The Colombo Plan Staff College’s International Conference on TVET Skills Development for Poverty Alleviation (SDPA), Entrepreneurship and Employability, held from June 22 to 23, 2015 at the Marco Polo Hotel in Ortigas Center, Pasig City, Philippines, convened 165 delegates from 16 Asia-Pacific countries. The conference provided a platform for discussions on strategies and programs on addressing escalating poverty issues through TVET skills development, entrepreneurship and building capacity for employability. The country delegates from Bangladesh, Bhutan, China, Fiji, India, Japan, Korea, Malaysia, Maldives, Mongolia, Myanmar, Nepal, Pakistan, the Philippines, Sri Lanka, and Thailand joined hands in concurrence to the “Marco Polo Pact: Journey to Zero Poverty” drawn from the 2-day conference.
The Marco Polo pact, in a capsule, puts forward commitment towards: strengthened synergy to link relevant sectors and agencies for poverty alleviation; effective policies and strategies that recognize the diversity and complexity of poverty issues; entrepreneurship education and in-service training of trainers; enhancement of training programs integrating life-long learning; creation of highly employable programs for new breed highly-skilled and entrepreneurial-oriented individuals; development of globally accepted indicators and standards to assess the impact of poverty alleviation programs; advocacy on strategic public-private-community partnership (PPCP) models; quality TVET for competitiveness and work mobility; improve access to programs for learners and adults including technical, vocational skills and generic; community participation and social entrepreneurship and; encouragement of potential investors to undertake micro-financing for micro-entrepreneurs.
The conference as a culminating activity of the last phase of the implementation of the CPSC-Government of India project dubbed as “Asia Pacific Capacity Building on TVET Skills for Poverty Alleviation Project for Technical Human Resource Development”. A grant of USD 500,000 in 2010 afforded the CPSC-GOI project of spearheading efforts of facilitation for creating meaningful initiatives in addressing escalating poverty concerns in the region through TVET skills development. Through the project CPSC played its role and maximized its expertise in capacity building of trainers to be champion leaders through conduct of 13 Special In-Country Programs for Capacity Building of Champion Leaders for TVET Skills Development for Poverty Alleviation in line with the SDPA Champion Leaders Development Program of the project. Additionally 2 international conferences and 4 regional seminars were held within these special in-country training programs. Around 400 champion leaders benefited from the programs.
His Excellency Lalduhthlana Ralte, Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary, Embassy of India in the Philippines, in his Inaugural Address emphasized the Government of India’s complete understanding of the chronic incidence of poverty not only in his country but in most countries in Asia. Thus, he said, the need for South-South cooperation to “share the knowledge in the spirit of solidarity among countries, sharing a common path towards economic and social collaboration.”
He stated that the Government of India is happy to have collaborated with CPSC as a lead organization for human resources development in TVET.” He hoped that “all of us gathered and those who have contributed to this project during its implementation will continue to engage in useful deliberations by appreciating innovative approaches, exchanging experiences and best practices, identifying issues and challenges, and further taking new initiatives that will contribute to the success of the CPSC-India Project.”
The CPSC Governing Board Chairman and the Deputy Director General for Technical Education and Skills Development Operations of TESDA, Atty. Teodoro Pascua, underscored in his felicitation address that TVET is a potent solution to eliminate poverty, a promising solution as it already shows that it lifts the nation out of poverty in a shorter period of time. He conveyed his profound gratitude to the Government of India in spearheading this initiative. He also encouraged Malaysia, one of the successful countries in terms of poverty alleviation, to lead the way towards poverty alleviation in the member countries.
Dr. Mohammad Naim Yaakub, CPSC Director General, welcomed the 16-member-country delegation for this year’s international conference on TVET skills development for poverty alleviation, entrepreneurship and employability which serves as the culminating activity of the flagship collaborative project by CPSC and the Government of India (India). In a nutshell he shared how the project has trained nearly 400 champion leaders which in turn passed on the knowledge to over 1,000 individuals, creating skills on micro-finance, social entrepreneurship and poverty alleviation. Dr. Naim emphasized that education is the only way to reduce poverty and increase productivity for nation-building. Learning through each member country’s experiences brings the countries to their goal of eradicating poverty altogether. He expressed his high appreciations to the role of the Government of India in addressing the common concerns of the project. Lastly, he encouraged all the attendees to contribute in the fight against “public enemy number one” which is poverty.
