Through VET Toolbox, the British Council supported the TVET sector in Sri Lanka to enhance the quality of apprenticeship provision and support improvement in accreditation of the national vocational qualifications.

Improving the quality of apprenticeships

Increasingly, countries around the world are putting apprenticeships high on their policy agendas, recognising their potential for reducing skills mismatch, meeting skills demand in rapidly changing labour markets, promoting employer engagement and lowering youth unemployment rates. This is among key current challenges in Sri Lanka where the youth unemployment rate has increased in recent years. With this background, Sri Lanka’s National Apprentice and Industrial Training Authority (NAITA) requested support to improve the quality of the country’s apprenticeship system to better meet labour market needs, with a particular focus on providing flexible learning pathways and increasing private sector engagement. 

In response to this request, the British Council worked with NAITA to complete a diagnostic review of the current apprenticeship provision in Sri Lanka. Using our Apprenticeship Benchmarking Tool, the research explored strengths and weaknesses of current apprenticeship programmes and suggested areas for improvement.  

The diagnostic review was complemented by a capacity building workshop bringing together representatives from various government departments, employers and VET practitioners to review gaps in apprenticeship delivery and discuss future priorities. Participants identified the elements of successful apprenticeship systems, drawing from international good practice, including the UK, and agreed immediate recommendations for further policy development. 

The findings and recommendations developed through the intervention were launched at a high-level event for employers, industrialists, chambers of commerce representatives, training providers and donor organisations, helping to raise awareness across the sector and encourage social partners to work together on addressing the recommendations and identifying further areas for improvement. 

Strengthening accreditation of the national vocational qualifications 

As part of VET Toolbox activities, the British Council collaborated with the Tertiary and Vocational Education Commission (TVEC) to support with the quality improvement in accreditation of the national vocational qualifications in accordance with international quality assurance standards and good practice. 

TVEC will now work to start implementing the roadmap for international recognition of the qualifications that was developed under the intervention.

‘VET Toolbox technical assistance provided by the British Council helped Tertiary and Vocational Education Commission of Sri Lanka to bridge the knowledge gap in the process of benchmarking local  qualifications systems with international standards. This will help us to develop more robust and better aligned qualifications for international labour markets. This will also help Sri Lanka to achieve socio-economic aspirations through benchmarking internationally accredited skills set and flexible career pathways for youth to support them into employment and into further education.’  Dr Janaka Jayalath, Deputy Director General of TVEC

Building partnerships 

The British Council facilitated a partnership between Hertford Regional College in the UK and NAITA district offices, with a focus on improving employer engagement in TVET. 

Through close collaboration with their UK partner, NAITA district offices learnt how to better align the content and structure of programmes with employer needs, particularly of their apprenticeship training.  Each partner now has developed a private sector engagement plan and has completed an internal review of their operational practices. They have also introduced a basic training programme, to prepare students for apprenticeships with the aim of reducing the number of early withdrawals and have piloted working with a small number of enterprises during the project.  

Partners in the UK and Sri Lanka valued an opportunity to broaden their skills and involve different members of staff in international work.