Skills development

Vocational training hampered by COVID-19 pandemic

A new report based on an inter-agency survey on technical and vocational education and training (TVET) highlights the challenges thrown up by the COVID-19 pandemic, as well as innovations in teaching and learning.

Communiqué de presse | 1 février 2021
GENEVA (ILO NEWS) – Vocational training and apprenticeship programmes have been hard hit by the COVID-19 pandemic.

According to a global survey of more than 1,350 providers of Technical Vocational Educational Training (TVET), many countries and training providers were insufficiently prepared to respond to the constraints that resulted from the crisis, although some rapidly shifted to distance learning.

A majority of survey respondents reported disruptions to training, in particular to work-based learning due to enterprise closures, as well as the cancellation of assessment and certification exams.

However, since the start of the crisis, innovations in teaching and learning have begun to emerge, says the report, Skills development in the time of COVID-19: Taking stock of the initial responses in technical and vocational education and training.

The survey covered TVET providers, policymakers and social partners in 126 countries. It was conducted between 5 April and 15 May 2020 by the International Labour Organization (ILO) in collaboration with the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) and the World Bank.

TVET provides education and training at different skill levels related to a wide range of employment options, including for plumbers, electricians, sales workers, accountants, programmers and bank clerks. The practical, hands-on nature of the training programmes has created particular challenges.

© Kivanc Ozvardar / ILO
At the start of the pandemic, few countries and training providers had sufficient equipment, connectivity, remote learning software and platforms, and pedagogical resources. In addition, most students and instructors initially lacked the digital skills to be able to adapt and use their TVET services.

The switch to remote teaching has been a process of learning by doing. Examples highlighted in the report showed the development of flexible learning and assessment options, ranging from high- to low- or no- tech solutions.

These include the use of offline platforms, including national television channels, to disseminate practical knowledge in a number of countries, including the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Madagascar and Pakistan, and the development of self-paced learning guides and virtual skills assessments. In some countries, students shot videos and photos of practical tasks carried out at home and uploaded them onto virtual platforms.

New public-private partnerships have also emerged, including the provision of digital equipment to teachers and disadvantaged learners.

Some countries have also adopted new policy measures to ensure that TVET systems are better prepared for future shocks.

However the report points out that while more than two-thirds of TVET providers reported that they were delivering training entirely by remote methods during the pandemic, very few in low-income countries were able to make that transition. Access issues relating to online remote learning modalities and infrastructure risks leaving disadvantaged learners behind unless adequate measures are taken to overcome the digital divide, the report warns.

Training providers, policy makers and other stakeholders are now realizing the importance of implementing measures to improve the resilience of skills training systems and preparedness, so they can continue delivering training during future crises.