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7.4.1 Governance and organisation

Once again, little or no systematic research has been undertaken on the governance and organisational arrangements of national training systems in developing countries. In particular, little is known about recent attempts that have been made to improve the level of representation and thus the power and influence of the poor in governance structures and with what results. Similarly, virtually nothing is known about specific organisational changes that have been made in an attempt to ensure that the special training needs of the poor are adequately catered for.

As noted earlier, truly national vocational training systems do not exist in any meaningful sense in most developing countries. The prevailing reality is one of a mass of disparate, uncoordinated activities of training institutions both within the public sector and between the public and private sector. As a result, policymakers have little idea of how the totality of training resources are being allocated to different end users in both the formal and informal sectors.

What sort of training system is desirable? Vocational training activities are spread across too many ministries for it to be possible or even desirable for one ministry or agency to have direct responsibility for all publicly funded training activities and overall regulation of training provision. However, serious consideration should be given to the establishment of a high powered Skills Development Agency (SDA) which has the authority and capacity to advise government on all aspects of policy, in particular training priorities and related (public) resource allocations. As a part of its overall mandate, this agency should focus on skills development for the poor. The SDA should not normally be attached to a specific ministry, but should rather be located at the apex of government and directly responsible to the head of government. It should have strong in-house research capacity as well as resources to commission research from outside organisations.

Ensuring that the training needs of the poor are not marginalised in the decision making processes of such an apex organisation is a key issue. The typical committee structure of most national manpower advisory boards (or their equivalent) only covers the main industrial sectors and/or trades in the formal sector and thus the training needs of the poor are not properly addressed.

A number of governance reform options need to be carefully considered. The first is to leave existing governance and other organisational structures unchanged and hope that external political pressures supporting greater attention to the training needs of the poor will be effective. This is essentially what has happened in most developing countries. However, without any significant change in the power of vested interests, training policies and resource allocations have remained largely unchanged.

The second option is to leave the existing organisational structures and public sector training institutions largely intact, but increase the representation of the poor and other disadvantaged groups in the overall governance of the training system. To be effective, this requires the abandonment of traditional tripartite governance arrangements for a multipartite model which includes new training constituencies. Where the political will exists, it is entirely possible for governments to ensure strong representation of pro-poor stakeholders on apex boards and lower level committees. But opposition from employers, and other established stakeholders (including trade unions) is likely to be considerable which, in turn, could threaten to undermine training objectives for the formal sector.

Thirdly, an entirely separate training system for the poor could be established. The rationale for this is that the training needs and the process of skill development among the poor are so different from enterprises and individuals in the formal sector that only a network of specialist training institutions can properly cater to these needs. Just as sectoralisation of training provision is a dominant trend in the formal sector, so it is desirable to establish a separate network of training institutions for the poor. The basic premise here is that the dual purpose of training systems, namely to train for the advantaged in the formal sector and the poor and disadvantaged in the informal sector cannot be resolved efficiently and effectively within the same system of training provision.

One of the main problems with this proposal is that setting up a parallel training system runs the danger of marginalising rather than mainstreaming skill development among the poor, just as the establishment of women's units in ministries and separate Ministries of Women's Affairs have been criticised for 'ghettoising' women.

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References: Learning to change: Skills development among the economically vulnerable and socially excluded in developing countries
By International Labour Organization

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As the world's only tripartite multilateral agency, the ILO is dedicated to bringing decent work and livelihoods, job-related security and better living standards to the people of both poor and rich countries. It helps to attain those goals by promoting rights at work, encouraging opportunities for decent employment, enhancing social protection and strengthening dialogue on work-related issues. The ILO is the international meeting place for the world of work. We are the experts on work and employment and particularly on the critical role that these issues play in bringing about economic development and progress. At the heart of our mission is helping countries build the institutions that are the bulwarks of democracy and to help them become accountable to the people. The ILO formulates international labour standards in the form of Conventions and Recommendations setting minimum standards of basic labour rights: freedom of association, the right to organize, collective bargaining, abolition of forced labour, equality of opportunity and treatment and other standards addressing conditions across the entire spectrum of work-related issues.
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