The British Council were delighted to welcome partners from around the world across the Skills and International Development Sectors for a discussion in to co-inside with the Global Disability Summit which took place in London on 24th July 2018.  The British Council hosted Skills, Disability and Inclusion Roundtable focussed on improving employment outcomes for disabled people through Technical and Vocational Training (TVET) and through the wider enabling environment for tailor-made support for disabled people to access and thrive in enterprise or employment. This event featured presentations from four global perspectives. We heard findings from British Council’s research into the disability and TVET landscape, including research conducted with STEP in Pakistan and Goss Consultancy in the United Kingdom. We shared success stories from the work of Sightsavers in Uganda and were inspired by Ryan Gersava, a young disabled serial social entrepreneur who is using digital and tech to transform employment opportunities for disabled people in Philippines.

The discussion featured a range of contributions which set out key challenges and opportunities in improving TVET provision for disabled people. 

One key challenge identified was that stigma and discriminatory practice towards disabled people is often coupled with the negative perception of TVET pathways compared to other routes in many countries.  It was also pointed out that Skills Systems face a number of challenges and getting enough policy ‘bandwidth’ and financial resource to improve provision for disabled learners can be difficult. There was agreement that whilst there is a lack of data about disability, the business case for disabled people’s inclusion in economic life is clear and that being in work leads to better health and wellbeing outcomes and to changes in social norms and attitudes towards disabled people. However the changing nature of work and digital technology presents an untapped opportunity for disabled learners and for new models of employment. How we and policy makers can enable effective practice may be a better way of achieving success in this area rather than seeking to legislate the problem away although policy making and, in particular, funding is a crucial enabler.

It is clear that excellent training for disabled people does not all look alike. The United Kingdom in particular has considerable experience to share about supported learning models that enable disabled people to access and engage in TVET in the mainstream.  It was clearly felt by all the speakers that education cannot be seen in isolation from enterprise and employment. It is critical that disabled people are actively involved and included along with policy makers, education providers and employers, families, service providers and the wider TVET system to design and track models that ensure that there is the right tailored provision for disabled people and for everyone 

Further comments were made as the discussion widened, including that:

  • Raising aspirations for learners and parents is a key ambition as is tackling negative perceptions
  • That good training is not enough and there need to be good outcomes for learners into employment
  • That it is important to look at the whole picture of training including confidence building, tailored support and enabling environments as well as the technical competences.
  • Underemployment as well as unemployment needs to be addressed both for economic and social reasons.

There was a general consensus that this issue is growing challenge. The British Council would welcome any other contributions from partners to the discussion or ideas for future collaboration. 

Please do get in touch by emailing Andrew.hall@britishcouncil.org if you are interested in supporting this agenda, would like to discuss this topic or have any other projects you think would be of interest.