Published on Jobs and Development

What we’ve been reading: How to improve technical and vocational education and training for youth in developing countries

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This reading list is based on the March 2021 edition of the Knowledge4Jobs newsletter, curated by the World Bank’s Jobs Group and Labor & Skills Global Solutions Group. Click here to sign up for the Knowledge4Jobs newsletter.

Imparting practical skills and work readiness are at the core of policies to integrate youth into labor markets and the hallmark of technical and vocational education and training (TVET). TVET has the potential to improve employability, productivity, and livelihoods of young workers in developing countries. 

Yet, TVET systems often underperform, and skills shortages or mismatches in the labor market continue to be major challenges for countries around the world. This skills constraint is typically more binding for larger and more outward-oriented innovative firms, implying that they can constrain structural transformation. Furthermore, TVET often fails to attract female students, particularly to fields in science and technology. Addressing this failure would help reduce occupational gender segregation commonly observed in labor markets.

The COVID-19 pandemic has created tremendous challenges for TVET provision, over and above those experienced by basic education and higher education sectors. This is due to the unique focus of TVET on practical skills, which are difficult to teach in the context of severely limited access to hands-on learning opportunities in workplaces and workshops.

But the same emphasis on work-relevant skills provides TVET with the potential to play an important role in the response to the pandemic. For example, TVET can cater to students who dropped out of general secondary or tertiary education during school closures; reskill or upskill those who have become unemployed; and respond to emerging skills demands , including digital and socioemotional skills, that can support a green, resilient, and inclusive recovery.

To do this, though, TVET reforms would need to address the pre-existing weaknesses in TVET systems and institutions and build on the innovations and partnerships  that have emerged in the last year.

This month’s readings focus on the lessons learned and good practices from TVET reforms during COVID-19 and beyond that are key to improving access, equity, quality, and relevance of TVET systems and institutions.

TVET in the Time of COVID-19

Our joint report with the ILO and the UNESCO analyzes the initial response of the TVET sector to the pandemic. It assesses institution-level measures and examines the extent to which system-wide policies were able to support TVET institutions, teachers, and students in the early stages of the crisis. (ILO, UNESCO, and World Bank, February 2021)

The case study on Finnish TVET  emphasizes the need for a flexible approach that incorporates alternative modes of delivery and hybrid learning opportunities across all levels and types of TVET. (OEP, 2021)

While 60 to 70 percent of TVET courses in Sri Lanka have continued via online learning since the pandemic, the quality of learning has dropped due to difficulty in delivering practical training. (Ryotaro et al., Asian Development Bank, March 2021)

Essential Readings

TVET Systems’ response to COVID-19 focuses on how to reduce the adverse impact of the pandemic on TVET provision and enhance the contribution TVET can make to mitigating COVID-19 impacts and supporting robust economic recovery. (Hoftijzer, et al., World Bank, May 2020)

The analysis on the wage returns of completing TVET in Brazil shows positive wage premiums for students completing upper secondary technical education and for those completing short-term training courses, albeit with significant student and program heterogeneity. (Almeida et al., April 2015)

This book chapter on building skills for the school-to-work transition in Sub-Saharan Africa (Santos et al., Book, June 2019) examines the state of TVET in Sub-Saharan Africa and provides recommendations for improving the quality and relevance of TVET systems.

The UNESCO world report on TVET considers the global evidence for the efficacy of the use of ICT in the delivery of TVET. (Mead Richardson & Herd, Commonwealth of Learning, May 2015)

This blog highlights how TVET schools and institutes in Afghanistan have responded to the COVID-19 emergency with a mix of delivery modalities to support learning continuity for all. (Kabir et al., World Bank, September 2020)

This working paper reviews global evidence on education and skills training programs for out-of-school youth, with an emphasis on the role of incentives for training providers and students. (Clarke et al., January 2021)

Broader Jobs Agenda

Can socioemotional skills help navigate some of the turbulent emotional and economic impacts of COVID-19 on employment? (Acosta et al., World Bank, January 2021)

How to include youth voices in employment programs. (S4YE & World Bank, January 2021)

In Sweden, new vacancy postings dropped by 40 percent during the first three months of the pandemic. (Hensvik et al., ScienceDirect, February 2021)

This book sheds light on the major labor market issues that Morocco faces. (Lopez-Acevedo et al., Book, January 2021)

COVID-19 Related Articles                                                                             

Four key insights on the state of business closure and jobs during the pandemic in Ethiopia are identified in the blog. (Abebe and Weiser, Jobs and Development, February 2021)

Education is taking a serious hit and outcomes are plummeting in Latin America and the Caribbean. Two in three lower secondary education students could fall below minimum proficiency levels. (World Bank, March 2021)

Women in Latin America and the Caribbean were 44 percent more likely than men to lose their jobs at the onset of the pandemic. (Cucagna et al., World Bank, January 2021)

Honduran firms’ revenue fell by 26 percent in real terms between March and August 2020 due to the pandemic. (Bachas et al., World Bank, January 2021)


Michael Weber

Senior Economist, Human Capital Project

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