Helping Nepal reform its technical and vocational education system to produce a skilled workforce that meets present-day demands

Remittance has long been playing a major role in shaping Nepal’s economy. Even before the First World War the country was a noted supplier of labor force. Only recently has Nepal started drawing attention as one of the most remittance-reliant countries in the world. Records show that in Fiscal Year 2018/2019, Nepal received US$7.5 billion (NRs 879.3 billion) in remittances (US$6.2 billion in the first eight month of the Fiscal Year 2019/2020), which placed the country fourth on the list of economies with the largest share of remittance making up the GDP (Ministry of Labour, Employment and Social Security).

More troubling, however, is the fact that only around one percent of workers going abroad in the labor market are skilled. Skilling the unskilled would not only significantly improve the remittance flow but also address the shortage of skilled workforce in the domestic labour market. There is huge potential to generate local employment if the supply side caters to the needs of domestic industries facing a crunch of skilled labour.

UNDP has been supporting Nepal in reforming its technical and vocational education and training (TVET) system to help the country produce a skilled workforce to meet the present-day demands of the local job market while engaging in gainful employment.

This support could not have come at a better time for Nepal. The country’s Prime Minister K.P. Sharma Oli, in his first official speech after assuming office in February 2018, had announced government plans to establish a technical-vocational institute in each of 753 local levels.

So far, the government has established TVET institutes in each of the 547 Palikas (local governments). The aim is to ensure all 753 Palikas have at least one TVET institute. These institutes have helped the government set the targets and indicators of TVET under SDG 4 and to develop “Sustainable Development Goal 4: Nepal National Framework” which aims to ensure equal access to affordable and quality TVET for all girls/women and boys/men.

Investment in the TVET is also crucial if Nepal is to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), particularly SDG4, which aims to eliminate gender disparities in education and ensure equal access to all levels of education and vocational training for the vulnerable, including persons with disabilities, indigenous peoples and children in vulnerable situations.

Redesigning Nepal’s TVET policy

Nepal has multiple specific legislations such as the Labour Act, Industrial Enterprise Act, CTEVT Act, and Youth Act—that aim at promoting technical and vocational education and training in sectors such as labour, industries and youth. Unfortunately, the existing laws work in isolation, meaning that there is no unified approach to seamlessly govern the TVET sector through integrated funding and programming approaches, such as the evidenced-based TVET-Management Information System. To respond to this challenge, UNDP's Support to Knowledge and Lifelong Learning Skills (SKILLS) Programme aided High-level Taskforce of the Ministry of Education, Science & Technology (MoEST) to suggest a new TVET policy and reforms in structural arrangements of CTEVT after organizing nationwide policy dialogue to identify TVET policy gaps. These efforts contributed in formulating the recently endorsed National Education Policy 2019, which aims to ensure affordable “technical education for all” to prepare capable, efficient, competitive and productive human resources for the economic development of the country.

Joint Secretary at MoEST, Mr. Krishna Prasad Kapri, who also served as National Programme Director of the SKILLS Programme, says that the government has given high priority to TVET and has plans for even wider expansion of TVET opportunities at all 753 local levels in the country.

"To achieve this ambitious target, a new strategy must be adopted to better promote the TVET sector in the changed federal context and with full engagement of the private sector. That's why SKILLS helped MoEST to revise the previous TVET policy in order to make it more comprehensive so that it would be more practical and responsive to the present-day demands of the market," he says.

Modernizing the information system and knowledge management

With the support of UNDP, MoEST has established and operationalized a National TVET Management Information System (MIS) that synchronizes TVET related data and information of five federal line ministries.

This consolidated system provides uniform reports and information of over 273,000 trainees who have already received various kinds of technical-vocational training across the country. Having significantly contributed in enhancing coordination between various TVET stakeholders, aiding evidenced-based TVET policy-making and planning and helping avoid duplication of programmes, this exercise could further contribute to the recovery process of COVID-19 by transforming migrants' prior work-based skills and knowledge.

Pashupati Murarka, industrialist and former president of the Federation of Nepalese Chamber of Commerce and Industries (FNCCI), says that at a time when the country's business and industrial sector are struggling to find a steady supply of skilled manpower to expand their operations, the TVET MIS will help in garnering valuable information regarding the kind of skilled workforce produced in the country and finding workers that meet their job requirements.

However, he is of the opinion that the problem of a lack of skilled workers is compounded by the fact that even those that can be considered skilled are not trained to as high as a standard as required by industries.

