Vocational Education, a Work in Progress

February 11, 2021


Aleya Serag El-Din, executive director at Ghabbour Foundation, was astonished by the number of private school graduates applying for vocational training. “This is a measure of how society’s perception is starting to change,” she says. “Vocational education does not mean students are less worthy or less skilled. It’s actually the opposite.”


In a bid to address a chronic shortage of key job skills, Egypt’s Education Ministry (METE) is asking the private sector to help develop a more robust vocational education system.

Egypt is setting up a program to attract private sector investment in establishing 100 vocational schools by 2030. The plan involves issuing 10 licenses annually to manage existing schools or land to build new schools within six years of receiving it, Mohamed Megahed, deputy minister for technical education, told Enterprise. Private partners would need foreign accreditation.

Despite having the most to gain from an influx of skilled workers, the private sector operates only 284 of the 2,472 vocational schools in Egypt, according to ministry data. The majority of schools with private sector participation teach business and commerce, while almost two dozen focus on hotel jobs and a handful on manufacturing.
Four leaders in the field sat down with Business Monthly to share their thoughts on the current state of vocational education in Egypt and their hopes for the future. (Interviews have been edited for length and clarity.)


Ghabbour Foundation, an NGO launched by GB Auto in 2017, runs three technician training centers that draw on dual education, a model pioneered by Germany that teaches secondary school students technical skills alongside academics. Aleya Serageldin is the executive director.

Do you believe there is a skill gap in Egypt’s labor market? Why?

Aleya Serageldin: Of course. Whenever GB Auto used to interview a pool of 100 blue-collar applicants, only four would be barely eligible. A big part of vocational education is that students and trainees have to spend some time inside a company or factory. The gap exists because all stakeholders were not engaged enough or committed enough to bridge it. Schools were doing what they always did. Their approach has not been updated for many years because there was no input from industries and no regulation mechanism.

How can we overcome this gap?

Serageldin: There has to be some pooling of efforts by ministries and the private sector. We are hoping to see less of duplication of resources for what is offered. The load must not be a burden to the industrial partners funding these activities.

What do you think makes vocational training a successful investment in an Egyptian context?

Serageldin: It’s an investment in human capital. However, companies must be aware that it’s a long-term investment. One that pays off not just on the level of the company, but on the level of the community and the nation at large. Eventually, it should pay off by reducing recruitment costs and turnover. Calculations of the return on investment for vocational education may vary greatly, but in general, it might take up to  7-10 years for this investment to generate a significant impact in terms of reduced recruitment, training and turnover costs on the industry level as a whole.

What is a challenge about Egypt’s labor market compared to other markets?
Serageldin: There is no clear quantifiable measure on how to assess the efficiency of the blue-collar workers in the recruitment process. The applicant is usually stuck in a limited role and career path whereas he could be performing much more, especially when it comes to students who graduate with international level qualifications such as graduates from the Foundation’s developed schools.

What’s unique about the German model that you use?
Serageldin: In Germany, dual education is a whole ecosystem with multiple stakeholders. Industries are involved in curriculum formulation. They can call for new specializations, which have to be accredited and approved by governing bodies. In certain fields, when there is a limited demand for training, the government incentivizes companies to take on more trainees. The idea is all stakeholders have to realize the value being created.

Who funds the programs?
Serageldin: More than 90% comes from GB-Auto itself as a donation to Ghabbour Foundation. Our existing sustainability model meant that participants contributed less than 30% of the actual cost of their education. The entire program is three years with scholarships for the underprivileged.

How has enrollment changed over the past three years?
Serageldin: We have seen students applying from private schools, as well as interest from girls. We’ve seen students who might otherwise be headed to general education. This shows how society’s perception is starting to change.

How do you reach out to students?
Serageldin: The most efficient way is through our Facebook and Instagram pages.

What are enrollment requirements?
Serageldin: They have to have at least a preparatory degree. The main criteria is our own admission test, a big part of which is critical thinking. Students also have to also pass a basic English section, including an interview to assess people’s skills and spoken English. We also measure the ability of students to perform tasks manually.

