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ICT and Skills Development: 12 Things to Know. Shanti Jagannathan

This fact sheet is prepared in the lead up to the ADB International Skills Development Forum. Shanti Jagannathan and Benjamin Vergel de Dios

1.      ICT is a foundation for a knowledge economy. Investments in ICT for technical and vocational education and training (TVET) will help to meet the demand for a skilled, “ICT-capable” labor force, which is the hallmark of a country transitioning to a knowledge economy.

Source: ADB Publication: Good Practice in ICT for Education

2.       An “app” to help the unemployed. Codetoki is a platform that matches employers and applicants through a gamified platform and addresses the Philippine’s challenge of high unemployment”. Codetoki is one of the winners of Apps for Asia, a joint initiative of ADB and Microsoft.

Source: ADB News: Apps for Asia Winners Featured at ADB Annual Meeting

3.      ICT for gender equity. Viet Nam is struggling to meet the demand for qualified specialized technical workers. Just 13% of the employable workforce has vocational qualifications. The ADB Skills Enhancement Project includes training ICT, hospitality and tourism where women are well represented.

Source: ADB News: ADB to Help Viet Nam Improve Technical Training to Meet Skill Shortages

4.      ICT skills as fuel for IT-BPO growth. Access to educated human resources at low cost, fiscal incentives, and the development of industrial parks have been key factors underlying the expansion of the IT-BPO export industry in the PRC, India, Malaysia, and the Philippines.

Source: ADB Economics Working Paper Series: The Information Technology and Business Process Outsourcing Industry: Diversity and Challenges in Asia

5.      Hunan leading online TVET programs in the PRC. Online TVET and e-learning provide an opportunity to reach out to remote and rural areas with high quality media and content and to improve course quality and delivery.

Source: ADB Project Document: Hunan Technical and Vocational Education and Training Demonstration Project

6.      ICT can help economies move beyond ‘Factory Asia’. Connectivity, both physical and human, can allow the Asian region take advantage of its expanding economic and social network, enhancing job opportunities and improving their welfare.

Source: ADB Blog: Moving beyond factory Asia: How to leverage regional dynamics to unlock growth potential

7.      A deaf person uses a mobile phone; a blind person browses a website. Through “assistive technologies”, TVET providers can facilitate job-skills training and even provide employment opportunities for youth and adults with disabilities.

Source: Connect a School, Connect a Community: A Public-Private Partnership

8.      Mobiles can connect disadvantaged women to skills training and gainful employment. The use of mobile phones and the organization of community ICT centers are making these possible and breaking gender barriers in many developing countries.

Source: Connect a School, Connect a Community: A Public-Private Partnership

9.      TeleTaleem Project in Pakistan offers web-based job searches and career counselling. ADB supported TeleTaleem (T2) is an eLearning service. In partnership with international training institutes (like City & Guild UK), T2 offers accredited training programs as well as links to jobsites and career counseling. T2 also connects junior trainers to master trainers located anywhere in Pakistan or abroad.

Source: ADB Project Document: TeleTaleem Project

10.    ICT eliminates geographical and language barriers to make relevant and quality content available. In Cambodia, a NGO aims to connect all public and private vocational training centers so that all of them can access the best available TVET resources (e.g. videos/lesson plans in local language) and assist TVET instructors (e.g. video-conferencing).

          Source: Connected Schools

11.    ICT skills increase success of youth entrepreneurs.  According to the evaluation of the HP LIFE program, ICT use is correlated with increased income for both entrepreneurs and employees.

Source: Youth Economic Opportunities

12.    TVET graduates need Digital Literacy and Digital Competency to increase their employability. There are four levels of Digital Proficiency: Digital awareness; Digital Literacy; Digital Competence; and Digital Expertise. Without digital literacy “individuals will find it difficult to carry out common tasks that arise in the workplace or society, and are at risk of exclusion”.  

Source: ECDL Foundation

YOUTH SKILLS AND JOBS: Careers Education and Employment Services

This is the fifth 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 discourse leads up to the ADB International Skills Development Forum in Manila from 10-12 December 2013. Edited, Shanti Jagannathan, ADB.

It is now recognized that in addition to skills development, there is need for ancillary support such as employment services, career guidance, job placement services and back to work programs to bridge the distance between training and productive employment. These cannot be provided by government alone and there is need for partnerships between the private sector and service providers with training institutions.

