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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: 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.

Skill development coming of age in India, Dilip Chenoy, CEO & Managing Director of the National Skill Development Corporation

As 2012 draws to a close, it is a good time to introspect on how far India has progressed on the skills issue.

Admittedly, a number of positive developments have taken place since the start of the year, the most significant of which is a greater realization among many key stakeholders about the key role that skills-related training could play in India being able to leverage its favorable demographics.

The leadership of the Prime Minister’s National Council for Skill Development is enabling coordination and cooperation efforts among stake holders. A national target of skilling 80 million has been set for the next five years.

A lot of effort has gone in to ensure that skilling initiatives – irrespective of whether the delivery was through the government or private mechanisms – became more outcome-focused, with the emphasis on jobs and employability. For example, partner institutions of the National Skill Development Corporation (NSDC), for instance, placed over 70 per cent of their students in decent, well-paying jobs following the completion of the training.

Capacity augmentation received a fillip with skilling centers opened across the length and breadth of the country, including in many remote and far-flung areas that had been largely left untouched in the past. Several Partners of NSDC embarked on the process of setting up large vocational training centers capable of skilling a million-plus people over a 10-year span. Special training programmes were introduced in Jammu & Kashmir and the North-East to ensure that the people living in these parts could obtain the skill sets that would empower them to participate in and contribute to India’s growth.

The Indian Banks’ Association – the nodal association for banks operating in the country – based on discussion with the Office of the Advisor to the Prime Minister’s Council, came up with a model vocational loan scheme to serve as the basis for member banks to introduce vocational loan products in order to ease financial access to skills training centers, particularly for those at the bottom of the pyramid. Many private organizations, including NSDC Partners, also came up with innovative financing schemes with employers, in some cases, promising to reimburse the training costs after the trainees completed a certain minimum period of service.

A pilot project of the National Vocational Education Qualifications Framework (NVEQF) – that would ensure a seamless migration from a vocational to a formal education framework – was formally launched in 40 schools in Haryana, with plans to replicate it in other states of India. Four Sector Skill Councils (SSCs) formed by the NSDC are involved with the NVEQF pilot.

For all these positives, though, many of the underlying challenges to the creation of a skills culture in India continue to remain unresolved. Skills still don’t command a premium in India. Deep-rooted misconceptions that skills-related training is only intended for those who could not make it in the formal system have affected enrolments at vocational education facilities with admissions in these centers continuing to be seen by many as a last resort.

Leadership to transform this now lies with the employers to promote the skills cause in their own set-up. Enterprises need to accelerate  the practice of hiring skilled and certified employees at all levels and then create an attractive salary differential between skilled, semi-skilled and unskilled labor. Leadership is also needed to increase in-service skilling in the manufacturing sector which continues to be low.

The Government has introduced attractive fiscal benefits such as permitting a weighted deduction of 150% of expenses (not being expenditure in the nature of cost of any land or building) on expenditure incurred on skill development projects, and also exempting training partners of NSDC as well as some designated private sector skills training providers from service tax.

The Government has provided space for leadership and action by Industry. Industry has the unique opportunity to being the voice that would determine how trainings should be conducted, and the standards that should prevail, besides deciding how the assessments and certifications should happen. As part of the National Policy on Skill Development, 2009, industry can do all these things through setting up Sector Skill Councils.

Industry has to collaborate and lead the formation and operationalization of SSCs and moving fast on this. The SSCs approved by the NSDC need to accelerate the  buy-in from among their own membership for the concept of devising National Occupational Standards (NOS) for the top job roles in their respective domains.

Stakeholders are looking to Industry leaders to start taking ownership of driving the Sector Skill Councils and the NOS exercise in their respective domains through greater involvement with the SSCs, as without the occupational standards, the accrediting system, and certification in place, skill development would be reduced to just another futile exercise. The more actively we can lead, collaborate and execute, the more chances there would be of India being able to realize its vision of skilling and up skilling 500 million people by 2022.

(The author is CEO & Managing Director of the National Skill Development Corporation, a Public Private Partnership of the Government of India).

