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Skills For Inclusive and Sustainable Growth in Developing Asia-Pacific : Call to Action by Youth

In the recent ADB International Skills Development Forum 2013, a strong youth contingent was invited for the first time to join deliberations. Over 40 youth with diverse backgrounds came from 10 countries. They enriched discussions by sharing their concerns and viewpoints on skills and jobs and what is required to ensure good jobs. When we challenged them to come up with what they could themselves undertake, the energetic and creative group of youth came up with the following. Well done!                             Shanti Jagannathan

We, the youth participants of the 3rd International Skills Development Forum gathered on 10th-12th December 2013 in Manila, Philippines,

strongly believe that the time has come for the international community to work together to make the world of decent work accessible to all, where every young person can avail equal opportunities.

Youth face clear and distinct issues that impede them from making informed career choices, reaching their full potential, and living a happy and successful life. In the Asia-Pacific region, 6 out of 10 young people have no jobs, are not in school, or are engaged in irregular employment. We, the youth of the region, struggle in an environment that has fostered skills mismatch, urban and rural divide, weak youth entrepreneurship, and unsecure jobs in both the formal and informal sector. If this continues, current and future generations will be confined to a poorer quality of life and remembered as the lost generation

We recognize the impact ICT has on revolutionizing opportunities for youth.

To reverse the current trends, youth must be educated, empowered, and engaged. We commit ourselves to:

  1. Develop and encourage extra-curricular activities and youth-inspired opportunities that enable youth to practice life skills and leadership;
  2. Participate and execute peer-to-peer mentorships for personal growth and career guidance;
  3. Organize youth-friendly job fairs, especially on green and ICT-based jobs;
  4. Patronize and promote youth-led enterprises;
  5. Organize and execute a youth-led dialogue that brings together youth, government and private sector to talk about issues on employment;
  6. Advocate and serve as a resource to the international institutions and labor ministries on the need for a public information dissemination campaign about decent work;

In addition to the specific actionable items that the youth will undertake, we call upon the following stakeholders to seriously consider the following recommendations:

  • We encourage greater and more meaningful collaboration between youth, relevant government ministries, and private sector.
  • We encourage greater collaboration between private sector and education institutions in curriculum-design and career-guidance.
  • We encourage greater emphasis on entrepreneurship in all levels of formal and non-formal education, and making youth-friendly financial resources accessible.
  • We encourage incentives for businesses that promote decent work opportunities for youth.
  • We urge the private sector to stand up and be the face of change in making digital literacy accessible to rural youth.
  • We encourage government and private agencies to include youth advisors in programs and policies that impact youth.

We applaud the Asian Development Bank and Plan International for their continued commitment to inclusive dialogue. We call upon the international community to intensify its commitment to deliver its promise of decent work and equitable opportunities for youth in the Asia-Pacific region.

YOUTH SKILLS AND JOBS: Contribution of Apprenticeships

This is the second of a five-part article series by Dr David Smawfield, an international expert on technical and vocational education and training, exploring different dimensions of youth skills development for jobs and employability. This series leads to a discourse at the ADB International Skills Development Forum in Manila from 10-12 December 2013. Edited, Shanti Jagannathan, ADB. 

The main strengths of apprenticeships in skills development are that they reinforce the demand side in skills utilization by employers on the one hand and enable apprentices to apply skills learned in the workplace immediately without much time and transmission loss. However, in developing economies formal apprenticeships through formal technical and vocational education and training (TVET) are available only for a small minority of young people.

The majority of youth in developing countries work in the informal economy and it is thus informal apprenticeships that provide the largest and in some cases only advancement opportunity for young people. The informal apprenticeship system is inherently weaker in terms of quality and consistency of approach and does not provide much scope for monitoring and regulation compared to its formal counterpart. Therefore, there is much to be done to strengthen the apprenticeships regime for informal sector occupations. An ILO Report on The Youth Unemployment Crisis has prioritised the following for system improvement:

  • complement learning at the workplace with      more structured institutional learning;
  • upgrade the skills of master crafts      persons, e.g. by introducing modern technology and upgrading pedagogical      skills;
  • involve business associations and labour      organizations, especially those representing the informal economy;
  • introduce standardized contracts and      certification;
  • include literacy/numeracy training and      livelihoods skills; and
  • strengthen community involvement to open      more occupations for young women.

