Following the recent launch of the Sierra Leone Skills Development Project (SLSDP), skill development funding is now available for eligible beneficiaries. “Sierra Leone’s growth prospect is very high. However, the economy is hampered by various factors, including high debt rates and trade deficits, both of which are underscored by arguably the biggest challenge to GDP growth: an under-skilled workforce. The lack of a skilled workforce suppresses the effects of every driver of GDP growth, but is probably most acutely felt in the private sector, where both local market and export businesses must compete with foreign competition while contending with lower quality and higher unit costs due to diminished productivity. The Skills Development Fund, which is demand-driven, by providing funds to fulfil market-based requirements, could not have come at a better time, given the high level of youth unemployment in the country,” said Assignment Manager Pete Kaindaneh. The Minister of Technical and Higher Education (MTHE), Professor Aiah Gbakima, said there are two windows to funding the project, adding eligible beneficiaries must meet one to access funds. In the first window, training provider applying for funds should be either a registered public, private or non-profit entity, evidenced by an up-to-date certificate of registration. Providers that apply as a consortium must include a signed letter from the entities in the consortium indicating their agreement to form a consortium for the purpose of the grant. Also training provider must have a track record of operating functional training programs in subject areas related to the application. However, for new proposed formal TEVT courses, training providers must have a track record of operating functional training programs in the department where the new courses will be offered. Furthermore the training provider must have the required teaching staff and facilities necessary for providing the proposed training courses at an acceptable level. Priority will be given to training providers who demonstrate commitment to engage with the industry and private sector. As for window two, applicants must be informal sector member-based organizations, associations, co-op registered companies or businesses that have been in existence for at least 2 years. Membership composition should be majority Sierra Leoneans, of which 25% must be youth. Furthermore, the business or company must be from the targeted sectors: agriculture; tourism; extractives; construction; renewable energy, while the proposed training must benefit a minimum of 25 proposed trainees across both formal and informal sector. Several skills gap assessment conducted suggest that Sierra Leone’s workforce lacks both foundational and technical skills, and the high cost of training is often prohibitive, especially for most domestic enterprises. The Sierra Leone Skills Development Project (SLSDP) as a consequence, has been conceptualized within the framework of supporting the Government’s overall human capital development agenda through skills upgrading and facilitating the establishment of a Skills Development Fund. The project is an initiative that will support the country’s capacity to increase labour productivity. The objective of the Sierra Leone Skills Development Project (SLSDP) and thus the Skills Development Fund (SDF) is to develop a demand-led skills development system to support Sierra Leone’s Economic Development and Poverty Reduction Strategy. The project is mainly funded by a US$20m loan provided by the World Bank with a counterpart funding of US$2 million from the GoSL, amounting to US$22m. The project has two components: a US$19m Skills Development Fund (SDF) component; and a US$3m Capacity Building and System Strengthening component. The project is expected to close on 31st October 2023.