An educated population is the key to a country’s competitiveness, prosperity and social inclusion. With a poorly-skilled population, however, skills mismatches and gaps can result in economic disadvantages, political instability and high unemployment (particularly for youth), with negative effects on social cohesion.
The central focus of the TVET Congress is therefore to chart strategic directions for transforming and expanding TVET to ensure that all young people and adults can develop the skills needed for work and life. This can only be achieved through a new understanding of TVET delivery and the possibilities for transformation of both the quality of TVET learning and approaches to TVET policy development.
The rise of the sustainable development including green agenda suggests that TVET should engage more systemically with these concerns.
The following points will be discussed at the conference:
New forms of partnership and funding
To increase learning opportunities through TVET, there is also a need to build new forms of partnership, networks and alliances at all levels, between public, private and civil society stakeholders. Moreover, as the boundaries between learning and work become blurred, there is a need to examine the mix of learning opportunities that reflect individual preferences and labour market needs. This will help capitalize on the full potential of all learning settings.
New forms of partnership should be combined with new and innovative funding models that ensure more efficient and sustainable approaches to the financing of learning and help tap into resources needed to make lifelong learning a reality for more people. This will also increasingly influence the ways in which countries can mobilize resources that expand skills learning for individuals when they need it most, and make investing in skills development cost-effective for individuals, employers and societies in general. This implies new partnerships with stakeholders such as ministries of finance, planning and financial institutions, and enhancing the role of enterprises, local communities and other stakeholders.
The involvement of new stakeholders further emphasizes the cross-sectoral character of TVET. In many countries, there are fragmented and piecemeal TVET policies. At the same time, public policies are evolving and TVET policies increasingly exist within policy interactions that include, among others, those for active labour markets, welfare, industrial development, technology, gender and youth. Significant improvements can be achieved through better coordination that involves relevant stakeholders, in particular social partners, involved in the governance, design, delivery and funding of TVET.
Globalization, international and regional cooperation
Globalization is a complex set of interconnected and interrelated processes that manifest themselves differently in varying contexts. Globalization’s most obvious manifestations are the integration of world economies and its impact on labour markets and skills demand. Yet the impacts on skills demand differ from one country to another. The increasingly globalized labour markets affect the mobility of people and migration. This is gradually impacting on the way countries define, award and recognize qualifications. As a result, qualifications have moved to the centre of policy debate. Many countries are reforming their qualification systems to enhance the recognition, quality assurance and transparency of national qualifications domestically and increasingly across borders. As a result, at least five major world regions have subsequently embarked on the development of regional qualifications frameworks, which embody the promises of increased regional mobility and integration into international labour market schemes. The regions are: the Southern African Development Community (SADC), the European Union (EU), the Caribbean Community (CARICOM), and the Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN).
Regional cooperation has become increasingly important in shaping national TVET approaches and there are growing examples of interregional South-South cooperation. This has implications for the landscape of international actors and approaches to development cooperation in the field.
Linking TVET with Development
Governments the world over are increasingly recognising the importance of TVET in the social and economic development of people and nations. Recognizing the importance of TVET alone is not sufficient to address the unique challenges countries are facing for inclusive and sustainable development. It takes much greater concerted efforts in terms of policies and governance, stakeholders willing and ready to invest in TVET, to make a real difference.
There should be a clear mission and vision in articulating the role of TVET within the national education and training system and the broader national development agenda. The success of a TVET system would be measured by its impact on the social and economic development of the nation. Ultimately, the real tests of success are the employability of the graduates, career development and wellbeing.
Learning and the labour market: bridging the gaps
The importance of TVET’s responsiveness to the labour market is well-understood by most stakeholders. However, the rise of the skills development agenda urgently requires enhanced capacities of TVET systems for a better understanding of changing market forces through greater availability of data and evidence, capacity for early identification of skills needs to anticipate the evolution and better use of labour market information for matching skills demands and supply. Labour market information is equally crucial for well-informed vocational and career guidance.
Different development contexts create very different labour market demands and associated rewards. Hence, it is also important to understand the ways and the extent to which skills formation resulting from TVET programmes and skills use, resulting from labour market characteristics, affect youth transitions to work and workers’ productivity, wages and social benefits.
Bridging the gaps between learning and labour market requires reinforced attention to the importance of different forms of skills development through TVET, which comprises formal, non-formal and informal learning; which develops skills and knowledge from the basic to advanced levels; and which takes place across a wide range of locations, including schools, public and private vocational institutes, higher education institutions, communities, homes, and workplaces in both the formal and informal economies. For instance, many countries are introducing new forms of validation and recognition of prior learning and learning in non-formal and informal contexts. In addition, some of the traditional boundaries between TVET and academic education are being overcome. Many countries have taken steps to improve the articulation of secondary vocational education with higher education, so as to open more options for students and to meet an increasing demand for skills and qualifications. All this suggests a renewed approach toward TVET to improve both its attractiveness and responsiveness to enterprises’, individuals’ and societies’ skills needs in a lifelong learning perspective. Specifically, TVET should be seen within a broader national development agenda embedded in the broader context of globalization.
More equitable distribution of skills
Skills are unequally distributed between and within societies. 793 million adults are still illiterate while substantial numbers of young people are either not accessing basic education or are early school leavers. Many youth leave education system without strong basic skills, which prevents them from engaging fully in new learning and limits their performance in labour market. The unequal distribution of skills has a significant impact on countries and individuals. The ILO’s 2011 Global Employment Trends report shows that millions of young men and women experience severe challenges in transiting from education to the world of work. The picture is further worsened by the large number of youth in poor quality and low paid jobs with insecure work arrangements, including in the informal economy.
At the same time, labour markets are characterized by rapid changes in the way they generate and use skills. There are exciting possibilities for the future, as new and green technologies open new ways of working and living. Labour market dynamics also translate into significant changes in the nature of work, the emergence of new occupations, as well as an increased mobility regarding work and economic activity, with increasing self-employment activities in the formal and informal economies.
More and better learning opportunities for all youth and adults
With an enabling environment, youth everywhere can be key agents for social change, economic development and technological innovation. They bring with them energy, imagination, creativity, ideals, and an innovative vision for the future. Recent events in the Middle East and North Africa are a case in point. Youth must be provided with relevant skills for work and be harnessed as key agents in society. This can be achieved through providing them with the necessary skills to seize immediate opportunities, and with incentives to obtain employment and to address constraints arising from the labour market. However, this should not reduce the importance of providing skills to enhance the capacity to stay in work, and to move on in their work lives and more broadly in lifelong learning.
Achieving equitable access to quality learning opportunities for all young people and adults will require policy actions focusing on disadvantaged groups, including measures aimed at ensuring equity in access to learning and at removing barriers in the world of work. Sustainable and shared economic growth increasingly depends on the capacity of governments to develop targeted policies to reach groups that are at a disadvantage in the labour market and society. For example, notwithstanding the significant achievements in gender equality over the past decade, there is a long way to go to overcome persistent social inequalities of various kinds in TVET access, participation and outcomes.