The ILO publication Upgrading Informal Apprenticeship: A Resource Guide for Africa advocates efforts to build bridges between informal and formal apprenticeship modalities. Examples of strategies identified for consideration (referenced to Africa, but arguably with wider relevance) include: promoting inclusion of informal apprenticeship in national training systems; devising skills development strategies inclusive of informal apprenticeship; improving recognition by involving other reliable institutions; by providing finance; and through introducing skills assessment of apprentices. The last mentioned has particular potential, particularly where competency based approaches are used. Apprentices can submit themselves for testing at formal testing centres. Provided competences can be demonstrated, it should not matter where or how these were attained: formally or informally. This is an approach adopted on a pilot basis by the EC funded ‘Labour Market Information Project’ in Vietnam. Pilot centres have been set up in formal training institutions where anyone can go for testing of their competences in welding.

In the aftermath of the global financial crisis, developed economies found that apprenticeships can be a powerful way to tackle youth unemployment and such programs have been given new impetus and emphasis.  A 2013 international study on good practice principles in apprenticeship systems compared and contrasted apprenticeship systems in 11 countries and has suggested that governments may consider  the promotion of the ‘brand’ of apprenticeship, particularly in countries where the status of apprenticeships is low. Measures such as promotion of apprenticeships as a valued school-leaving pathway, awareness building of secondary school and careers staff about apprenticeships, making apprenticeships more attractive through providing pathways to higher level qualifications, and encouragement to recognize apprentice qualifications for recruitment to jobs and/or reward with higher pay can contribute positively.

Higher Education Rankings: Rural is off the rankings radar, Mukti Misra

THE Mukti photo
Amid all the attention that university rankings attract, their shortcomings are often overlooked. Not only are league tables of institutions based on indicators that take no account of the social and public-good aspects of education, they also perpetuate a global bias. Consider the Times Higher Education World University Rankings. Its key assessments look at an institution’s teaching, international outlook, industry income, research output and volume of citations. Such parameters skew the rankings towards universities in the most developed countries.

The fundamental job of a university is teaching and learning. But must every institution focus on research to enhance its teaching and learning experience? Would it not be useful and important for at least some universities to produce “job-ready individuals” rather than “think-ready individuals”, or to produce some combination of “action leaders” and “thought leaders”?

India is a country of countries: each state is linguistically and culturally distinct. National institutions such as the University of Delhi and the Indian Institutes of Technology have students from almost all states, which means that their multiculturalism is on a par with that of leading global universities. Nevertheless, Indian institutions score negligible points on the international outlook parameter.

Rankings also fail to capture the high-impact and socially relevant work that is being done in India’s regional and community-oriented institutions to offer inclusive education and bridge tremendous social gaps by bringing together students from vastly different communities who otherwise could not afford higher education. At top-ranked universities, the cohort is much more homogeneous: students are typically all from the global upper strata.

Centurion University of Technology and Management, in the eastern state of Odisha (formerly Orissa), is an example of this wider university project. Here, school dropouts, vocational trainees, graduate engineers and PhD students all live and dine together; they use the same labs and play on the same sports teams. By fostering a truly inclusive experience, Centurion allows education to be the public good it should be.

Rankings distort public perceptions of the services delivered by a university. Thus many big companies donate to top-ranked universities to signal their own elite nature instead of helping institutions that serve a local community or region.

