For a long time, technical and vocational education and training, commonly named TVET, has suffered from a poor image and been seen as an education stream and pathway for low performing students. This is still the case in different parts of the world.
Yet TVET is an important route for skills development and improving transition to the labour market, thereby boosting young people’s opportunities for decent jobs and better lives. Some countries such as Germany and Austria have understood this so well that they made TVET a priority in their education systems.
Globally, the TVET sector experienced severe learning disruption for many low-skilled youth and adults during the covid19 pandemic, threatening their mental, social and financial well-being.
Young people in particular often lack the skills needed to find decent and meaningful employment, with global unemployment rates being disproportionately high for young people. While stronger economies have been relatively more resilient to the effects of the pandemic, transitioning faster to new digital modes of working, providing support to companies affected by the crisis, and supporting upskilling and reskilling of workers, less developed economies have been affected by deeper recession, more poverty and higher unemployment rates, including among youth and women; making it more difficult for vulnerable groups of people to find decent job opportunities
Sustainable-development pathways for small island development states (SIDS) in the Caribbean have been an ongoing subject of debates, analyses and controversies. For several decades, the Caribbean region has struggled with socioeconomic challenges which hampered the region’s development. The covid19 pandemic worsened some of those economic obstacles, which, when added to the global climate-change crisis and its environmental impact, leaves the region in a highly stressed situation.
The implementation of educational programmes and initiatives to support the recovery and resilience of small island states are an important opportunity to rethink and reform the region’s approach to development so that it is more environmentally sustainable, inclusive and resilient to the impacts of climate change and other hazards and disasters. The need for greening education, including creation of more green jobs, is becoming an imperative.
In the rapidly changing world of work, skills are moving targets, making it increasingly difficult to match the supply and demand for them. Unemployment and inactivity are affecting youth and the transition from education institutions to work is disrupted by the lack of demand driven and practice-oriented training, sluggish economies and changing labour markets.
To enhance employability and enable an ecologically sustainable transition, young people and adults need continuous reskilling and upskilling for rapidly changing economies affected by digitisation, the shift to a low-carbon economy and other mega-drivers of change in our economies and societies.
Moreover, the twin transitions to digital and green economies will result in job losses and uncertainty for a segment of the workforce, as well as in creation of new opportunities. In this context, countries will need to ensure access to affordable, relevant and quality TVET and skills development and the acquisition of technical, vocational and transversal skills for employment, decent work and entrepreneurship.
While TVET has been seen as a critical asset to address the knowledge and skills gaps affecting the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), it must meet the multiple demands of an economic, social, and environmental nature by helping youth and adults develop the skills they need, promoting equitable, inclusive and sustainable economies, and supporting transitions to digital and green economies.
However, the right policies and skills strategies need to be strengthened to maximise its impact. To effectively respond to an increasingly complex environment full of disruptions, the TVET sector must itself change to become more agile, resilient and green.
This is so as TVET plays a critical role in supporting green growth and sustainable development due to its direct links to the labour market. It contributes to training workers, engineers and technicians in specific sectors.
In doing so, it has a role to play in supplying the knowledge, skills and competencies required to promote resource efficiency, reduce waste and advance more environmentally conscious practices in numerous occupational fields. It also plays a major role in the development of skills for the renewable energy sectors.
The Caribbean region has a rich history of TVET, and the 6th International Conference on TVET in the Caribbean, which took place from May 16-19 in Kingston, Jamaica, provided an opportunity to reflect on the progress made and the challenges that remain. The theme of the conference – Building Resilience for Sustainable Development in Disruptive Times – could not have been more timely or relevant, and provided space to discuss and debate ways and means to transform TVET to make it green and more resilient.
The conference facilitated an exchange of ideas, the sharing of best practices and identification of new approaches to strengthen the capacities of TVET institutions and enhance the quality and relevance of TVET, which has been made a priority in many countries in the region.
Nicole Bella is a senior education specialist and head of the Education Programme at UNESCO Caribbean.