Secondary Schools – the neglected middle in skills development. Shanti Jagannathan, Senior Education Specialist, ADB

Vocationalization of secondary education is much more expensive than general education and there is no widespread evidence that vocationalization has contributed to better outcomes at the secondary level. Yet, governments and policy makers are investing in it as an important means to improve relevance of education and increase economic benefits from education. Out of 41 Asia Pacific countries included in UNESCO statistics, 22 provide vocational programs at the upper-secondary level and 16 at the post-secondary, non-tertiary level.

Improving the skill level of the work force to ensure more jobs is a driving force.  Skills development for a globalized and knowledge economy has become a pressing concern. However, inadequately resourced and poorly performing secondary school systems in developing countries are not geared to effectively take the load of vocationalization. Countries are struggling with establishing the appropriate balance of general, vocational and technical skills at secondary level.  The increasing priority given to vocational education and training by most countries in the region is exerting its pressure on secondary schools to provide the foundation for post secondary TVET but also to complement skills development for employability.

The Results for Development Institute (R4D) with support from the Rockefeller Foundation, is implementing an interesting research project on Innovative Secondary Education for Skills Enhancement (ISESE). The study aims to identify skills that secondary school students in developing countries need to position themselves better for employment opportunities and covers sub-Saharan Africa (with country case studies on Ghana, Kenya, Benin and Burkina Faso), South Asia (with country case studies on India, Pakistan and Bangladesh) and South East Asia (with country case studies on Cambodia, Vietnam and Thailand).  It aims to locate innovative models and develop a strategy to scale up the most effective models.

The R4D project on secondary education and skills is exploring skills for employability from three perspectives: what employers (in both the formal and informal sectors) are looking for in prospective employees; how skills are currently defined and taught in secondary school curricula; and what models currently exist for delivering  skills at the secondary level.

Anecdotal evidence appears to point that while cognitive, non-cognitive and technical skills are taught at secondary education, there is insufficient integration of the three. While cognitive and technical skills are covered well in the curriculum, there is not much of a link with the world of work. Non-cognitive skills are largely lacking, or at least not explicitly covered and constitute a major gap as far as employers are concerned.

In terms of work in this area, some key issues worth considering in improving secondary school systems:

(1)  Secondary education is both an important foundational stage of education for further education or training and a potential exit level for employment. In both instances, there is need to ensure a good base of foundational skills in both general academic and vocational streams – how can all graduating secondary school graduates attain such foundational skills irrespective of the stream they follow? Is there a universal way to define such foundational skills?

(2)  Incorporation of generic, transversal skills into the curriculum and pedagogy is an important need that will strengthen general education as well; what are the issues with regard to investing in teacher training and appropriate teaching learning materials, recognizing that such skills are constantly evolving?

(3)  Collaboration with employers and industry is a valuable avenue to strengthen skills required to succeed in the labor market; employer-led collaboration with secondary schools, establishing entrepreneurship schemes can be valuable even in general education systems;  what could be good incentives to enable such partnerships?

(4)  Assessment and examination reforms that accompany such new trends in pedagogy and soft skill development in secondary schools are crucial to ensure legitimacy as well as their recognition at the work place, yet high stake exit examinations continue to dominate. How can assessment systems be improved for foundational, technical and soft skills at secondary stage?

(5)  ICT can play a substantial role in the sector, not just in terms of distance learning but also through blended on-line courses, employability portals and social networking platforms that seek to address the concerns and aspirations of youth. What are the investments required to enables these?

(6)  Secondary schools need to better facilitate  school-to-work transitions but also equally back-to-school programs for re-training and up skilling that will increasingly become important as the employment market moves away from ‘job for life’. What are the shifts required in the management of secondary schools?

(7)  Given that better employment outcomes are also strongly linked to aspirations of youth, a number of ‘intermediate’ and ‘ancillary’ services and activities need to be in place, such as student counseling, career guidance and placement services.  Who are best placed to provide such services?