An OECD publication of 2009 titled ‘Relationship of Career Guidance to VET draws distinctions between ‘career counselling’ which is a one-to-one dialogue; ‘career education’ which is a curriculum offering; and ‘career information’, which can be provided in various formats.  The report argues that career guidance is relevant to the quality and effectiveness of VET at two distinct stages: prior to entering a VET programme and within the VET programme. In respect of the former creating awareness of options and providing support to make informed choices are important principles. Careers guidance within programmes should be available at all key decision points and on exit. It also has an important role to play in helping students to understand the transferability of their skills and options open to them.

Achieving greater clarity on all of the above concepts can be an important part of formulating an appropriate development response.  Developed and developing countries are engaged in putting appropriate initiatives in place.

Employment services have a vital role to play in easing the transition from school to work and much can be done to enhance their functions through developmental interventions. As an example of what can be possible, the recently concluded EC funded ‘Labour Market Information Project’ in Vietnam included the reinvigoration of ‘Jobs Centres’, including their full computerization and the development of the capacity of staff to generate and analyse data. According to a final evaluation, this resulted in the production of a ‘treasure trove’ of important data for skills manpower planning. It highlighted, for example, a set of occupational areas that comprised the easiest vacancies to fill (suggesting skills oversupply) and a set of occupational areas that were most difficult to fill (suggesting skills under-supply, with attendant implications for training programme response). It was also recognized by project stakeholders that this kind of information was of vital importance for feeding back into careers guidance work: helping young people to make informed decisions about where their best opportunities lie. Reinvigorated job centres are also now bringing together employers seeking recruits and those looking for work. One means of achieving this is the organization of regular ‘jobs fairs’, in which employers make presentations and do their interviewing and recruiting at the jobs centre.

Australia’s employment service system delivers unemployment-related assistance to approximately 1.6m Australians annually. These services are delivered through Jobs Services Australia (JSA) by more than 100 contracted providers at more than 2,000 sites across Australia. This crucial support is enabled through the large investment made by the federal government, approximately $1.3b per annum. A recent paper on reforming employment assistance in Australia argues for a comprehensive re-design of the system from 2015, favoring a truly competitive market for employment services provided by a range of private contractors.

YOUTH SKILLS AND JOBS: The Informal Sector

This is the fourth 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 discourse leads up to the ADB International Skills Development Forum in Manila from 10-12 December 2013.  Edited, Shanti Jagannathan, ADB.

In developing economies, the informal sector employs a large proportion of the working population often approaching and even exceeding 90% of the economically active work force.    Skills development strategies are often not tailored to the needs of small and medium enterprises (SMEs) who may not have sufficient resources for training. A major tool to increase productivity and competitiveness of SMEs is through appropriate skills development.

The informal sector is mostly made up of micro- and small enterprises. Small businesses find it difficult to release key employees to undertake training away from the job. The opportunity costs for the learner may also be high. Limited cash flow for training is an associated constraint. Workers in SMEs have multiple skilling needs – in some cases, know-how on financial, business and marketing aspects of a trade or enterprise may be just as important, if not more so, than technical training.

A key policy dilemma is where to put the emphasis in the informal sector: training those without employment to help them become economically active; or training those with businesses and employment to be more economically productive. Equity considerations may favour the former. However, anecdotal evidence from programme and project experience suggests the latter can be powerful to increase productivity of enterprises.

With regard to skills upgrading in the informal sector, a number of approaches have been held to show promise:

  • Encouragement of ‘recognition of prior learning and experience’. This allows informal sector workers to gain credence for their experience for further skills upgrading and progression to higher order jobs, including in the formal sector.
  • NGOs and some private sector providers have a good track record at reaching the ‘hardest to reach’ in the informal sector. Policies need to specifically acknowledge and support such training provision and delivery by non-government channels.  Equally, provision of training vouchers for informal sector workers to access formal institutional training must be encouraged.
  • Flexible learning approaches could be great importance for effective training delivery to informal sector workers, such as modular approaches where higher competencies can be built up over a period of time.

