Growth in Kiribati requires mobility and skills for employment

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Kiribati, an island republic in the Central Pacific, has recorded 2.9% economic growth between 2011 and 2015 – thanks to continued finance by development partners. New projects include roads, airports, solid waste management and sanitation.

According to the Asian Development Outlook 2017, growth will be even bigger in 2018. This is spurred by Solomon Airlines launching a new route in between Kiribati’s capital Tarawa and Brisbane (via Honiara in Solomon Islands).

Two additional major projects include a $50 million water supply project in South Tarawa and a further $30 million will be injected into developing roads, marine landings and airfields on surrounding islands.

Connecting with neighbours

Kiribati has a small population of only 116,000 but, while the economy is on the rise, finding well-paid employment is a challenge. In 2012, employment in industry across Kiribati was reported at 16.12%, by the World Bank. The economy and employment landscape is closely linked to environmental change issues.

There are local initiatives to support island people to secure jobs. Kiribati Employment Solutions is one example, working to help locals find opportunities abroad to earn money and bring skills back the island. The Recognised Seasonal Employer (RES) scheme has been developed with approved employers in New Zealand. Most participants return to Kiribati after several years, armed with skills in horticulture and viticulture industries.

It’s a win-win scenario for both countries. With Kiribati being extremely isolated, they struggle to provide jobs for youth and new workers. This is a wonderful solution for the island, as well as helping NZ continue to uphold their world-renowned agricultural and viticulture industries.

The Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) is set to implement the Kiribati Skills for Employment Program (SFEP), an AU $20million program that will run until December 2019.

The program goal is to develop a more capable, qualified and mobile i-Kiribati workforce. The proposed investment in SFEP is aligned with Australian aid priorities in education, along with the priorities of the Government of Kiribati as articulated in the Kiribati Development Plan 2012-15, the National TVET Strategy 2013-16 and the Kiribati National Labor Migration Policy. Workforce Skills Development is one of four priority areas agreed under the Kiribati-Australia Partnership for Development.

Priorities include encouraging the participation of young men and women (16-24 years old) in the workforce and increasing employability of Kiribati Institute of Technology (KIT) graduates. This is an extension of the Kiribati TVET Sector Strengthening Program.

Preparing locals for the workforce

The Kiribati Institute of Employment is the country’s leading technical and vocational education institution. With short and long courses on offer, the focus is skills development and preparing graduates for employment in Kiribati and the region, but predominately globally.

The institute has new state-of-the-art facilities and highly practical, learner-centred approaches where students can access internationally recognised qualifications. In the Skills for Employment Program, students complete studies in a range from trades – automotive mechanical, construction, electrotechnology, plumbing and accounting.

In July, they launched a bridging course for disengaged young men in collaboration with ChildFund. Nineteen men were accepted into the program, helping to re-start their learning and improve their literacy, numeracy, oral communication, English and digital technology skills – positioning them at a standard in line with the Australian Core Skills Framework.

Last year, Kiribati celebrated being welcomed into the United Nations Industrial Development Organisation (UNIDO). This is positive news for the island republic. Great strides are being made to reduce the 66% of vulnerable people and marginalised groups living there. Various programs are in place to improve the employability of i-Kiribati, so they can compete in the labour market, both in Kiribati and overseas.

Australia is a key player working to strengthen economic management by raising revenue and improving resource allocation to meet the nation’s development challenges. Together, positive change is happening in Kiribati and there’s movement in the right direction.

We’re passionate about helping remote countries like Kiribati to flourish economically by connecting with partners who can help to upskill the local workforce and build long term capability within the country’s workforce development system.

If you’d like to learn more about international capacity and capability development programs, please contact Wendy Perry at

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