The Director General of the Technical Education for Skills Development Authority (TESDA), Philippines, Secretary Joel Villanueva, sent his congratulations to CPSC and to all the participants of the conference through Director Irene Isaac, Deputy Director General (Policies and Planning). The Special Address stressed that “there is so much to share and discuss in TVET and poverty alleviation. The accomplishments of the India – supported CPSC project since 2010 have definitely benefitted the countries in the region”. She applauded the work initiated by the Champion leaders but said that "we need more champion leaders in the region that we cannot rest on what has been accomplished so far and should make TVET the vehicle for uplifting the quality of life and the dignity of the poor."
Shri Hemendra K Sharma, Director (Technical Cooperation), Ministry of External Affairs, Government of India who represented Shri Kumar Tuhin, Joint Secretary (Development Partnership Administration), said that India has been in partner with CPSC in implementing the Skills Development for Poverty Alleviation (SDPA) program to bridge skills gap, build capacity of partner countries and create long term solutions to poverty issues. The Special In-Country Programs conducted through the project provided linkages in the field of TVET for human development, economic growth and development of strong nation.
Twenty-one (21) notable panelists composed of entrepreneurship and TVET experts, administrators, policy makers, and educators in the region presented their insights and expertise on the fight against poverty through the following plenary sessions: 1: Initiatives and Strategies for Poverty Reduction in Asia and the Pacific Region; 2: Poverty Alleviation and Rural Development and; 3: Building Skills for Youth Employability, and; 4: Initiatives and TVET Best Practices for Poverty Alleviation in Asia Pacific Region.
The following panel speakers shared their insights, expertise, programs, strategies, experiences and various undertakings on entrepreneurship, employability and skills building in view of contributing to poverty elimination: Mr. Sungsup Ra, Director, Human and Social Development Program, ADB, Philippines; Dr. Suresh K. Dhameja, Professor/Head, Entrepreneurship Development, National Institute of Technical Teachers Training and Research (NITTTR), India; Dr. Hidetoshi Miyakawa, Professor, College of Contemporary Education, Japan; Mr. Kamrul Hassa Tarafder, President, ASA Philippines Foundation; Dato’ Mohlis bin Jaafar, Director General of the Department of Polytechnic Education, Ministry of Higher Education, Malaysia; Dato’ Amir bin Mohammad Noor, Director General, Department of Community College Education Malaysia; Dr. Ram Hari Lamichhane, Member Secretary, Council for Technical Education and Vocational Training (CTEVT), Nepal; and Dr. Raman Gujral, Regional Coordinator, Entrepreneurship Development Institute, India.
CPSC’s member country participants from Bangladesh, Bhutan, Fiji, India, Malaysia, Maldives, Myanmar, Nepal, Pakistan, the Philippines, Sri Lanka and Thailand also shared their country’s programs and various efforts on achieving each country’s poverty reduction goals.
The international conference consisted of two major components. The first component focused on the efforts made by the development partners in alleviating poverty through skills development. This was further emphasized by the outcomes of the projects/action plans developed by the participants under SDPA Champion Leaders Development Program. The program involved TVET experts from the academe and development agencies/IGOs/NGOs that have established systems and framework for reducing poverty and has implemented significant activities that highlights their success in implementing poverty alleviation mechanisms. The second component was oriented towards providing a venue for displaying the summative endeavors of CPSC member countries and brought together selected participants from the 13 member countries that have successfully implemented the SDPA Programs. These participants have received training from CPSC and are seen to be actively involved in the implementation of TVET SDPA. The projects implemented were anchored on the action plans developed during their participation in the SDPA training programs in their home countries.
Furthermore, the conference aimed to achieve the following:
1. Facilitate interest and commitment towards skills development for poverty alleviation, entrepreneurship, and employability.
