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CC BY-NC-SA 3.0 IGO © UNESCO-UNEVOC/Lukman Solanke

How inclusive entrepreneurial learning can benefit disadvantaged youth

3 February 2023

Entrepreneurial learning is a good way of making TVET systems and the societies they serve more resilient. Encouraging young people to develop entrepreneurial skills and mindsets can give them the transferable skills they need to rise to the challenges of a 21st century labour market.

Creating start-ups can give people the ability to earn their own living and allow countries to grow their economies. What is more, entrepreneurial learning is particularly good at helping people overcome disadvantage, so ensuring it is inclusive and available to all who need it is vital.

“Inclusive entrepreneurial learning offers skills and knowledge for all youths to be resilient, adaptable and innovate better in response to disruption without leaving anyone behind,” says Olivier Pieume, Chief of the Technical Cooperation Unit at UNESCO-UNEVOC. He believes this approach is especially relevant for a continent such as Africa with its diverse and mainly young population and its potential for digital innovation.

Resilience for justice and sustainability

For all these reasons, UNESCO-UNEVOC is working with the TVET community in 16 African countries on mainstreaming inclusive entrepreneurial learning, or IEL, as part of its Building TVET resilience for a just and sustainable transition project.

Workshop on mainstreaming inclusive entrepreneurial learning in TVET, Nairobi © UNESCO-UNEVOC

Many actors are involved in promoting entrepreneurship in African countries, whether that be via accelerator programmes for women wishing to start small businesses or establishing incubators in cities. Countries including Nigeria, Kenya and South Africa are hosts to lively start-up scenes. TVET systems have made great strides in making entrepreneurial learning a core part of the curriculum, not just an option, according to Priscilla Gatonye, Programme Officer for Inclusion and Youth at UNESCO-UNEVOC. But all too often, the way it is delivered remains too academic and not hands-on enough.

Working with ‘system planners’ – officials from ministries and TVET agencies, experts from curriculum development bodies or heads of TVET schools – the programme is seeking to remedy this by showcasing practical ways of applying inclusive entrepreneurial learning to TVET. It is creating a common understanding of how to do this as well as seeding small informal groupings, known as IEL champions, who will act as advocates in institutions throughout the 16 countries.

“We wanted to start with the people who can effect that change and these are the system level planners,” says Ms Gatonye, explaining that “many TVET institutions don't come up with their own governance structures.”

Inclusive institutions

Work began at an online webinar in late November 2022, when almost 40 participants from across the continent discussed topics including what an inclusive TVET institution looks like in terms of rules, teaching methods, assessment, but also physical infrastructure such as labs, workshops for prototyping and equipment. The question of how to reorientate policies and strategies to make them inclusive, plus what this means for the allocation of resources, were also up for debate.

Lina Keyter, Managing Director of South African Agri Academy, shared an example of what IEL looks like in practice. The organization is working with non-profit Yonder to train people with disabilities to work for themselves as agricultural entrepreneurs. “We are using economic means to address the social challenges people with disabilities face” she says. “If you can earn a living, you become someone who can buy things for yourself and you gain some dignity.”

Progress continued in Nairobi in mid-December when 35 participants attended a peer-learning workshop for TVET planners and managers on building a roadmap for mainstreaming IEL. In his keynote speech, William Osawa, Director of Research at Kenyan TVET authority TVETA, outlined the country’s efforts to ensure no students are left behind. These include grants to partially cover TVET students’ tuition fees and a drive to increase enrolments and facilitate the transition from secondary school to TVET. The Kenyan government is also experimenting with encouraging TVET trainers to keep their skills and knowledge up to date by asking them to do additional training every three years.

Participants heard how institutions in South Africa and Malawi are making IEL part of the educational mainstream. Malawi University of Business and Applied Sciences takes a three-pronged approach, comprising a business incubation centre aimed at encouraging young entrepreneurs in areas such as agriculture, small-scale mining and ICT, an innovation hub for helping young people develop and launch new products and a design studio for developing technological components.

Entrepreneurship and innovation

Durban University of Technology takes a multidisciplinary approach to innovation and entrepreneurship. Its centre for entrepreneurship holds regular hackathons and other business competitions which help successful participants access grants or seed funding for their projects.

In addition to the learning, Ms Gatonye identifies three outcomes of the workshop. The first is strengthening the role of the IEL champions. “Getting that commitment to inclusivity, just having people make that individual commitment, is very important for us,” she says. Gathering suggestions on how to improve the linkages between the different actors and institutions involved, such as system level planners in ministries and TVET managers, was a second one. Finally, the workshop has provided valuable input for a practical guide UNESCO-UNEVOC is developing on how to mainstream IEL from an African point of view.

“Beyond the life of the project, we hope to use the insights from the workshop to develop a practical guide on how TVET institutions and TVET policy-makers can use practical strategies to mainstream IEL into the role, function and delivery of entrepreneurial training using an African perspective as reference,” says Mr Pieume.

More broadly, UNESCO-UNEVOC’s work on IEL forms part of its contribution to achieving one of the three main aims of the UNESCO strategy for TVET (2022-2029), which states that TVET should “develop skills for all individuals to learn, work and live”. The new strategy, launched in October 2022 at a hybrid international conference hosted by UNESCO-UNEVOC in Bonn, Germany, aims to set a course for the transformation of TVET in countries around the world for the next seven years.

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