Despite its lack of financial support or rankings success, Centurion is determined to generate economic value for its region. Through relevant, appropriate education, employability training and industry ties, it strives each year to help 15,000 young people from marginalised communities into work, with a goal of 100,000 by 2022. Centurion has also created many social entrepreneurship initiatives. One, Gram Tarang Inclusive Development Services, has brought banking and financial services to 4 million of some of the most remote households in rural India.

In reflecting on one component of rankings success – citations – it strikes me that researchers worldwide should be citing Centurion’s work, rather than Centurion’s scholars citing other researchers. Alas, this does not happen; rankings continue to neglect real-world impact.

As a young institution, we are still redefining our community impact through education and refining how to maximise it. All we can hope is that the model for ranking higher education institutions continues to evolve with a similar sense of integrity. Institutions making a real difference to the problems of remote and rural regions must be acknowledged, even if they are not ranked. The parties involved in university rankings have organisational, social and individual responsibility for showcasing such invisible, unsung and voiceless institutes.

Author:
Mukti Mishra is president of Centurion University of Technology and Management, India.
Originally published at:
http://www.timeshighereducation.co.uk/comment/opinion/rural-is-off-the-rankings-radar/2006779.article

Vocationalization of Secondary Education at the Crossroads ? Rupert Maclean, the Hong Kong Institute of Education

In 1990, 192 nations of the world, and the education for development community, met in Jomtien, Thailand, and made a commitment to achieving Education for All (EFA) and the eradication of illiteracy.  Although EFA remains elusive, considerable gains have been achieved over the past 22 years with regard to the universalisation of primary education.  Partly as a result of this success, in most developing countries, worldwide, more students are now going onto secondary school in greater numbers than ever before, with secondary education now being regarded in many countries as being part of basic, essential education.

In the past it was widely accepted that secondary schooling was for the few, for a relatively small number and proportion of students who were mainly concerned with receiving an academic-type education, for entry to universities and high status professions.  With an increasing proportion of  relevant age groups now wanting to go onto complete a full cycle of secondary schooling, for its own sake, and not necessarily go onto university,  schools have had to modify their curriculum and entrance procedures to become more comprehensive.  They have done this by providing a wider range of courses, which are both academic and (increasingly) vocational in nature, to accommodate the more diverse study interests and range of capabilities of students. As a result, more emphasis is being placed on economic productivity, with secondary schools increasingly stressing skills development for employability, and preparing students more directly to meet labour force requirements.

This trend, which is referred to as ‘the vocationalisation of education’, often enjoys the support of governments who promote the (generally incorrect) argument that this is an effective way of reducing youth unemployment.  This view is generally incorrect because youth unemployment will only be reduced if there are sufficient jobs to absorb youth who have the specialized skills in demand in the labor market, rather than the general skills most likely provided by vocationalised secondary schools.

There are some, such as Professor Steven Schwartz, Vice-Chancellor of Macquarie University in Australia, who recently lamented this trend, and who argues that the programmes offered in many secondary schools are ‘being reduced to mere vocational training’.  Prof Schwartz and his supporters believe that secondary schools should stress a general education and the intellectual development of learners, mainly  through traditional academic subjects. Such critics want to wind-back the clock to a time when secondary schools focused almost exclusively on academic learning.

Others (including myself) disagree and believe it is both desirable and appropriate that secondary schools are more accountable to meeting the economic and labour force needs of society through placing a greater emphasis on skills development for employability.  The pro and anti vocationalisation of secondary education camps are currently locked in a war of words, with secondary education being a cross roads concerning likely future directions.

Skills development – Lessons from the Canadian Community Colleges. Paul Brennan, ACCC

As policy makers we almost always approach issues top down and not often from the learner’s or employer’s viewpoint in the many communities that we are ultimately trying to improve. Years later we wonder why things have not changed dramatically in the communities.  It is important to ensure taking the learner, employer and community perspective to elucidate what policy issues should be focused upon.