2. Initiate a cross-sharing of experiences, issues and challenges, best practices and approaches.
3. Propagate ideas necessary for successful poverty alleviation programs.
To highlight CPSC’s undertakings in contributing to endeavors related to the broader landscape of poverty elimination, by enhancing the quality of TVET systems through its Asia Pacific Accreditation and Certification Commission, a special APACC Awards was held in conjunction with the SDPAEE Conference Dinner in the evening of June 22. The awarding ceremonies conferred Gold, Silver and Bronze accreditation levels to TVET institutions in Malaysia, Mongolia and the Philippines. A certificate of Recognition was also given to representatives from India and Thailand, countries which are preparing to undergo APACC accreditation. (see related story on Special APACC Awarding Ceremonies)
The conference also provided an opportunity for CPSC’s industry partners in showcasing their products and innovations through booth exhibits put up in the conference venue. Companies such as the Shangai Jingge Technology Co., Ltd., (JinggeTech), a company based in Shanghai, China, displayed some of their technologies centered on the automotive industry; Labtech International Ltd. displayed several updates regarding the upcoming technologies on the field of robotics and innovative TVET operations; Hytec Power, Inc. meanwhile showcased some of the energy-saving technologies and the role that TVET played in developing and enhancing their respective operations; lastly, the Dipolog School of Fisheries, a Bronze-level APACC-accredited institute based in Dipolog City, Zamboanga del Norte, Philippines, provided samples of the food products created by their institution namely bottled sardines, herring, milkfish, achara (sour papaya preserve) and kropeck.
A part of the exhibit was CPSC’s own display of some of its publications including the “Research and TVET Made Easy”, “Caring for the Hands that Cared for Us”, “Scholarly Technical Education Publication Series (STEPS)” and other important informational materials regarding its core services. CPSC’s Asia Pacific Accreditation and Certification Commission (APACC) development, achievements and some of his publications and materials was nonetheless highlighted in the CPSC booth.
The 2-day event ended in high spirits with a new mission to spread its benefits to more stakeholders and beneficiaries in the region. “The Marco Polo Pact: Journey to Zero Poverty”, synthesizing the findings of the conference as well as the recommendations from the paper presentations, was delivered by the conference’s Program Coordinator and CPSC Faculty Consultant, Prof. Dr. G. Kulanthaivel.
A most significant outcome of the conference is the “The Marco Polo Pact: Journey to Zero Poverty” which details the conclusions and recommendations of the SDPA international conference delegates as follows:
Cognizant of the realities that TVET alone cannot provide an encompassing solution to the problem of poverty, the International Conference on Skills Development for Poverty Alleviation, Entrepreneurship and Employability, puts forward the following recommendations.
1. Strengthen synergy to link relevant sectors and agencies that possess the capacity to initiate, implement and fund poverty alleviation programs to get maximum coordination.
2. Reinforce efforts to tackle poverty among marginalized groups such as women, rural youth, informal economy workers, unorganized sectors, and persons with disabilities in the region through effective policies and strategies that recognize the diversity and complexity of the problem of poverty.
3. Provide entrepreneurship education for students and potential trainers across all programs and levels as well as in-service training of trainers.
4. Enhance training programs integrating life-long learning to ensure the creation of individuals that are capable of solving problems even beyond formal schooling.
5. Emphasize the need to link enrollment to employment by focusing on highly employable programs that will not only generate graduates but create a new breed of highly-skilled individuals with entrepreneurial drive and acumen.
6. Develop globally accepted indicators and standards to assess the impact of poverty alleviation programs.
7. Advocate strategic public-private-community partnership (PPCP) models at national and local level to address specific programs for poverty alleviation.
8. Ensure quality TVET for competitiveness and mobility of work force in the region initiated by agencies such as Asia Pacific Accreditation and Certification Commission (APACC).
9. Improve access to programs for learners and adults including technical, vocational skills and generic skills.
10. Increase community participation and social entrepreneurship in the localities.
11. Realize value innovation by applying the Create-Raise-Reduce-Eliminate grid treating uncontested new areas in the TVET system using the Blue Ocean Strategy.
12. Encourage potential investors to undertake micro-financing as a viable scheme for creating a large pool of micro-entrepreneurs.