Vocational education can make a big difference in reducing poverty, helping people acquire the skills they need to be economically active and take part in society, giving them prospects and access to decent pay and improved incomes.
Basic education and vocational education and training strengthen economies in an innovative way. There are many people – especially young people – who face unemployment or underemployment. At the same time companies urgently need skilled workers. Switzerland has extensive know-how which it can use to provide assistance in the education sector. It is no accident that vocational education and training has long been a pillar of Swiss development cooperation. A strong culture of entrepreneurship is another of the country's transferable strengths.
Switzerland works to promote basic education and vocational education and training courses which are accessible to all and enable lifelong learning.
This year's Annual Development Cooperation Conference takes a look at vocational education and training in different countries, sheds light on specific challenges and shows how vocational education and training can create local prospects for people. The focus is on young people who are affected by unemployment and underemployment. The aim is to work with these young people to find ways to help them access employment, an approach which fights poverty while strengthening the economy.
Federal Councillor Johann N. Schneider-Amman will launch the conference, highlighting why vocational education and training is the key to success – and the demand in other countries for Switzerland's know-how in this area.
In Burkina Faso, Switzerland is promoting vocational education and training in skilled crafts and trades, farming and livestock, and the forestry sector. The programme interconnects vocational education and training with basic education, incorporating elements of Switzerland's successful dual vocational system. The advantage of the Swiss system is that it meets the needs of both young people and the economy. The link with basic education is important because young people need a solid foundation to be able to progress in their learning, train successfully and gain a foothold on the job market – a foundation they often do not have.
In Nepal around 450,000 young people enter the labour market each year – over 80% of whom have no formal qualifications. The innovative Employment Fund increases employment by offering flexible short and medium-term training programmes and courses for people wanting to start their own business. Training geared to the job market and private sector involvement are key elements of Switzerland's efforts to promote vocational education. In this context, the conference will also address the impact vocational education and training projects can have on migration.
After the break, Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, the former foreign minister and finance minister of Nigeria, will give a keynote speech discussing the importance of vocational education and training from an African perspective.
Swiss know-how to encourage entrepreneurship: the private-sector-focused Swiss Entrepreneurship Programme supports local entrepreneurs in various countries. The programme in Peru shows what factors encourage an 'ecosystem for entrepreneurship' – and what innovative, sustainable measures Switzerland can use to support this.
Finally, members of the Swiss parliament will discuss the topic with representatives of the SDC and SECO.
At the conference, partner organisations will present their vocational education and training projects for visitors to browse before or after the conference and during the breaks.