Secondary education is often a neglected ‘middle’ in the education system – not attracting as much as attention and priority as basic education (it is considered beyond the right to education stage) or TVET and skills development (which is prioritized for improving employment), but  it is a critical middle that should get its due attention.

India and China: Pre Occupations with Skills Development. Shanti Jagannathan, Senior Education Specialist, ADB

I recently attended two events related to skills development – the first one linked to the Asia Competitiveness Forum 2012 in New Delhi and the second, UNESCO World TVET Congress  in Shanghai.

India and the People’s Republic of China attract popular attention, and comparisons are common. As two giant economies with high rates of growth and potential for increasing influence in world markets, they offer much scope for discussions on policies and strategies.

The priorities for skills and training in the two countries have many similarities: both acknowledge that it is talent and high skill levels that will determine competitiveness in the times ahead, particularly talent for innovation. Both have an interest to move up the value chain to compete in higher value added manufacturing and services. Skills development is expected to be a key driver to facilitate their transformation from a low-end manufacturing to more sophisticated, service-oriented and innovative economies. Corporations in PRC aspire to move from ‘Made in China’ to ‘Created in China’. India announced 2010-2020 as the ‘decade of innovation’ that includes setting up innovation centres of excellence in different frontier areas.

Skills development is high on the agenda in national plan priorities for both countries – India has the target of creating a pool of 500 million skilled works by 2022. In PRC, the National Medium and Long Term Talent Development Plan for 2010-2020 puts emphasis on vocational training and employment promotion.  New and innovative public policy instruments are being directed towards TVET. In PRC, the development of vocational training parks such as the Tianjin Vocational Training Park is an example of a dedicated large scale facility to promote vocational training connected with the needs of enterprises. Allocating a third of the Shanghai urban tax to education, particularly TVET, helps to increase financing for the sector. The Government of India is setting up a credit guarantee fund to encourage students among weaker sections to go for higher technical and professional education. In 2011, 3.95 million TVET students received government aid in PRC. The World TVET Congress advocated a transformational role for TVET.

It was clear from the presentations that both India and PRC need TVET not only for higher order manufacturing and innovation (which is a high priority for avoiding the ‘middle income trap’), but also for social equity. The overwhelming share of informal labor markets in India poses a challenge to skills development. About 11 m small and medium enterprises (SMEs) in the country contribute to an estimated 7% of GDP, 40% of manufacturing output and 60% of exports. The Government of India is actively promoting the concept of clusters to support Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises (MSME). In PRC, skills development for accelerating development in rural and impoverished areas has been a key priority through programs such as the Sunshine Program for rural labor transfer training. Both countries are actively encouraging the contribution from industry and the private sector. In India, the unique private-public partnership model of the National Skills Development Corporation follows a results-oriented approach to skill development and has the target of skills development of 150 million people by 2022 and assuring employment for 70% of those. PRC’s policies to encourage industry-school partnerships with students spending about a third of their training period in enterprises strengthens much needed employability.  Inequality is a critical issue that both countries need to grapple with – the gini coefficient has worsened in both counties.

Thus the three dimensional lens (economic, equity and transformative) attributed to TVET by the forthcoming world TVET report seems quite appropriate.

