A small country with a big challenge to overcome – Sri Lanka

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Sri Lanka is a small country with a large, yearly population growth rate.  As it stands, this little island is home to 20.48 million people – close to the population of Australia.

Stick fishermen of Sri Lanka.
Stick fishermen of Sri Lanka.

And for the youth of Sri Lanka, it’s tough.  They’re unskilled and over a quarter (25.1%) of them are unemployed.  It’s a huge challenge the country is working to tackle, and if Sri Lanka plans to sustain their annual 8% GDP growth goal, a highly skilled workforce is needed.

Modernising Sri Lanka’s education system

Basic cognitive and job-specific skills are lacking in Sri Lanka.  Each year, approximately 140,000 students complete general education without having acquired job-related skills.  The Government of Sri Lanka has recognised the potential role of the Technical Vocational Education Training (TVET) system to close the gap.

Government is increasing the accessibility of training to help connect with youth leaving school.  Entrepreneurship programs and career guidance is also on the agenda.

And there’s the TVET policy framework, which was developed in 2010 to ensure a quality TVET provision in Sri Lanka.  It aims to meet both local and international skills demand, in line with the country’s socio-economic development objectives.  This is achieved through facilitating demand-driven, employment oriented, relevant and outcome-based TVET at all levels.

Those who completed general education at any level after eighth grade could join the TVET system and undertake progressive growth up to degree level with National Vocational Qualification (NVQ) – according to a recent article in Sri Lanka’s Daily News.

With courses in 23 industry sectors, from building and tourism to agriculture and textiles, there are many potential career paths available.

When it comes to up skilling women, it’s a cultural and social debate, too.  A recent article looked at this issue, uncovering that being married and having young children significantly reduces the probability of paid employment.  This illustrates the need for a focus of introducing more women into the workforce.

Sri Lanka & Korea shaking hands

Two Asian countries, Sri Lanka and Korea, have agreed to develop the two new vocational centres: Gampaha Technical College and the Orugodawatta Vocational Training Centre at the Ministry Auditorium.  The project is estimated to cost $31.8 million (US).

The Minister said that for Sri Lanka to become the ‘Wonder of Asia’, vocational education reform is needed and he believes unemployment leads to youth unrest in the country.

He added that of 340,000 children who start grade one, only 30,000 continue onto universities and hopes this is the start of change.

Developing the talent pool

As Sri Lanka’s economy has grown, it’s shifted from agriculture to higher value services.  As a result, a more diverse and skilled workforce is needed.  By honing in one the full potential of their youth, Sri Lanka will boost economic growth and become more competitive on the world stage.

While the country has a long way to go, it’s on the right path.

If you would like to know more about co-designing TVET strategies workforce opportunities in your own region, country or industry, please contact Wendy Perry at wendy@wb.switchstartscale.com.au.

December 2016

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