Operating at the intersection of the education and labour market, Technical and Vocational Education and Training (TVET) is ideally placed to pave the way for women’s empowerment through employability.
The importance of female educations is widely discussed in the development agenda. Enshrined in SDG 4 as access to quality education, education is understood as key to alleviating poverty and accessing greater opportunities. Yet when education is discussed, vocational training is often sidelined. Described by some as the ‘poor relative’ of academic education; TVET is often looked down upon as a less viable form of education.
Before the onset of COVID-19, TVET was beginning to gain recognition as a viable and important form of education. The ILO recently published a report highlighting the importance of vocational training, raising it to the top of education policy agendas across the world. However, the pandemic now presents a challenge to delivering technological and vocational education training. It is both more difficult to continue TVET online than basic education and industries that vocational training lends itself to such as hospitality are increasingly unstable.
Whilst making the provision of vocational and skills training much more difficult, COVID-19 also highlights the need for this type of education. As economic recovery from coronavirus threatens to worsen gender inequality in the labour market, it is vital that women have the necessary skills to access employment. Participation in the labour market is a powerful source of female empowerment. With its strong links to employers and the labour market, TVET is ideally placed to address these challenges.
WONDER and TVET
WONDER recognises and celebrates the importance of TVET for women’s empowerment through skills training and employability. It is at the core of our partner projects which support women’s access to the labour market. However, COVID-19 is drastically changing the shape of industries our projects focus on, such as hospitality. We are working with our partners to adapt our projects and ensure that they continue to be relevant to the changing labour market.
In the Philippines, our partner FPTI provides vocational training in hospitality to women living in rural areas. As the school year beginning in August 2020 moves online, we are working to support FPTI to secure access to tablets for online learning. Ensuring students have access to tablets and internet connection is essential both to supporting students with online learning, and helping them become digitally literate.
Our partner Kamalini in India, works to provide vocational training for women and girls, offering training in the hospitality sector, domestic work, as well as basic IT courses. Throughout the onset of COVID they have adapted and continue to provide online learning to their students. They are offering tailoring classes online, for example. Kamalini remain invested in empowering women through encouragement, education and vocational skills.
Through its responsiveness to current and future skill needs of the industry, TVET also has a critical role to play in promoting entrepreneurial and innovative skills for self-employment. Our partner Tewa in Kenya, for example, is integrating entrepreneurial segments in their TVET and skills training programme. This helps to ensure the women they support are resilient to market change and have the skills required to build their own industries.
As the pandemic continues to change the world of work, vocational and skills training is a key way in which we can ensure women are part of this change. Supporting the empowerment of women through TVET is vital to ensuring women are included in economic recovery from COVID-19, and that progress made towards gender inequality is not undermined or forgotten.
Author: Hannah Alice Kean, WONDER Foundation volunteer.