RIGHTS TO SKILLS, Manish Sabharwal. Chairman, Teamlease Services

Rights are not reducing poverty. Time to place skills and employment at the heart of policy It’s been raining “Rights” in Indian policy for the last few years; education, work, food, service, healthcare, and much else. This “diet coke” approach to poverty reduction – the sweetness without the calories – was always dangerous because of unknown side effects. Commenting in 1790 on the consequences of the French revolution, Edmund Burke said “They have found their punishment in their success; laws overturned, tribunals subverted, industry without vigor, commerce expiring, the revenue unpaid, yet the people impoverished and a state not relieved”. Not very differently, early results of this “policy revolution by fatwa” – MNREGS, Right to Education, Right to Food, Right to Service, etc –suggests that it has led to 15 interest rate hikes in 12 months, is destroying government finances, fuelling inflation, and encouraging civil society to subvert democracy. It also reminds us that policy entrepreneurship, like all entrepreneurship, is not exempt from the rule that big ideas without execution and resources are ineffective. Outlays don’t lead to outcomes because poetry is useless without plumbing. But there is an alternative for reducing poverty to this impatient state driven idealism; Skills and Jobs. Poverty reduction comes from an individual’s ability to access opportunities. Unfortunately unemployability is a bigger problem than unemployment; 58% of India’s youth suffer from some skill deprivation. India’s skill crisis is a child of a fragmented regulatory regime (state vs. centre, 19 ministries vs. 2 human capital ministries), the dead-end view of vocational training (the lack of vertical mobility between certificates, diplomas and degrees), a broken apprenticeship regime (we only have 2.5 lac apprentices relative to 6 and 10 million in Germany and Japan), a weak job framework (the national occupation codes don’t create a shared thought world for employers and educators), no linking of financing to outcomes (we pay for training not jobs), no separation of financing from delivery (creating competition to government delivery by using government money for private delivery) and dysfunctional employment exchanges (1200 of them gave 3 lac jobs to the 4 crore people registered last year). The policy agenda around skills is not impossible or unknown. Employment Exchanges need to become public private partnership career centers that offer counseling, assessment, training, apprenticeships and job matching. The Apprenticeship Act of 1961 must be amended to view an apprenticeship as a classroom rather than a job and shift the regulatory thought world from push (employers under the threat of jail) to pull (make them volunteers). The National Vocational Educational Qualification Framework must be agreed by the states and the Ministries of Labour and HRD as the unifying open architecture tool for recognition of prior learning and vertical mobility between school leavers, certificates, diplomas and degrees. Delivery systems are in the hands of states and every state must create a skill mission or vocational training corporation tasked with building capacity and quality. States should also create asset banks to make existing government real estate available for skill delivery. All schools must teach English because English is like Windows; an operating system that creates geographic mobility and improves employment outcomes by 300%. Schools and Colleges must selectively embed vocational subjects – particularly soft skills – into their curriculum. The regulatory cholesterol around national distance education (mail order, e-learning and satellite) must be reviewed to offer flexible options for workers already in the workforce and the geographically disadvantaged. We must create a national network of community colleges offering two year associate degrees; these colleges, rooted in the local ecosystem, will serve the informal sector (92% of employment) This missing mezzanine layer – their two years programs are not normal degrees on a diet but vocational training on steroids – would bridge the gap between vocational education and training but make the system more inclusive. Finally, we must created skill vouchers that will allow financially disadvantaged students to get trained wherever they want at government expense. Such vouchers would shift the system to funding students rather institutions should be funded by money carved out of the MNREGS budget. Unlike the skill agenda, the job creation agenda is more complex and controversial. But few disagree about the shame in four employment statistics being exactly where they were in 1991; 92% informal employment, 12% manufacturing employment, 50% self-employment and 58% agricultural employment. Economists do not understand how job are created or why they cluster where they do. But the broad contours of fertile soil for job creation are obvious; a flexible labour market, skilled employees, robust infrastructure, and predictable legislation. A flexible labour market is important; most economists agree that our labour law regime is poisonous. India’s labour laws – our employment contracts are marriage without divorce – have created a labour aristocracy (only 8% of our labour force works in the organized sector) that perpetuates labour laws which cripple India’s ability to compete with China in organized manufacturing. The labour law issue is closely related to the skill issue because expanding formal employment is the key to third-party financing of skill development and expanding manufacturing employment is key to getting people off farms (58% of our people produce 18% of our GDP). It’s late but not too late to change the tragic reality that the two most important decisions a child in India makes is choosing their parents and pin code wisely. Mughal Emperor Jahangir told his gardener in Kashmir that if a tree takes 100 years to mature, that’s all the more reason to plant it as soon as possible. In other words, the best time to start changing our skill system and reforming labour laws was twenty years ago. The second best time is now. India’s new tryst with destiny – putting poverty in the museum it belongs – doesn’t need more “Rights” but more jobs and more skills. And creating jobs and skills doesn’t need new ideas but courage. Not more strategy but more execution. Any takers?