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Skills Training Boosts Livelihoods in the Asia-Pacific

05 February 2015


The goal of our training program is to help individuals improve their status in society by acquiring new skills and enabling them to participate in the growing economy. Our program collaborates with local Japanese-affiliated firms on the ground in APEC member economies. The firms supply both the training and the facilities.

In a classroom lined with computers, unemployed youth in Jakarta, Indonesia learn HTML and JavaScript programming for designing websites.  This training program is part of an Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) and Japan Vocational Ability Development Association (JAVADA) initiative to upgrade human resources in the region by providing vocational training in collaboration with the private sector.

Public-private vocational training model

“The goal of our training program is to help individuals improve their status in society by acquiring new skills and enabling them to participate in the growing economy,” explained Kazumitsu Takahashi, who manages the project as Chief Officer for Technical Cooperation on Vocational Training, Overseas Cooperation Division of the Human Resources Development Bureau at the Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare in Japan.

“Our program collaborates with local Japanese-affiliated firms on the ground in APEC member economies. The firms supply both the training and the facilities. This model also helps ensure the skills meet the needs of the private sector, and in turn, increases the employability of the trainee,” added Takahashi.

In 2015, as APEC prioritizes human capital development and equitable growth for all members of society, this public-private vocational training project—which has been running for eighteen years—shows the benefits of APEC’s efforts to boost workforce capacity in the Asia-Pacific.

As an outcome of the APEC Human Resources Development Framework adopted by Ministers in 1994, the APEC Human Resources Development Working Group launched the vocational training project in 1996. Over the last eighteen years, the project has trained 16,533 participants in ten APEC economies, including recently in Chile, Indonesia, Mexico, Peru, the Philippines, Thailand and Viet Nam. As a result of the course work, many students either procured better jobs or launched entrepreneurial ventures.

New web skills, new jobs for Indonesia

In Jakarta, Indonesia, around three-quarters of the trainees who attended the web design classes at the Matsushita Gobel Institute in 2014, went on to find a job or start their own company.

The Matsushita Gobel Institute, established to cultivate Indonesia’s human resource base, is part of the Matsushita Gobel Foundation affiliated with Panasonic, a Japanese multinational company.

“The Indonesian government is focusing on developing small and medium enterprises (SMEs),” explained Aviana Tjokro, Executive Director of the Matsushita Gobel Foundation-Matsushita Gobel Institute in Jakarta. “As part of this goal, the Matsushita Gobel Institute is helping supply workforce training to support and stimulate SME development in Indonesia.”

“In 2014, we developed a new curriculum for web design and programming,” added Tjokro.

Initiated in 1979 through the shared vision of Konosuke Matsushita, founder of Panasonic, and Thayeb M. Gobel, founder of the Panasonic Group in Indonesia, the Matsushita Gobel Institute has educated more than 65,000 people—helping to improve labor readiness in Indonesia. As part of the APEC vocational training project, the Institute has offered courses on mechanical engineering and electronics, information technology, and basic manufacturing since 1999.

Low-income community in Chile gets skills

On the other side of the Pacific, in the remote farming region of La Araucania in Chile, south of Santiago, unemployed youth received hands-on training for industrial skills required to operate a water treatment plant.  As part of the APEC project, the course was organized by Aguas Araucania, a private company that manages production and distribution of potable water as well as collection and treatment of wastewater in La Araucania.

“The Araucania region lacks skilled labor for many of our lines of work,” said Jose Torga, Regional Manager of Aguas Araucania, owned by parent company Marubeni Corporation, a Japanese conglomerate, and Innovation Network Corporation of Japan (INCJ).

“The region is one of the lowest-income communities in Chile and it is difficult for us to find qualified and knowledgeable staff,” added Torga. “Subsequently, we decided to create a course to train students as industrial operators, thus providing the skills for the local workforce to apply for various jobs in our region.”

The course was divided into three levels: basic industrial operator, industrial operator for the production of drinking water and industrial operator for the distribution of potable water.

“The idea was that, at the end of the course, the students would understand the whole process involved to obtain, produce and deliver clean water to the community. The competencies taught in the training course are also applicable to other industries as the course offered know-how on industrial instruments, industrial sites, regulations, procedures and security protocols,” explained Torga.

46 individuals received coaching on industrial operations for drinking water and potable water treatment in 2013 and 43 per cent have gone on to secure jobs in this sector.

Win-win situation: better livelihoods

Across the Asia-Pacific, the APEC vocational project has been upgrading the region’s human capital to meet industry needs. In the Philippines, CBK Power Company trained 305 participants in welding, electrical wiring and electronics in 2009.  In Peru in 2009 and 2010, Toyota Del Peru offered instruction to 187 students on vehicle diagnostics and electronics while in Mexico, Toyota Motor Sales taught courses for 227 individuals on sales techniques, communication and ways to capture new customers.

“It’s a win-win situation for both the private firms giving the courses and the students receiving the coaching,” said Takahashi. “The firms get a workforce with the necessary skills and the students get better jobs.”

“In the long-run, by nurturing labor skills and improving livelihoods, the people and economies of the Asia-Pacific are the ultimate winners,” concluded Takahashi.

The APEC Preparatory Meeting on the High Level Policy Dialogue on Human Capacity Building is currently addressing these and other related issues on 2-4 February 2015 in Subic Bay, the Philippines.

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