"contribute to employability for everyone, that’s our goal"

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Five questions to Wouter Van Damme
VET Toolbox Team Leader


VET Toolbox. If you open this box you will find the tools to address one of the main preoccupations of the Enabel Education unit as well as a new approach for our Agency. What is it about?

VET stands for all forms of Vocational Education and Training. But we use a radically different approach: on-demand. First, because this is a project that is financed primarily by the European Union and that is implemented by five European development agencies. Next, because our support is very short-term: a few weeks at most. We provide advice and training through targeted interventions. Our global objective is to increase employability for all:

Firstly, we base our advice on facts and applied research on vocational education and training. We also analyse the data of the labour market. Secondly, we involve the private sector in VET to bridge the transition to the labour market for VET learners. Finally, we want to strengthen the inclusion of vulnerable groups - women, persons with disabilities, minorities - in VET and in the formal and informal sector. 

We address questions from industry or professional organisations, from local governments or from NGOs that are operating in the field. Our role is to inspire them by providing the tools and methods which they need to successfully carry out their project. Hence, the ‘Toolbox’.  
©Enabel/Colin Delfosse
So, it is a toolbox originating in several countries?

Indeed. This project is a partnership between four European development agencies: Enabel, LuxDev (Luxembourg), GIZ (Germany), and the British Council (United Kingdom). We are funded for 15 million euros by the European Union and for 500 000 euros by the German government. The different partner agencies signed division of labour agreements, each providing input based on its strengths. We aim to decide jointly how to best respond to each demand and who will intervene in the field and deliver the response. 

Along with this first activity we develop instruments and tools that we offer on a web platform and we organise conferences and seminars as well. We aim to share existing knowledge with development actors and want to contribute to the emergence of new ideas. 

Finally, we will launch a system to finance innovative pilot projects which improve the involvement of vulnerable groups in VET initiatives, such as women, persons with disabilities, migrants as well as school dropouts and school dropouts.
"We want to provide our partners in the field with exactly the tools and expertise they need.” 
So, it is a brand new project. How is the start-up going?

Indeed, everything started in September 2017. We have set up a coordination unit here in Brussels consisting of five people and we have a liaison officer in the four other agencies. And our activities are running: We have provided assistance in Senegal and Mali. We trained about sixty school managers in management and in involving the private sector in the management of a training centre. 

We also contributed to the organisation of a conference in Dakar on public-private partnerships in vocational education. What can be done? Which practices exist elsewhere? What can be learned from existing experiences? By bringing together the representatives of our partner countries and international experts we were able to share a broad range of ideas and good practices!

©Enabel/Thea Mathues
Are there any other interventions in the pipeline? 

We are currently working at the requests of Ghana, Pakistan, Botswana and Vietnam. In Pakistan, we will assist the authorities to implement apprenticeship legislation. The goal is to accompany the National Vocational Training Commission in implementing VET laws: We will develop a practical manual and organise training sessions. In Botswana, the focus is on involving the private sector in VET initiatives and on analysing the job market in tourism and stock breeding and to formulate recommendations from the initiative. In Ghana, we will help education actors develop a methodology to adapt training programmes to private sector needs. Finally, in Vietnam we will support the authorities determine quality criteria which they can use to have training centres involve vulnerable groups more strongly. 

And we will go further! We have just launched a website (www.vettoolbox.eu) to attract more countries to submit a request. Questions have started to come in and we are persuaded that this is only the beginning. 

We are a genuine toolbox: we deliver assistance and services. It is a way to leverage expertise and strengthen the work of the development agencies through new forms of assistance. 

And what will you do in the future?

Shortly, we will establish performance indicators to determine how effective our interventions are. We will measure the number of service delivery initiatives and the number of countries involved, but also how we have succeeded in strengthening the capacities of the instances that applied for our assistance. For instance, we created a maturity scale for the area of vocational training and job market insertion. It helps us to assess the partner countries before and after our intervention, so we can determine whether we effectively contributed to change.

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