Skill development and vocational training
For any country to grow economically and have structural transformation, it is important to enhance the employability and labour productivity of the working force by engaging in skill development and improved vocational training programmes. Despite numerous oaths and initiatives undertaken by countries to work towards skill-building and vocational training, there exists a huge gap between basic literacy and numeracy of the working-age population. The major reason behind this is a mismatch in appropriate skills required for the job, as well as a large variation in the returns on educational investment.
To combat this lag of appropriate skilling and vocational training, especially in developing countries where a lack of skilled workers affects their capacity to innovate, the World Bank urges countries to focus on the below key issues:
• Access and completion: Ensuring equitable access to quality education and vocational training is provided to all, especially in low and middle-income countries that are challenging to achieve. Further, completion of education and training is a major challenge, as many students leave midway and never obtain formal qualifications. This exponentially reduces the return on educational investments, in terms of lifetime earning potential.
• Quality: Merely attending school and completing formal education does not guarantee that students have acquired quality education, as education standards differ, especially in developing countries, where means and resources are less.
• Relevance: Relevant, labour-market need-based technical and vocational education (lasting anywhere from six months to three years) can provide youth and women in particular, with the skills to compete for better-paying jobs.
• Efficiency: Obstacles with governance, financing, and quality assurance impact the efficiency of skills development programmes heavily. Resulting higher costs pose limitations to disadvantaged youth and adults in having access to these programmes.
As a solution to understand skills development better, the World Bank Group has developed a Skills Toward Employment and Productivity (STEP) programme for countries to follow. It provides a conceptual framework for policymakers, analysts, and researchers to think through the life-cycle approach for skills development and designing productivity-enhancing programmes that lead to economic growth. This includes:
• Getting children off to the right start by developing the technical, cognitive, behavioural, and digital skills early in life to create a framework for latent success.
• Ensuring that all students learn by building stronger systems with clear learning standards, good teachers, adequate resources, and a proper regulatory environment.
• Building job-relevant skills by developing the right incentives for both pre-employment and on-the-job training programmes and institutions.
• Encouraging entrepreneurship and innovation by creating an environment that encourages investments in knowledge and creativity.
• Facilitating Labour mobility and job matching by moving towards more flexible, efficient, and secure labour markets.
While the World Bank’s STEP has been integral in providing the conceptual model for cognitive, socio-emotional, and job-relevant skill building, it is also important to note the contributions made by the International Labour Organization. With their special programmes on skills and employability for disadvantaged groups and poverty reduction as well as “Skills for Trade and Economic Diversification” (STED), the International Labour Organization extensively focuses on:
• Linking training to current labour market needs that anticipates and builds competencies for jobs in the future.
• Building quality apprenticeship systems; expanding access to employment-related training in rural communities to improve livelihoods and reduce poverty.
• Equipping women and men to work in the formal economy.
The relevance of skill development and vocational training as the need of the hour for countries to progress is evident in UNICEF’s Sustainable Development Goals’ Goal 4 (Quality of Education) and 8 (Decent Work and Economic Growth). This can only be achieved when the private sector, government, and public sector of the countries join forces in imparting valuable knowledge and creating the means to actualise it in jobs.