An online workshop on 28 February 2022 brought together 57 participants across the globe to discuss skills development within developing countries. It focused on the opportunities and challenges of technical and vocational education and training (TVET), particularly regarding the nature of skills composition required in respective contexts of work. The event, ‘Industrial Skill Development in Developing Countries: Education, Skills Demands, and Productivity’, was co-organised by Nagoya University, Japan — as part of its Skills and Knowledge for Youth (SKY) Project — and UNU-IAS.
Opening remarks by Shinobu Yume Yamaguchi (Director, UNU-IAS) highlighted the increasing need for industrial skill development in the globalised knowledge economy, and outlined previous collaboration between UNU-IAS and the SKY project of Nagoya University.
Jonghwi Park (Programme Head, Innovation & Education, UNU-IAS) provided an overview of the roles of skills development and TVET in achieving the SDGs. Despite their ever-growing importance for sustainable economic and social development, the TVET sector faces challenges including a lack of financing, mismatches between curriculums and the needs of industry, and outdated pedagogical approaches for teaching skills. Dr Park shared innovative approaches from different countries that have been employed to tackle these issues. She provided examples from the Regional Centres for Expertise on Education for Sustainable Development (RCEs), illustrating how UNU-IAS has been promoting innovative and sustainable skills development at the local level.
Shoko Yamada (Nagoya University) spoke about development issues through the lens of skills acquired by individuals. She discussed the mechanism by which skills mismatches occur, and how they can be identified. Also explored were the differential effects of schooling and skills on the labour market experience of individuals, including new demands for skill development resulting from the COVID-19 crisis. Explaining that there was a vertical and horizontal skills mismatch, Dr Yamada noted that it could not be solved by simply increasing investment in TVET — rather, it is important to understand skills from multiple angles and to identify the exact nature of gaps, based on evidence-based discussion.
Following these sessions, Christian Otchia (Nagoya University) and Natsuki Kondo (Nagoya University) presented findings from data collected as part of the SKY project in Ethiopia and Ghana. The project designed a framework to measure the knowledge and skills in a work environment, and has collected unique and extensive information on skills comparable over time and across countries. The discussion on Ethiopia focused on perception gaps between teachers and students of TVET related to the importance of employable skills. The large perception gaps found were mainly due to exposure to the labour market and the efficacy of the education and training system. Considering Ghana, the researchers highlighted the role of skills among workers in the formal and informal sectors. In general, workers in the formal sector earn higher salaries on average and there is less variance in compensation, while informal workers’ wages vary greatly. The study showed that differences in practical skills and personalities can explain differences in wages between the two sectors.
The final session, presented by Pimmada Charoensilp (Nagoya University), explored how to build soft skills by introducing a game-based training approach developed by the SKY project. The project combined behaviour modelling training and a game to generate a soft skills training module, by explaining the differences between declarative and procedural knowledge. One of the most influential components is the opportunity for trainees to practice applying learned skills in their real lives. Through unlimited creativity the gamified module can create mimicked places, events, and intangible concepts.
A dialogue session focused on questions submitted by participants, with presenters discussing the importance of basic education to equip learners with basic skills before moving to skills training, and soft skills such as openness to help learners obtain basic knowledge once they start working. SKY project researchers shared their approach of avoiding imposing norms, and instead providing participants with opportunities to gain necessary skills through practice.