What students or learners want above all these days is to be able to find or create quality employment. Without a job, talking about citizenship is quite abstract. This means that institutions  must be closely linked to the employers and their communities, who know better what the job opportunities will be and what specific skills will be required going forward. Decentralizing authority to institutions is a key policy decision as that is the only way to allow rapid responsiveness to change.

As the knowledge economy replaces the agricultural and industrial ones, and the high value-added service one replaces basic manufacturing, the institution will also have to pay close attention to equipping its learners with the specific technical skills required by ever more demanding employers, along with essential employability skills (‘soft skills’) related to their profession, as well as opportunities for work placements to allow learners to obtain the experience which most employers are asking for these days.

To keep up with the constant imperative for innovation coming from global competition, institutions need to equip their learners with attitudes that encourage them to constantly,innovate and entrepreneurial skills to set up small businesses that can grow out of the informal economy into the formal one, or that lead to the creation of new businesses that take on the world of new global opportunities. In a world that requires constant upgrading of skills to remain competitive, and mobility when jobs move elsewhere, institutions and systems need to provide their learners with easy pathways to continuous learning and certifications that are recognized in other countries.

And as the positive economic development in a highly skilled global context is also creating a sub-class of people who cannot even get onto the first step of the escalator of skills acquisition, institutions need to be providing those marginalized populations with very practical, job-focused basic learning, allowing them to get onto the escalator.

The decentralized Canadian system, and particularly its highly responsive college and institute system, has allowed and indeed forced institutions to constantly adapt in order to better serve their employers, communities and especially students and adult learners,. What are the indicators of success?

  • Canada has the highest proportion of its population accessing post-secondary education, half of those are now doing so via a college or institute, and parents no longer consider colleges as a second-class option;
  • The 130 public colleges and institutes of Canada have an overall average of 91% of its graduates who obtain employment within six months of graduation, and a 95% rate of satisfaction of their employers with the quality of their new hires;
  • Institutions are measured by independently verified  and publicly available  indicators of performance, such as obtaining employment, and are funded accordingly;
  • Colleges and institutes have had the authority to rapidly develop new types of offerings and modes of learning that match the pace of change, including:

–       Pre-technology programs to allow secondary school drop-outs to catch up and acquire the basic skills needed to start a program, in dignity and with plenty of support services;

–       Two and three year diplomas for technicians and technologists or mid-level managers,

–       Four-year Bachelor degrees with mandatory supervised work internships amounting to one year of time,

–       Post-graduate certificates and diplomas for university graduates who cannot find employment and adults wanting shorter-term specialized upgrading, and

–       Applied research and technology transfer services for industry, and particularly small and medium sized businesses and start-ups.

  • Over 1,000 learning centres were set up across our vast country, to bring learning to the learners in remote communities, instead of waiting for the learner to perhaps travel to us;
  • Blended learning solutions were offered to reach out to more learners, including e-learning options, mobile workshops for practical training, and web-based strategies for the connected learner of today;
  • Green campuses were created across the country saving energy, training professionals for the new energies of tomorrow and acting as demonstration sites and centres of expertise on the green economy in their communities.

What about quality control and qualification frameworks?  Provincial ministries of education have very rigorous traditional quality control process frameworks, but are moving to control quality more by results, via employability and employer satisfaction rates, Decentralization does not mean losing all control, but rather that control shifts to measuring outcomes and allowing institutions the autonomy to adapt rapidly so that they can meet the changes in the market.

Is such a system a useful reference point for Asia?  Apparently as ACCC and Canadian colleges have been selected to help design and set up new or reformed TVET skills systems in Vietnam and Cambodia, to help open up institutions to poorly educated citizens in Sri Lanka and Bangladesh, and to help develop leaders, not only managers, but leaders of more responsive, community-driven and accessible systems by China.

A recently published forty-year History of ACCC in International Development: From Education to Employment, will be available shortly to see how some Canadian ideas were adapted and adopted in Asia, as well as countries like Brazil, Chile, Morocco, Jordan and South Africa, to name a few.