On 1 October 2019, the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ) discussed the implications of “New Work” on vocational training in development cooperation (DC) with representatives from business, politics, science and civil society from Germany and partner countries.

Practice-oriented vocational education and training (VET) creates prospects for people in developing countries. Since the world of work is undergoing major changes due to technological developments at a global scale, VET is also facing new challenges. Against this backdrop, BMZ invited around 60 experts to the Wissenschaftszentrum Bonn to discuss how VET could and should be adjusted in view of the dynamic changes in labor markets and skills requirements.

Various dimensions

Albert Nsengiyumva, Secretary General of the Association for Development of Education in Africa (ADEA) which is affiliated to the AfDB, pointed out the great importance of the informal sector in many partner countries. Digital education includes de potential of offering tailor-made solutions for the needs of marginalized groups. Dr. Shyamal Majumdar, Head of UNESCO-UNEVOC, described the potential of the platform economy for developing countries and pointed out that regulating this sector was pivotal in order to prevent the emergence of a precarious digital labor market. Nidhi Batra, responsible for international cooperation at the Indian National Skills Development Corporation (NSCD), stressed the importance of VET in the age of the digital transformation and in the wake of increasing global migration movements. Ndakolute S. Abraham, learning expert of GIZ Namibia, described how skills requirements in VET have diversified. Whereas in the past, the focus was mainly on classical specialist competences, the spectrum has broadened and includes increasingly digital skills, soft skills and the need for lifelong learning. At the same time, a variety of digital instruments such as learning management systems enhanced by artificial intelligence are emerging to facilitate learning. However, these instruments are not accessible to everyone, due to different prerequisites in digital infrastructure and digital skills.

Innovative ideas for TVET of the future

Inspired by the five keynote speeches, the experts discussed subsequently various aspects of the topic in working groups. The discussions resulted in a collection of best practices and recommendations for the further development of VET approaches in development cooperation. Topics touched upon included, for example, greater consideration of innovative financing models with contributions from the private sector, the use of blockchain technologies to increase transparency and trust in the area of education certificates and the use of big data to better monitor labor market developments. One important finding was that cooperation with the private sector and other actors – and thus the governance of VET – continues being a key issue.

In the concluding plenary discussion, there was general agreement that the digitalization of the world of work will have a decisive impact on VET, and that digital technologies will and should increasingly become an integral part of education and training. There was also consensus that independently from this trend, equitable and high-quality education must remain the guiding principle in order to create sustainable employment opportunities for everyone in today’s and tomorrow’s world of work.

“Keep on Moving”

The experts’ meeting was part of a broader discussion process on the topic of “new work” and VET initiated by the BMZ end of 2018. Apart from several technical discussions, the proposition paper on New Work and its impacts on vocational education and training in German development cooperation  (September 2019) provides a basis for the envisaged further development of TVET approaches.