How did COVID-19 affect your operations?
Serageldin: It was a strong motive for us to start working on an online learning platform, providing teachers, students and trainers with a direct channel of communication.

How do graduates find jobs?
Serageldin: We launched an in-house career center in 2020 to link foundation graduates with potential employers in the automotive industry. We start with a dynamic database of graduates, from pre-hiring technical assessments to professional counseling and career guidance.

What are the employment opportunities upon graduation?
Serageldin: In addition to GB Auto and its affiliated companies, we collaborate with Al-Mansour Automotive, Nissan Egypt, Al-Kasrawy Group, Shell, family corporations, Arabcom, and other after-sale services. We also have other opportunities that are interesting due to our collaboration with El- Mikaneeky- Bosch, a franchise opportunity to vocational training graduates to bridge the gap between El Herafeyeen and other service centers.

What does the franchise program entail?
Serageldin: The program provides graduates with training, orientation, counseling and job shadowing for one to two years in GB Auto/El-Mikaneeky service centers to prepare for the big leap toward establishing their own businesses. With El-Mikaneeky’s German partner, Bosch, eligible candidates receive specialized training and guidance. GB Auto, through its affiliated companies, facilitates loans at minimum interest during the first three years of the franchise operation.

What are emerging trends and promising innovations in vocational training that could be adopted in Egypt?
Serageldin: Germany is opening its doors to skilled graduates from all over the world, and I believe that through an exchange program our students could excel locally and internationally. We need to recognize that technical students are one of our strongest assets.

What are some incentives the private sector needs for a more successful market?
Serageldin: Normally the only incentive is the ultimate goal, which is to have qualified labor in Egypt. However, this is all very new and engagement is not as high as it should be. Maybe the government can put in tax preferences and some financial packages or support in some way to incentivize those who are less inclined or able to support in this field.

How do you see vocational training performing in the next decade?
Serageldin: We have to focus on accreditation, be it local or international, to ensure the consistency and quality of programs.


El Sewedy Group has El Sewedy Technical Academy (STA), an affiliate of Elsewedy Electric Foundation. In October, STA signed a memorandum of understanding with the Ministry of Education and Technical Education to establish and develop ten Applied Technology schools nationwide over five years. Hanan Elrihany is CEO of the academy.

Do you believe there is a skill gap in Egypt’s labor market, if so, what are the reasons behind it?
Hanan Elrihany: Yes. More ties between the Ministry of Education and Technical Education (METE) and the labor market are needed. Curricula must be aligned with business needs and revisited at least every five years.

What are some ways to overcome this gap?
Elrihany: The industry has to be engaged and collaborative. The private sector needs to work together closely on lifting the skills of the labor force by conducting a market needs assessment. There also has to be smooth communication with METE, and international standards should be applied at technical schools.

 What do you think makes vocational training a successful investment in an Egyptian context?
Elrihany: It helps increase the productivity of the factory/ company with a lower cost than having an employed worker for 3 or 5 years. Upon graduation, they will not have problems in employment because they will be already familiar with the workplace. When labor is built up with a high benchmark, production qualities will be enhanced and this will lead to increased exports and thus uplifting Egypt’s economy.  Moreover, with quality labor, more investment opportunities will arise.

What is the most popular program at El Sewedy Tech Academy? 
Elrihany: The most popular specialty is energy components because there is a big demand for workers.  STA studies the job market regularly and develops programs needed by various industries.

What is the latest project?
Elrihany: We partnered with OMNIA, the official arm of the Finnish government, to provide students with a Finnish certificate of competencies. Additionally, we agreed to collaborate with the Egyptian German Technical Academy on technical education and vocational training. We also introduced new fields of specialization, like programming with Oracle International, construction with Sabbour Consulting and ICT with T&D, sponsored by Orange. The latest project is establishing a third branch of STA in Sadat Industrial Zone.

How much are the fees?
Elrihany: Fees amount to EGP 28,000, covered by partner companies and students. There are scholarships based on financial need that pay 65-100% of the cost.

