(MENAFN - Arab News) The Technical and Vocational Training Corporation (TVTC) has announced it is ready to test the professional skills of more than 6 million foreigners in the Kingdom.
Saad Al-Shayeb, director of the Department for Professional Skills Testing at the TVTC, said the scheme would be implemented on a PPP (public-private partnership) basis by the end of March next year. "Passing the test would be mandatory for those who come on a new labor visa into the Kingdom," he said.
In an exclusive interview with Arab News, Al-Shayeb said the scheme aims to increase the professional efficiency and competence of workers in various trades concerned.
"Foreigners working in all trades will come under the exercise as part of a drive to ensure equality and fairness. By this, the department also wants to put an end to the malpractices of some recruitment agents," he said.
Al-Shayeb noted that the TVTC started elaborate preparations to undertake this task following a decision of the Council of Ministers. "The Cabinet had entrusted the Ministry of Labor to proceed with the scheme to verify the professional competence of foreigners in the local employment market to serve the nation and people in the best possible manner," he said.
Spelling out the arrangements made by the department, Al-Shayeb said the department took a number of steps to implement the scheme following a directive from Labor Minister Adel Fakeih, who is also chairman of the TVTC board.
"First of all, we collected information about such experiments in various countries such as Britain, Australia, New Zealand, Canada, Japan, China, South Korea and Jordan, in addition to international organizations including the International Code Council and the American National Glass Association. We also examined the experiments of some leading companies and organizations operating in the Kingdom, and these included the Saudi Commission for Health Specialties, Saudi Council of Engineers, National Center for Measurement and Evaluation, Prince Sultan Aviation Academy, Dallah Al-Baraka Group, and Saudi Electricity Company," Al-Shayeb said.
According to Al-Shayeb, the department conducted several comparative studies and took advantage of local and international experiments in professional skills testing while working out the mechanism.
"We know very well it is a massive exercise to test the professional competence of over 6 million people belonging to more than 170 nationalities and possessing varying professional standards. Our task becomes much harder considering the fact that some of these foreigners do not have proficiency in reading or writing even in their mother tongue," he said.
Referring to implementation of the program, Al-Shayeb said the test would be based on CBI (computer-based instructions) with a focus on practical evaluation. For this foreigners must register their names online after obtaining access to the TVTC website (www.tvtc.gov.sa). It is mandatory to use their fingerprints and photos during registration.
The registered foreigner would be informed later about the date and center where he has to sit the test. The foreigner has to answer a set of questions prepared in their own language. There will also be video clippings and pictures related to the questions.
The department has completed preparing these questions and answers in a number of languages. "The foreigner should answer the questions after getting access to the online system by adding a secret code. He will also be provided with a headphone to listen to the questions in his mother tongue," he said adding that this will enable them to answer questions in an easier way.
Al-Shayeb noted the department would then issue a printout of the results.
If the candidate passes the test, a professional efficiency certificate would be issued, and this certificate, which would contain not only his name and profession but also his professional standard, will be mandatory to issue a work permit.
The questions will be prepared in accordance with the criteria set for each profession by the TVTC in cooperation with the private sector. There will be five levels of professional standard such as technician, technologist, expert with limited capability, expert, and specialist.
According to the TVTC official, there are about 3,000 professional trades in the Saudi employment market that are categorized across more than 270 professional standards. However, the test would focus mainly on 15 major professions that have a direct impact on the life of Saudi citizens in their daily life. These include electrician, plumber, automobile mechanic, A/C and refrigerator technician, carpenter, barber and butcher.
The department is working out the scheme by taking advantage of the Ministry of Communications and IT's Al-Yusr financing program. "This program would facilitate the carrying out of professional skill tests of foreign workers before their arrival to the Kingdom. Passing the test will be mandatory to issue a visa," he said, adding that the program was awarded to a Saudi company.
Al-Shayeb expected the scheme and its trial process would be complete within 10 months, paving the way for its actual implementation by the end of March 2013. He also drew attention to the keenness of the labor minister to implement the scheme with the participation of the private sector.
"The minister had earlier directed to take advantage of the expertise of international consultancy companies to implement the program on a PPP basis," Al-Shayeb added.