In August, British Council’s first VET Toolbox intervention in Latin America got underway, focussing on the revitalisation of the Sector Roundtables (akin to Skills Councils in the UK) in Colombia.

At the request of the National Training Service (Servicio Nacional de Aprendizaje – SENA), a UK-based International consultant will, over the coming months, work in partnership with a Colombia-based local consultant to conduct desk research, carry out group and one to one interviews and focus groups, as well as wider intelligence and information gathering with the aims of:

  • establishing the current levels of engagement, relevance and influence of the roundtables
  • establishing stakeholders’ priorities for their future structure and aligning this with international best practice and
  • developing a suite of tools, resources and training opportunities to facilitate the workshops’ transition towards a more effective and impactful model in the future.

Even in ordinary circumstances, coordinating and carrying out such interventions are challenging, but current travel restrictions brought about by the global pandemic have necessitated a new approach. As such, this will be the first British Council coordinated VET Toolbox intervention to be conducted entirely remotely, without any travel between the UK and Colombia (and little to none within Colombia) planned for the duration of the project.  

This naturally has brought about a surge in innovation and the adoption of previously underutilised approaches, many of which have clear advantages – such as the move away from international travel which has obvious efficiency benefits in terms of both time and expenditure, not to mention the reduced environmental impact. 

Countering this though, is the need to ensure enforced physical distancing does not dilute the quality and depth of discussion that would come about when people are able to talk in a shared space. To this end, the use of video conferencing technology – augmented by live translation to ensure discussion can take place at a natural pace and in real time (another VET Toolbox first) – has, and will continue to be, critical to the success of the project. 

This project will therefore have far-reaching implications at several levels. Firstly, and most critically, in the reform and revitalisation of the Sector Roundtables and the positive impact this will have on the quality and relevance of TVET education and the employability of learners in Colombia. 

Allied to this will be the practical lessons taken from this new approach and how it will influence future projects of this kind. Of course, there will be further examples of innovative practice and agile solutions developed as challenges arise over the course of the project but, from the early work already undertaken it is evident that moving away from tried and tested approaches is not something to be feared but embraced. The British Council’s global network of contacts and expertise is still in place - the methods of accessing it have simply become more numerous and diverse, enabling us to support enhancement and reform in TVET in new ways and new places.