Who are your target students? 
Elrihany: STA targets boys and girls between the age group 15 – 18 from across Egypt.

Upon graduation, are there employment opportunities? 
Elrihany: Yes, as many as 80% of graduates find jobs.
What challenges face vocational training development in Egypt?

Elrihany: The challenges are limited laws and regulations by the METE and excessive red tape. Attracting more students to technical education requires a lot of activities to raise awareness of outstanding available opportunities. More efforts are needed to improve the community’s perception of technical education.

What incentives from the private sector are needed?
Elrihany: Higher wages; social, medical and risk insurance; reasonable and regulated working hours; and more practical training.

 How can we change the societal perception of vocational workers? 
Elrihany: By conducting awareness campaigns, setting up governmental conferences to shed more light on the success stories of vocational workers. Also, enforcing the technical colleges and partnering up with schools will change the perception by giving students equal opportunities to the public education path.

What’s next for vocational training?
ElrihanyIn 10 years, vocational training will be successfully applied in the majority of Egypt’s factories. Parents and families will recognize that vocational education can mean a lucrative future, just like higher education. Maybe better.


Sawiris Foundation for Social Development runs the nationally accredited German Hotel School in El Gouna. Students join a three-year program taught in German and Arabic. They also learn English and obtain certificates from the Ministry of Education and German Chamber of Industry and Commerce. The foundation also trains nurses. Noura Selim is the executive director.

Do you believe there is a skill gap in Egypt’s labor market?
Selim: Even among the skilled workforce, we realize that soft skills such as critical thinking, reading, written communication, leadership, negotiation and time management are missing. This gap is exacerbated by outdated curricula and a lack of facilities and equipment.

What are some ways to overcome it?
SelimThe gap could be addressed by training and retraining the skilled workforce, introducing apprenticeships and making sure curricula are relevant to the needs of the industry. When vocational schools, institutes and universities offer high-quality vocational education closely linked with industries, graduates will be hired and receive more competitive salaries than their peers who pursued higher education and may still be unemployed years after graduation. But it won’t happen overnight.

How does Sawiris Foundation contribute to training nurses?
SelimThe Gouna Technical Nursing Institute (GTNI) was established by Sawiris Foundation for Social Development in November 2009, in collaboration with Lawrence Memorial/Regis College in the United States. We wanted to focus on nursing because there is a big need in Egypt. Specialized hospitals like Magdi Yacoub Heart Foundation, Children’s Cancer Hospital Egypt 57357 and Behmen Hospital need high-quality nurses.

How long does the nursing training program take?
SelimIt offers a two-and-a-half-year degree and three-month internships supervised by the Ministry of Higher Education and Scientific Research (MHESR).

Who are your target students? 
SelimIt’s a scholarship boarding school targeting high school graduates who apply through national placement offices. Most students come from Upper Egypt.

How many students did you start with?
SelimWe started small with about 60 students. Today, we have 200. Our capacity will be about 400, but finding faculty is very challenging.

How is the foundation contributing to vocational training in hospitality?
SelimThe German Hotel School is the only place offering high-quality hospitality education that follows the German dual education system by combining theoretical study and practical experience. The program is three years and designed to provide students with the theoretical background and German language skills they need for hotel management. Students earn a diploma accredited by the German Chamber of Industry and Commerce in Leipzig (IHK), as well as the Egyptian Ministry of Education.

What are the fees?
SelimThe school has a subsidized fee totaling approximately EGP 40,000. We also offer scholarships.

What are the enrollment requirements? 
SelimStudents should pass a personal interview, the German Hotel School’s written aptitude tests and a physical exam. They must be an Egyptian national residing in Egypt, have a preparatory stage certificate with a minimum score of 85% and commit to working in Egypt for two years after graduation.

How do you reach out to students?
SelimWe have been in the market for 20 years, and we have a big outreach in Upper Egypt through the 100-plus NGOs we fund.

What partners are involved in your programs?
SelimFor the nursing school, we partner with Maghrabi Foundation. For the hotel school, the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development is a partner after it invested 450,000 euros to enhance school governance and apprenticeships, attract more women and make the kitchen a state-of-the-art facility.

