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UNESCO-UNEVOC implemented a project titled Building resilience in TVET for a just and sustainable transition to strengthen the resilience of UNEVOC Centres and other education and training stakeholders as part of the COVID-19 pandemic recovery process.
The project, implemented with the support of the German Federal Government through Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) GmbH, was designed to assist TVET systems, institutions and TVET stakeholders, including teachers and students, to adapt to changes in education and training.
This involved adopting resilient approaches to planning, designing and implementing training in the areas of greening TVET and climate education, digital delivery, and inclusion and entrepreneurial learning to enable a transition to a more sustainable economy and society with fair and equal opportunities.
The project is in line with UNESCO’s broader aims, as presented in its new strategy on Transforming TVET for sustainable and just transitions. “The new TVET strategy calls for reforms that embrace flexible lifelong learning targeted at all learners, including disadvantaged youth, and make TVET agile to meet the demand of the dual green and digital transition,” said Friedrich Huebler, Head of UNESCO-UNEVOC.
Overall, the project has benefited more than 60 institutions in over 30 Small Island Developing States and African countries, engaging upwards of 200 project stakeholders.
The project includes a research study to draw up a working definition of TVET resilience – many stakeholders noted early in the project that there was no universally accepted definition – and to identify capacity building needs through data collection and analysis.
The study will also collect evidence and best practices as part of a guidance document to support policy-makers and decision-makers in building more resilient TVET systems.
“We wanted to provide guidance to institutions to improve their approaches and to prepare for different types of resilience that is not theoretical, but more practical for them,” said Kenneth Barrientos, UNESCO-UNEVOC’s Team Leader for SDGs and Greening TVET.
The research included a global survey of some 50 participating TVET institutions and policy-makers with the findings used to produce a resilience framework and guidance document.
Using the framework, “stakeholders are able to more clearly articulate and see what they need to do, as they try to build resilience,” explained Manish Joshi, Project Manager at UNESCO-UNEVOC.
He stressed the three phases – Readiness, Response and Recovery – were equally important “not only to recognize where we must take action, but also to ensure that we are able to anticipate, reflect and plan continuously to absorb the initial impact, and then finally move towards recovery to ensure the continuity of learning for all learners.”
The survey on TVET institutional resilience sought to gain insights into how TVET institutions have responded to various shocks and disruptions, including COVID-19, and their plans for dealing with future disruptions.
It generated a response from 145 TVET stakeholders including training providers and national TVET organizations from over 50 countries. The results showed that common characteristics of resilient learners included soft skills such as problem solving, communication, creative-thinking, teamwork, strategic thinking, and organizational and planning skills. Many of these transferable skills would help shore up employability in a changing world.
The survey also found that more resilient TVET providers needed strong leadership and clear strategic plans that integrate risk management, agility and continuity of learning, financial resilience such as a more diversified resource base, relevant and quality training that prepares learners for employment and self-employment, together with strong links with the private sector, investment in technology and physical infrastructure and, finally, the ability to create an inclusive learning environment.
Strong partnerships with the Commonwealth of Learning (COL), Canada on technology and with the UN Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO) in Austria on greening TVET benefited the project by leveraging the technical expertise and networks of these organizations.
The partnership implemented by COL helped build TVET capacity in designing digital strategies and in using digital tools to support inclusion in Small Island Developing States, focusing on making technology work for the most vulnerable. It included leadership workshops and an online course in assistive technologies in open and distance learning to ensure those with disabilities are not left out. A research report on the use of assistive technologies in TVET is one outcome of the project.
Offline delivery and content were also important. “Quite a number of the institutions and practitioners are in far-flung areas where internet connectivity and access to devices is a challenge,” explained Robert Okinda, Skills Advisor at COL.
The project involved stakeholders at all levels, including ministries and the Caribbean Association for National Training Agencies, and organized workshops in Jamaica and Barbados. Mr Okinda noted that many participating institutions have already taken the strategies developed during the project to their boards for approval.
“Within a short period of time we are able to see results,” Mr Okinda said, with some impacts evident immediately. “Maybe in one year's time, several institutions that have developed practical action plans will be able to be resilient, while COL is supporting the others to implement them,” he said.
In partnership with UNIDO, tools were developed for organizational resilience, financial sustainability and market systems analysis, as well as skills for green and entrepreneurial training for the use of trainers and teachers. The project looked at how shocks can change the market conditions which impact on the skills development system. Aimed at systems planners and managers who work with different industry actors and ecosystems, it helped them understand how to effectively analyse market systems so that TVET institutions can position themselves better and improve system resilience.
UNIDO’s Learning and Knowledge Development Facility (LKDF) has developed an online toolkit as another outcome of the project. It includes tools to ascertain financial sustainability, market systems development, organizational resilience and green entrepreneurship. Open to all, it will be of use beyond the project and its participants. “We will also definitely take advantage of these tools in UNIDO’s other ongoing TVET projects,” said Virpi Stucki, UNIDO's Chief of Rural Entrepreneurship, Job Creation and Human Security Division.
With the research, training and guidance phase coming to an end, “the new skills and competencies gained by project participants are actually being applied. There are tools that have been developed, or tested, and which will continue to be used,” said Mr Joshi.
A less visible impact will be through preparing the way for system change and in the mindset of stakeholders.
Priscilla Gatonye, Programme Officer for Inclusion and Youth at UNESCO-UNEVOC, noted that as the project evolved, “my initial definition of how inclusion is covered in resilience has been refined, based on the workshop that we did and interactions with different policy levels and team members, and also overall in terms of how it connects to the bigger picture.”
During an online learning forum held on 4 April 2023 to showcase the different activities and outcomes of the project, Mr Huebler noted that this included a number of practical tools. These are universal enough to be adapted to different contexts, conditions and work environments and practical enough to support institutions in their internal assessments and external outreach.
Jeannette Burmester, GIZ’s Team Leader for the TVET Sector Project, pointed out that systemic-level resilience does not focus on preventing disorder, but on overcoming it. This required three levels of capacity building – coping capacity which also involved being “shock-prepared” in time; adaptive capacity to modify processes and activities; and transformative capacity or the ability to create a new system so that “crises do not have a negative impact on the system.”
View the recording of the project learning forum here.
The ‘Building TVET resilience for a just and sustainable transition’ project ran from January 2022 to March 2023. The project was implemented with the support of the German Federal Government through Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) GmbH.
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