Kashyap Poudel, past President of the Forum for Health and Technical Science—an association of private technical-vocational education and training providers in Nepal— welcomed the operationalization of the National TVET MIS which he says will provide all TVET-related data from one window. He added that its scope should be widened to provide information related to the TVET programs delivered by 12 federal ministries together with a number of non-organizations, private firms, and projects supported by various donor agencies.  

UNDP worked closely with the Council for Technical Education and Vocational Training (CTEVT) to institutionalize knowledge management and knowledge networking systems in TVET subsector of Nepal through events aimed at the dissemination of findings, lessons learnt, and details of planned activities of various relevant institutions and stakeholders.

SKILL Mapping initiative for job forecast

With a focus on developing a TVET skill mapping of the entire country (an initial skill mapping exercise has been carried out in Province No.5), UNDP SKILLS extended technical support to MoEST and Ministry of Social Development (MoSD) of Sudurpaschim Province to initiate a skill mapping exercise in the Province to identify gaps between demand and supply of human resources. This exercise helps address the need for people’s better livelihood in their own villages or communities. Currently, a GIS-based digital portal has been developed in collaboration and cost-sharing basis with the Ministry of Social Development of the province, which demonstrates a disaggregated demand and supply status of skilled human resources at all the 88 local levels of all nine districts in the province.

For example, the mapping report forecasts that the total number of human resources to be required in the province for the coming three years is 51,542. Engineering is the most demanded skill in the demand list of the province with a projected requirement of 15,542 engineers, followed by agriculture/forestry (10,306), tourism and hospitality (8,218), health (5,407), secretarial management (3,962), handicrafts (2,277), education/pedagogy (787), and others (4,725). While Kailali district has the highest demand of skilled human resources (29,292), Darchula has the lowest (807).  

The exercise also aims to find solutions for enhancing the quality and relevance of TVET opportunities available in the region while identifying current and future needs of local industries to contribute to the rapid economic and social growth of the province. Encouraged by the success of this initiative, the Government of Nepal has expressed commitment to expand this skill mapping exercise to the remaining six provinces of the country.

As part of the efforts to consolidate knowledge and information around TVET, the project also published a Comprehensive TVET Annual Report that collates TVET-related data and information from 10 federal ministries. The publication is expected to help policymakers formulate TVET policies; assist TVET planners, aid TVET providers in analyzing needs, and extend necessary support to researchers for conduction of timely research and studies.

In order to encourage the exchange of knowledge among experts, the project partnered with Diploma Engineers Association of Nepal to organize the International Conference on "Innovations in TVET for Socio-Economic Development." Held in Kathmandu in October 2018, the conference concluded with a Kathmandu Declaration echoing the need for immediate and tangible action from policymakers, educators, technologists, professionals, and TVET practitioners to strengthen and promote the role of TVET. 

Promoting an inclusive workforce

To ensure that the gender equality and social inclusion (GESI) component is adequately identified and addressed in the TVET-subsector, UNDP organized nationwide and provincial events to incorporate GESI as a pivotal issue in the amended TVET policy and sensitize the stakeholders on GESI.

Women and ethnic and sexual minorities are often socially and economically sidelined, hence they require more TVET opportunities if they are to make meaningful contributions to society. UNDP’s Support to Knowledge and Lifelong Learning Skills Programme is working closely with the Government of Nepal to come up with favorable policy changes

to increase the participation of women, indigenous people, disabled people and sexual minorities in economically viable sectors and help the country achieve the Sustainable Development Goals and progress towards reaching middle-income status by 2030.

Actions to keep them in the workforce are likely to include active labour market programmes, including counselling employability skills, job placement, post-placement counselling, apprenticeships; internships, and wage subsidies. Providing information on work opportunities will be essential in conjunction with overcoming the barriers to female employment and entrepreneurship.

Bhumika Shrestha, a transgender activist with the Blue Diamond Society, says people from her community – gays, lesbians, bisexuals, transgenders – suffer greatly at the hands of the State, society, all without any support from their own families and friends. She says, “Therefore, the government as well as the political parties should include social orientation and gender identity in its plans and policies in order to curb discrimination as well as social and economic exclusion meted on our community.”

Story by UNDP Nepal with inputs from Dr. Mukunda Mani Khanal, Anand Vijay Gurung. Photos: UNDP Nepal

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