What challenges face vocational training development in Egypt?
SelimSometimes we are not sure which entity to be in discussion with. Vocational education is costly to launch and sustain unless driven by various sectors within industries, which is the idea behind the applied technology schools under the Ministry of Education. There is still room for industries to better drive this process.

There is a government strategy through 2030 to develop existing vocational schools and build new schools in cooperation with the private sector. How will that impact the market?
SelimVery positively. The entire market segment should be industry-driven. The government’s role should be organizational and regulatory. The best stakeholder to administer and manage vocational training has to be the industry.

How can we change the perception of vocational education? 
SelimWhen graduates work professionally, their caliber will speak for itself. They will be exceptional. It is a slow process, but it is the most effective.

How do you see vocational training during the next decade?
SelimBy 2030, Egypt’s working-age population will increase by 20 percent, putting the labor force at 80 million. Vocational training should be a strategic objective, not a luxury or an option.


In October, Siemens Energy started a service center and training academy in Egypt. The service center is the first of its kind in the region, combining a repair center, a tooling center and a spare-parts warehouse under one roof. Emad Ghaly is the managing director of Siemens Energy in Egypt.

Why is there a labor skills gap?
Emad GhalySkills needed for the future are different from what students learn today. Manufacturing systems, as well as energy systems, are becoming increasingly complex and digitized and require qualified, highly skilled individuals.

What has limited the growth of vocational training?
GhalyThe main challenge is a lack of active engagement by the private sector. Other challenges relate to the standardization and reliable certification of technical and vocational education across Egypt. This requires that the qualification from one entity is credible and the competencies representative of what the holder can perform. Last but not least, teaching staff need to be exposed to real market needs and their methodologies upgraded. One pressing example from the COVID-19 crisis is online and virtual learning.

Can vocational training be a successful investment in Egypt?
GhalyDefinitely. Egypt is blessed with a young population, an important geopolitical position and economic significance. Along with a clear vision for growth, these are prerequisites for sustainable development and prosperity.

When and why did you start projects related to vocational training?
GhalyIn 2015, Siemens Energy was assigned the task of building three of the world’s largest combined-cycle power plants, at 4.8 gigawatts each. In 2016, we committed to adding localization and training to go hand in hand with the establishment of the megaproject power plants. Each power plant needed 200 technicians and engineers. To find the required number of qualified applicants we had to conduct 60,000 interviews.

How is Siemens Energy contributing to the development of vocational training?
Ghaly: A recent milestone is the Egyptian German Technical Academy (EGT Academy) at Ain Sokhna, which opened in October. The academy is at the Siemens Energy – Egypt Service Center. Certified training is available in areas like energy, industrial automation and renewable energy.
We also partnered with the Ministry of Trade and Industry to develop its two-year higher technical Institute – the Technology Competency Center – with a focus on mechatronics and the Ministry of Education and Technical Education to build Egypt’s benchmark three-year dual-system technical secondary School of Excellence – Zein El Abedeen.

Who are your other partners on such projects?
GhalyA big portion of these projects has been part of the Strategic Alliance on Occupational Training in Egypt and the Integrated Development Partnership with the German Development Cooperation (GIZ), on behalf of Germany’s Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ).

How do you reach out to prospective students?
GhalyBesides our social media channels and academies, we connect regularly with students in schools and universities through events and seminars. We also have training partnerships, such as one with El-Sewedy Technical Academy.

What specialties do you offer? Which is the most popular specialty, and why?
GhalyOur focus is on energy and industrial automation as two industry-specific verticals, and we plan to expand to renewable energy and other occupations that have strong employment and economic potential.

 How will the government’s strategy to promote vocational schools through 2030 impact the market?
Ghaly: The future of technical education in Egypt will be shaped through sound and robust public-private partnerships, where the business sector plays an active role. The private sector, in addition to its technology and expertise, is well aware of the challenges that industries face and would act as a compass to direct vocational education and training in ways that could positively impact the skills and qualifications of the workforce.