Skills Virtual Fair

Lifelong learning is key to development and resilience in the Global South

The first ILO Skills Virtual Fair, held on 21-22 April, brought together participants from 132 countries for a series of thematic and regional sessions, as well as exhibition stands to establish skills partnerships and promote innovation in the Global South.

News | 23 April 2021
GENEVA (ILO News) – The COVID-19 pandemic has accelerated the pace of digital transition and its impact on national labour markets. Strengthening the recovery process after the current crisis, requires governments, employers and workers to find and create opportunities for innovative approaches to learning and training under a “new normal” scenario.

Contributing to the global response, the ILO organized a Skills Virtual Fair with the aim of identifying and promoting innovative approaches to real-world skills and lifelong learning challenges and building partnerships in the Global South. The Fair gathered more than 1,000 registered participants from 132 countries and included panel discussions with policy-makers and representatives of training institutions from Africa, Asia and the Americas. The Fair also featured thirty-nine virtual booths highlighting examples of good practices and digital solutions that respond directly to the needs of trainees and practitioners.

During the opening session of the Fair, Helder da Costa, Secretary-General of the G7+, reaffirmed the importance of partnerships for skills development and cooperation between fragile states to increase resilience and larger employment opportunities, with an emphasis in the current post-Covid context. “There are lots of initiatives that could be done together”, he emphasized mentioning that the G7+ and the ILO have recently signed an agreement on South-South collaboration.

South-south and triangular cooperation (SSTC) has been fundamental to promote skills development and lifelong learning opportunities. During the event, different institutions shared their SSTC experiences on the impact of promoting collaboration and working at a regional level to facilitate the provision of competency based training, assessment and certification, the establishment of regional certification schemes and promoting career and vocational guidance.

Srinivas Reddy, Chief of the ILO Skills and Employability Branch, underlined that “COVID-19 has boosted the digital learning across the education field, including for Technical Vocational Education and Training, and there are many digital products now available from countries in the South that can improve the outreach and the quality of the training delivered. We have however, to remain mindful of the digital divide and work together to find practical ways to overcome it”, recalling that 3.7 billion people are still unable to access Internet services and that partnerships between multilateral institutions are certainly a solution to this challenge.

Mr. Reddy also highlighted that partnership building among the Global South is an essential component of the ILO’s development endeavours.

“The ILO stands ready to work as an enabler and to help pioneering solutions reach a wider range of stakeholders”.

Srinivas Reddy, Chief ILO Skills and Employability Branch

The ILO Skills Virtual Fair, integrated as well a Technology Fair, which represented a clear call on effective partnerships to drive innovation, technology development and transfer. In particular, in overcoming the impact of COVID-19 on skills development. Cynthia Samuel-Olonjuwon, ILO Assistant Director-General and Regional Director for Africa, refered to the role of the ILO on COVID-19 recovery “The ILO works very closely with its tripartite constituents, to ensure that we establish effective skills and lifelong learning systems. In this regard, it is important to recognize that the COVID-19 pandemic has laid bare the inequalities and vulnerabilities in our societies. It has also made particularly clear the consequences of an unacceptable broad digital divide between countries, but also within countries.” The crisis demands a global response from all key stakeholders to work closer together on innovative solutions.

During the event, partnerships were reaffirmed as fundamental to strengthening the capabilities of societies and addressing the skills needed for the future of work. Participants had the opportunity to present innovations, engage and exchange knowledge and experiences directly with others to broaden their networks and build partnerships. As a direct positive result of the two-days virtual event, six new partnerships were developed across different thematic areas such as apprenticeships, the rural economy, competency based standards, and others, among partners from South Africa, India, Switzerland, Democratic Republic of Congo, Vietnam, Brazil and Tanzania.