Technical and vocational education and training to address skills mismatch and unemployment : the case of Saudi Arabia

Taweel, Maram (2018) Technical and vocational education and training to address skills mismatch and unemployment : the case of Saudi Arabia. (PhD thesis), Kingston University, .


Technical Vocational Education and Training (TVET) programmes have been widely promoted as one major strategy to address the problem of skills mismatch, identified as a factor exacerbating unemployment rates. The TVET programmes, if developed well, could significantly contribute to closing the gap between the skills demand and supply in the labour markets. Several countries have implemented TVET strategies, Saudi Arabia included. Results on the success of these TVET programmes are mixed and in the case of Saudi Arabia, the unemployment rates among the targeted TVET recipients has not improved. Thus, this research is aimed at understanding whether Saudi Arabia can address its unemployment problems arising from the skills mismatch through the utilisation of TVET initiatives. In order to gain this understanding, the research investigates the current VET systems, strategies, and policies in addressing problems of unemployment and skills mismatch, and to determine the potential or future development. A qualitative approach, utilising the theoretical lens of critical realism, was adopted in order to gain a deeper understanding of the role of TVET in addressing the skills mismatch and unemployment phenomenon in Saudi Arabia. In particular, three key labour market sectors: public sector, information and communication technology (ICT), and tourism and hospitality sector were selected for a more focussed analysis. Semi-structured interviews were conducted with key representatives from these sectors and analysed using thematic analysis approach. The analysis of the semi-structured interviews was complemented by pilot study and documentary analysis. The analysis of the primary research data revealed six key areas that should be taken into consideration by stakeholders, especially policy decision makers, in order to address the problem of unemployment among the indigenous Saudis through the current TVET system. These aspects are consistent across the three sectors investigated. The identified areas are: Saudi cultural barriers, Saudi career choices and awareness, understating the labour market and need for skills, wider education system and employment pathways, TVET provision and quality and cooperation between TVET institutions and organisations. The importance of understanding these aspects is because they constitute the ‘structural mechanism’ necessary for the future development and contribution of TVET to skills mismatch in Saudi Arabia. Thus, it is around these aspects that weaknesses (and strength) of the TVET systems and practices are visible, also within these aspects that stakeholder responsibilities can be defined. Further, through the revealed weaknesses in the current TVET system, such as weak link of TVET institutions with the labour market, suggestions and recommendations are made for policy implications, such as the need to promote education quality in the TVET institutions and encouraging women participation considering the cultural barriers. These findings are supported by secondary evidence, which show, for instance, continued growth in unemployment rates despite the various employment promotion policies and initiatives.

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