates with industry skills, boosting their employability and career growth.

The pilot program targets students enrolled in Certificate III and IV cookery programs at Ahopanilolo Technical Institute (ATI). Apprentices will be employed full-time for three days a week at participating restaurants, while dedicating two days to continued training provided by ATI. This innovative approach ensures a balance between practical experience and theoretical knowledge.

The program, running from March to December 2024, involves a collaborative effort between the following key stakeholders:

  1. The Ministry of Trade and Economic Development (MTED): Provides overall leadership and guidance to the program’s partners.
  2. Tonga Chamber of Commerce and Industries (TCCI): Leads the initiative within the hospitality and tourism sector, ensuring employer participation and satisfaction. Ten restaurants are currently involved.
  3. Ahopanilolo Technical Institute (ATI): The sole training provider for cookery in Tonga, offering continued education to 21 participating students throughout their work placements. ATI designates a dedicated point person to oversee apprentice-employer relations, learning progress, and adherence to fair labor practices.

TCCI President, Sam Vea, said that this program marks a significant milestone in equipping Tongan youth with the skills and experience required by the labour market.

The Tongan government and the International Labour Organization (ILO) will co-fund apprentice wages, with the government contributing 60%. The ILO, a specialized UN agency for labor issues, provides technical and financial support based on its recently adopted Recommendation No. 208 on apprenticeships.

Source: Talanoa o Tonga News

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