Why youth skills are important to our work in Nepal
When asked in a recent survey what were the major issues faced today, young people in Nepal overwhelming responded that unemployment is their number one concern.
High unemployment rates led to a (pre-pandemic) situation where young people were leaving Nepal at a rate of 1500 every day in search of job opportunities abroad, but at the same time, employers in Nepal consistently report an inability to recruit individuals with the right skills and knowledge to fill vacancies. Many employers find productivity is negatively impacted by the need to shoulder the burden of training and retraining new recruits, stifling business growth, and feel that the government is not doing enough to create a favourable environment for private sector. Clearly, the current skills system is failing to meet the needs of those it is supposed to serve – primarily, young people and employers.
Nevertheless, there is general recognition that improving quality and access to skills training for young people is key. The Government fully acknowledges the potential of TVET to increase productivity and boost economic growth, and recently set out a revised national education strategy which places TVET as a central pillar. That said, many challenges remain in practice, and without meaningful and consistent engagement of employers in the design and delivery of skills training, this paradoxical situation will continue to persist with high levels of unemployment amongst young people in Nepal, whilst employers are unable to recruit.
Unfortunately, unemployment is only set to increase with hundreds of thousands of Nepali migrant labourers expected to return to the country over the coming months as a result of the global pandemic. Our work in supporting the Ministry of Education, Science and Technology to strengthen the skills system in Nepal has never been more important.
What we have done to support youth skills?
Nepal needs young people entering the jobs market with the skills that employers need in order to operate and develop their businesses, and young people in Nepal need jobs. The British Council’s Dakchyata – TVET Practical Partnership project, part of the EU’s flagship skills development programme in Nepal, aims to bring together government, employers, and technical and vocational training professionals, working in partnership to improve the quality of skills provision by making the system more responsive to labour market needs. Key to this is employer engagement in the design and delivery of technical and vocational courses.
The development of a skills system which meets both trainees’ and employers’ needs can only come about through creating and opening spaces for private sector to work in partnership with the government and training providers, helping to bridge the current gulf between those seeking jobs and those looking to recruit, neither of whom are being served effectively by the current system. The Dakchyata project seeks to support employer engagement at several levels, from facilitating regular dialogue between employer representatives and policy makers, down to the provision of grants and technical expertise to establish new training partnerships on the ground.
A public information campaign has also been launched to increase outreach and the availability of information for prospective students, and a wide range of research studies and publications produced to support decision makers in taking evidence-based decisions about the future of the skills system. Resources and publications produced can be found on the Learning Hub of the project website.
What improvements we have seen as a result?
Although much of the work of Dakchyata is focused on system strengthening, a clear example of our direct impact on young people can be seen through the Public Information Campaign.
As in many parts of the world, TVET has an image problem in Nepal. Young people are often not interested in enrolling in TVET courses as it is seen as a “second choice” for those unable to pursue more academic qualifications. Employers, of course, see things very differently, with a clear link between high quality skills training and employability. One of the key strands of the Dakchyata project has been to work closely with the national skills authority of Nepal, CTEVT, to develop a TVET Public Information Campaign targeting young people and their families to raise awareness of the many career options which skills training represents, combatting negative perceptions which create barriers to access.
The campaign launched in early 2020 with a series of interactive, lively, and colourful events which saw over 4000 participants coming together in four locations across the country. The events allowed young people, teachers, parents and the wider community to speak directly to trainers, professionals and local employers to better understand the prospects of TVET education. The events were designed to be both engaging and interactive, with employers and training providers running booths with games and competitions to give prospective students a taste of what they can learn through skills training. One 14 year old student said afterwards “I liked the games the most. I realised technical work can be fun, and I won the skills competition! I had so much fun today - I want to be a plumber or an engineer when I graduate from High School.”
Students had the chance to hear from employers directly about the types of job opportunities on offer, and on how much they valued applicants with skills training. Training providers were also on hand to answer questions about courses available to set them in the right direction. One participant stated “Seeing the employers at an educational event was a pleasant surprise. I liked how the students had an opportunity to see the employment [prospects] of the TVET education system. We need more events like this one.” A vast majority of participants said afterwards that they had found the information useful, with an astonishing three in five stating confidently that they wanted to pursue TVET courses in future.
The campaign has been widely praised as the first of its kind in Nepal. Backed by thorough research, analysis and planning, slick professional branding, and supported by experienced event management professionals working alongside the CTEVT team, CTEVT has been able to demonstrate to itself and others that they are capable of organising attractive outreach events raising interest and awareness of the benefits of skills training for young people. Employers and industry representatives have also put their weight behind the campaign, with employer bodies hailing it as a “much-needed” initiative in the TVET sector.
Although coronavirus has prevented subsequent events from going ahead as planned, the Campaign is now set to relaunch under a revised digital and social media strategy in July, supporting CTEVT to develop essential outreach capacity in online communications.