ILO – Maga – NAITA Construction craftsman awarding ceremony

By Mr Donglin Li, Director, ILO Country Office for Sri Lanka and the Maldives

Statement | Sri Lanka | 29 December 2015
Adressing the gathering, Donglin Li, ILO Country Director for Sri Lanka and the Maldives
Respected Secretary of the Minister of Skills and Vocational Training
Respected Chairman of NAITA
Respected Chairman of Maga Enterprises,
Distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen

It gives me great pleasure to address you this morning on behalf of the ILO.

The ILO has a long standing tradition of supporting national partners in their endeavor to constantly upgrade the education system, with particular emphasis on vocational training. Throughout the years, ILO has provided technical assistance for a number of initiatives. Just to name a few: setting up the National Apprenticeship & Industrial Training Authority in Katunayake (NAITA), the Institute of construction Training & Development (ICTAD) and the National Design Centre; promoting employment opportunities and training opportunities for persons with disabilities; designing and implementing the National Policy on “Vocational Education, and Training Provision for Vulnerable People in Sri Lanka”; enhancing capacity of trainers through TOT programs carried out both within and outside the country. The current EU-SDDP project, which is a joint UN Programme, provides support in the process of institutional strengthening, developing new curricula and linking the training institutions with the industry for better job placements, maintaining a focus on the inclusion of less skilled or vulnerable groups.

Today we are here celebrating 95 youth who, with their will willpower and capacity to learn and dedicate themselves to the job, accomplished an important task for themselves and for the nation. Sri Lanka faces a unique youth employment challenge, as there exists a mismatch between youth aspirations and the opportunities available in the labour market. Important industry sectors, including the construction one, suffer from a serious labour shortage. In part, such phenomenon, is due to under qualification of workers and training and upgrading one’s skills is the most profitable way to increase one’s chances to enter decent work. In part, such phenomenon, is due to the perception of youth that certain jobs lack dignity and respect. ILO not only opposes such idea, but also wanted to invest resources to improve self-respect, employability and productivity of young construction craftsmen by providing them with state of the art on the job training facilities and methodologies.

What we are also here celebrating is an example of public private partnership where all the parties shared some risk and cost by investing in a new and innovative training modality, with no guaranteed outcome and no established practices. Time and resources from MAGA enterprise, NAITA, TVEC and ILO were heavily invested to deliver to youth a quicker and more cost effective training on qualifications of particular interest for the country in these years of growth. An ambitious but -at the same time- measurable standard was set up from the beginning, i.e. guiding youth to achieve NVQ level 3 qualifications. In addition, allow me to emphasize two aspect of particular relevance for this training programme:

1) All trainees were warranted a formal job contract. In a sector that is way too often characterized by informality and lack of protection or respect for basic workers’ rights, especially for young workers, we not only ensured training but also, in parallel, formal employment.

2) Occupational health and safety. Safety shoes, safety training and safety measures were a priority of the ILO throughout this training experience and thanks to the commitment of our partners, we were able to fully meet the expectations and the rigorous safety standards.

What we all carried out was a pilot process, but certainly a successful one. The lessons learned were numerous and will help policy makers and the ILO itself to design even better programmes in the futures. Such modality of training delivery could expand to other competencies within the construction industry or to other sectors. The ILO will continue working with its constituents, with the Ministry of Skills and Vocational Training, the other key sectoral Ministries together with their respective agencies and departments to support such forward looking processes and accompany the country and its youth in their professional and human growth.

Thank you.