A recent World Bank Research Report on Improving Skills Development in the Informal Sector, while focused on Sub-Saharan Africa, has key findings that can also be applicable for Asia. The report stresses that apprenticeships are the most important form of skills development in the informal sector and efforts are needed to improve their efficiency. It is acknowledged that to some extent, skills development in the informal sector remains a remedial activity that compensates for inadequate quality basic and secondary education. Countries need to explicitly incorporate skills development in the informal sector more firmly in the policy agenda.

An OECD report on Skills Development Pathways in Asia also finds that developing countries in Asia commonly face a lack of skills development in SMEs, especially internal training. This phenomenon has not been effectively addressed in donor partnerships either.  The report advocates the development of local skills ecosystems that bind organizations, institutions and firms in a certain local area or labor market in area-based partnerships for training and skills development. There are many advantages in putting more emphasis on devolving more responsibility and resources for partnership development to the local level.

On the one hand, the scale of investments for skills development in the informal sector needs to match the need of the sector. On the other hand, innovative and alternative routes to traditional training are also required.

YOUTH SKILLS AND JOBS: Foundation and Transferable Skills

This is the third 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 discourse leads to the ADB International Skills Development Forum in Manila from 10-12 December 2013. Edited, Shanti Jagannathan, ADB.

The 2012 Global Monitoring Report on Education says that: ‘People need foundation skills to stand a chance of getting jobs that pay decent wages and becoming a productive force in the economy’. It argues that these skills are best acquired through formal education and policies and practices should encourage young people to stay longer in formal education. Foundation skills usually refer to language literacy and numeracy.

In developing countries in Asia, the lack of adequate foundation skills makes vocational training less effective. As per UNESCO, in East Asia and the Pacific, over 28 million people aged 15 to 24 have not even completed primary school and need alternative pathways to acquire basic skills for employment. It is well known that South Asia is home to the world’s largest numbers of adult illiterates. When the attainment levels of the work force are below secondary or even primary education, skills development institutions are challenges to remedy the lack of adequate foundation skills. This is not only a matter of concern for developing countries.

A recent report by the Australian Industry Group finds that 93% of surveyed employers identified a wide range of impacts on their businesses from low level literacy and numeracy skills. Raising the levels of workforce foundation skills is identified as an urgent national priority to life the Australian economy’s productivity.

Yet, strengthening foundation skills are not included as an important priority in skills development institutions. This despite findings in skills audits that the technical skill associated with a vocation is rarely more than half of overall skill requirements required: both in terms of effective performance in the work place, and with regard to what employers are looking for when recruiting.

Lack of adequate of foundation skills combined with poor life skills (referred to in a number of ways such as transferable skills, 21st century skills, soft skills – problem solving skills, creativity, work ethics, inter-personal skills and ability to work in teams and so on) further impede skills development on a continuum and at the work place.  Specific examples of the types of attributes in high demand among employers include: the ability to think critically and creatively, process information, make decisions, manage conflict, and work in teams. Furthermore, in many vocational and professional contexts, competences associated with the following are gaining ground in importance – management, leadership, information and digital technology management, negotiation, selling, marketing and public relations.

An Asia Society Report on partnership for global learning suggests that students are not learning 21st century skills because they are not explicitly taught, the traditional method of teaching is not suited for teaching such skills and adequate methods to assess learning of 21st century skills are not universally available.

What are the implications that skills development and training institutions need to consider?

  • The teaching of foundation skills in a remedial context. This can be through separate programs or through opportunities to practice and further develop literacy and numeracy skills that have supposedly been already acquired. This will help to strengthen the uptake of higher order skills development. At the same time, efforts need to be made to strengthen language and mathematics teaching in secondary schools
  • Diversification of content. The explicit inclusion of transferable and life skills in a systematic way to the basket of foundation+ skills would help to maximize returns

  • Use of modern pedagogies.  Emphasis on active learning, cooperative learning and group work, constructivist and communicative approaches are far more conducive to the development of foundation skills than traditional classroom teaching.

  • ncreased use of ICT. At one level, ICT competence is increasingly regarded as a life skill in its own right. In addition, modern and contemporary approaches to training can be facilitated through ICT.  skills can again be developed through two different strategies, neither of which needs to be mutually exclusive. The first option is to offer a separate ICT module as a mandatory part of any more narrowly defined vocational training programme. The second option is to increase the use of ICT as part of the way the vocational content is itself transacted, in order that hands on experience is gained and skills and knowledge to do with ICT are developed.