Development practitioners increasingly see skills development as a way to improve the employment and incomes of the poor. However, findings on the effectiveness of such trainings are typically mixed. Only programmes that entail linkages with the labour market have had a significant impact. Even with such linkages in place, what has worked and what has failed in implementation and impact?
This rapid review focuses on practitioner literature about non-state provision of skills development in South Asia. Non-state providers discussed in the literature include for-profit training institutes, businesses, non-profit NGOs, and employers’ and workers’ unions. It finds there is little rigorous knowledge about non-state provision of skills development in South Asia.
Positive results and impact:
- A number of non-state providers have performed well (Bangladesh, India and Pakistan), offering good access for disadvantaged groups and improved employment and income for their trainees. One project involving the private sector in non-state provision through competency-based training led to a dramatic increase in completion rate in Sri Lanka. Several approaches have supported skills development for women and girls in India, and for persons with disabilities in Bangladesh.
- Adapting training access, contents, support and post-graduation orientation to group-specific contexts (poor, ultra-poor, women and girls, persons with disabilities), lived experiences and structural constraints is important. Using participatory approaches with both trainees and private actors, and equipping trainers with specialised capacities to train disadvantaged groups contributes to this success.
Limitations and challenges range from the poor performance of many non-state providers in South Asia, to the lack of access and usefulness of trainings for disadvantaged groups (Bangladesh, India, Pakistan), and a lack of involvement by the private sector (Bangladesh, India).
Cross-cutting factors creating challenges:
- low social prestige, or even stigma, of TVET across the region
- tension between the profit motive of some providers and their mission to build the capacities of the less skilled (e.g. India)
- lack of resources and capacities to ensure training quality, especially in informal settings (India, Pakistan)
- deficiencies in the institutional public framework for skills development (e.g. a focus on short-term trainings in India)
- inequalities and stratification such as caste and gender, especially in informal sectors (e.g. India).
Group-specific factors contribute to the difficulties of the poor and persons from lower castes, women and girls, persons with disabilities, and youth (Bangladesh, India and Pakistan). One common problem is formal barriers, such as education requirements, and financial barriers, through direct costs and opportunity costs (e.g. transportation). Another is social norms and stigma that push these groups into lesser options. A third one is the inadequacy of training services, offers and connections to employment in light of these groups’ special needs.