A fresh chance

Tuesday, 29 April 2014 00:00 -     - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}

Fresh measures are being made to increase vocational training in the northern part of the country with greater demand coming from increased women participation, if reports are to be believed. The Ministry of Youth Affairs and Skills Development recently signed Memoranda of Understanding with two non-State vocational training institutes, the Don Bosco Technical Training Centre and ORHAN (Organisation for the Rehabilitation of Handicapped), to facilitate skills training needs of people in the north and to prepare them for enrollment in vocational training courses conducted by the fully-fledged Sri Lanka-German Training Institute (SLGTI) in Kilinochchi. The SLGTI, which is scheduled to be completed by 2015, is part of the ‘Vocational Training in the North of Sri Lanka’ (VTN) initiative, which is a collaboration between the Governments of Sri Lanka and Germany. It is expected to greatly enhance vocational skills training and employment opportunities for the people in the Northern Province, including secondary school leavers, unemployed or underemployed youth, young people from disadvantaged backgrounds and population groups particularly affected by the war, including war widows. At present, eight Feeder Training Centers (FTCs) have been identified in the Northern Province to conduct National Vocational Qualification (NVQ) Levels 3 and 4 to prepare students for the more advanced NVQ Level 5 and 6 courses that will be conducted by SLGTI once it becomes fully functional. These FTCs currently offer six diploma training programs and four trade courses in line with NVQ Levels 5 and 6. A significant number of participants at the trade courses conducted by the FTCs are females (more than 30%), in both in-house and on-the-job training programs. The Don Bosco Vocational Training Centre in Vavuniya caters to 100% female participation in the trade course on ‘Information and Communication Technology (ICT)’. At the ORHAN Feeder Training Centre, also in Vavuniya, 70% of participants are persons with disabilities. This Centre is geared especially to promote training programs for individuals with disabilities with the objective of greater social and economic empowerment of the differently-abled population in these areas. The importance of skilled technical jobs, from machinists to construction engineers, is they’re generally interesting in themselves, they’re less likely to be outsourced or ‘de-skilled’ than even some white-collar work, and they are better paid than retail or low-end service work. Everyone recognises this when economies from Europe, or closer to home Singapore, are trotted out as examples of countries that have evolved their Vocational Training (VT) to match new industries and services. The issue today is not so much about the value and importance of VT but how to ensure its relevance, responsiveness and value in an increasingly global economy. While Sri Lanka has dabbled in VT in the past, this has not been functionally or constructively linked to the greater economy. Not only is VT essential to promote the private sector, it is also imperative if Sri Lanka is going to pursue its five-hub strategy. Industries such as aviation, shipping, infrastructure and tourism that are all earmarked by the Government as growth sectors need the support of competent VT. The real tests of success of VT are the employability of graduates, personal development, opportunities for further education and career development, public acceptance and image. Ultimately, the effectiveness and responsiveness of a VT system should be measured by its impact on the social and economic development of the nation.