Insights from Brazil for skills development in rapidly transforming African countries

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Young Brazilians learning hairdresser skills under a vocational program run by Sistema S
Young Brazilians learning hairdresser skills under a vocational program run by Sistema S.
Photo credit: Mariana Ceratti/World Bank

While Brazil faces a difficult fiscal and economic situation right now, I would like to view national progress on employment and incomes from a long-term perspective, which is valuable when addressing Education and Human Development issues in a broader sense.

Employment and incomes have both grown in Brazil in the last 15 years. How did Brazil do it? Growth played a role in recent years, but strategic investments that prepared young people for jobs and entrepreneurship also played a significant role, especially when associated with an increased focus on the most vulnerable. A big part of this success is linked to the technical and vocational education training (TVET) system, which has a flagship federal education and training program (PRONATEC) and a training arm (Sistema-S).
This story of sustained growth in employment has not gone unnoticed globally. Brazil was chosen to host the WorldSkills Competition, a biennial contest highlighting the best professional skills from around the globe. Competitors from over 50 countries gathered in Sao Paolo last month to demonstrate individual and collective technical skills in specific professional areas.  
Brazil’s experience can yield valuable insights for newly industrializing economies. On the sidelines of the WorldSkills Competition, the World Bank facilitated a “South-South” knowledge sharing event for African countries that attracted delegates from Mali, Rwanda, Mozambique, Cameroon, and Nigeria. Participants were particularly interested in the strengths and challenges within Brazil’s TVET system as they develop solutions to serve growing numbers of youth.  
Countries in Sub-Saharan Africa are looking to expand and modernize TVET systems because demand for technical and vocational skills is growing with the transformation of African economies. Annual GDP growth in Sub-Saharan Africa has grown from an average of 2 percent in the 1990s to a steady average of 5.5 percent in the past decade.
African delegates noted three main takeaways from the Brazilian TVET system:   
Private sector management of the training levy.  Unlike in many African countries, in Brazil, the training levy (a tax levied on private firms by government for the purpose of training) is managed by a private sector non-profit organization, SENAI. In most developing countries, the levy and the training provided from it are managed by the public sector. The huge advantage of the private sector managing the levy and the training is that it there is better alignment of the skills with private sector needs. 

Relevance of skills training for the labor market. Under the SENAI model, the private sector takes the lead role in managing skills development which ensures better alignment of supply and demand of skills. SENAI determines the training programs to be offered and the number of students to be admitted strictly based on industry demand. Such active management results in 80 percent of graduates finding employment within six months after graduation.
Active strategies to ensure inclusion.  TVET is seen to have a critical role in including the poor and marginalized and facilitating socio-economic transformation. In Brazil, PRONATEC supports girls and youth from poor families to access TVET programs. This builds on the Bolsa Familia conditional cash transfer program, which encourages poor families to send their children to school.
The delegations from Africa also appreciated the WorldSkills Competition, which drew an unprecedented 250,000 visitors and featured competitions in 50 skill areas—including construction, manufacturing, the creative arts, information technology, transportation, service, and agriculture. At a skills policy session, I had the opportunity to share the World Bank’s survey tool, Skills Towards Employment and Productivity (STEP). The tool is unique in its attempt to capture cognitive, socio-emotional and job relevant skills within a household survey.  It has been implement in eight countries, including Kenya and Ghana.
What’s next for the learning program?  The south-south exchange of knowledge and information will continue. Country delegations, SENAI and the World Bank discussed synergies that could develop from this trip in terms of country-specific needs in TVET reform and general skills development, future exchanges on methodologies for anticipating skills demand, and further study trips that focus particularly on Brazil’s experience in agriculture.
Education can be a powerful force for ending extreme poverty in the world and achieving inclusive growth. However, young people need access to high-quality, highly relevant education to be able to take advantage of the economic opportunities that come their way. As we live in an increasingly connected world, knowledge exchange between developing countries is full of exciting possibilities.


​The knowledge exchange is a part of the Partnership for Skills in Applied Sciences, Engineering and Technology (PASET). For more information, please click here.
Follow the World Bank Group education team on Twitter @wbg_education .


Claudia Costin

Founder, Innovation and Excellence in Education Policies (Think Tank)

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