|Non-formal Vocational Training Programmes for Disadvantaged Youth and their Insertion into the World of Work: Towards a Framework for Analysis and Evaluation (IIEP, 1999, 46 p.)|
This study has attempted to discuss parameters for assessing vocational training provisions for the disadvantaged youth population of developing countries, placing special focus on non-formal - governmental and non-governmental - structures. The suggested parameters for the evaluation of non-formal vocational training programmes have been inferred from a wider discussion on the available training provisions for disadvantaged youth in the developing world and its integration into a more comprehensive approach to social development.
In the first section of this report, the problem of disadvantaged youth's insertion into the world of work has been analyzed within a broader perspective, which takes into account unemployment trends and demographic growth; the limitations of formal educational and parallel vocational training systems as well as the rise and expansion of the informal sector. As has been argued, the problem of disadvantaged youth's unemployment has, in fact, become much more acute in developing countries over the past two decades. The disadvantaged youth unemployment phenomenon in developing countries seems to result from the combined effect of population growth and the incapacity of the formal/modem sector of the labour market to absorb new entrants. Furthermore, authors have been consistently pointing to the school-work mismatch which has been taking place during the past decades. While the conventional school system has been criticized for no longer being able to guarantee graduates wage-employment within the formal sector, and has been said to impact on disadvantaged youth's informal sector activities only through a process of negative selection, parallel vocational training systems have also been considered to be costly and restricted in their reach, since they require the entrants' completion of primary-school grades. Moreover, there is disagreement in the literature on whether the latter should or could be adapted to the needs of the informal sector. The informal or traditional sector of the labour market in developing countries has been described as the only option to open unemployment in the formal sector of rural towns and urban cities. This sector has also been the focus of policies and regulations in so far as it accounts for 30 to 60 per cent of non-agricultural employment in developing countries.
The second part of this report has stressed the changes and adaptations that the labour market as well as the educational and training systems have undergone as a result of the severe crisis that characterized the 1980s. The phenomenon of the 'informalization of the economy' was described as the expansion and growing complexity of the informal sector, now encompassing pre-entrepreneurs and entrepreneurs. The dynamic nature of the informal sector has led educational planners to approach it from a more positive viewpoint. Conventional educational and training systems have been, to a certain extent, undergoing further democratization, through programme re-orientation and system decentralization, so as to better respond to rural and urban informal sector realities, as well as to local youth's needs and interests. Finally, non-formal vocational training programmes - the alternative to the conventional training provisions - have been analyzed in greater depth, in terms of their goals, organizational structures and training modalities. The advantages and disadvantages of non-formal training structures have also been discussed, revealing that, though more flexible than formal structures, they are financially more fragile and seem to lack the appropriate co-ordinating schemes which would make them more effective and viable in the long run.
The third part of this document suggests a framework for the study and evaluation of non-formal vocational training programmes, which encompasses three major parameters -success, innovation and sustainability. It is argued that these three elements are in fact intimately connected and that it becomes difficult to analyze one without considering the other two. Success features are broken down into three levels - macro, intermediate and micro - to the extent that any action within the area of training provision for disadvantaged youth in developing countries can only be analyzed from an interdependent and integrated perspective. Furthermore, innovative approaches within the context of training for disadvantaged youth seem to coincide with those which creatively build on resources, joint efforts or co-ordinate complementary service. Sustainability acquires, in this specific area, the meaning of visibility and strength. It is argued, in turn, that this may be achieved through a more efficient information system which would disseminate accumulated knowledge, thereby facilitating inter-institutional and intersectoral co-ordination. Finally, the importance of a supportive environment, such as the possibility of programme leavers obtaining loans or credit for starting up a small business, has also been emphasized as it is a recurrent theme in the literature.
Therefore, it seems that non-formal vocational training programmes are essentially dependent on a set of comprehensive strategies at the macro level, and on supportive approaches (also referred to as the 'enabling environment for micro enterprises') at the intermediate level, which simultaneously concern government authorities, local communities (and disadvantaged youth) as well as programme organizers. At the same time, as Blaug (1973:p.13) contended over two decades ago, the doctrine of general inter-dependence -everything depends on everything else - can become a perfect excuse for doing nothing. Thus, the same author adds that: there are spheres of relative autonomy; if this were not so, piecemeal improvement in any one direction would be doomed at the start. In this sense, training also is but a piecemeal strategy, though an important part of a complex whole which needs to be better understood, analyzed and assessed. Meaningful improvement in the area of non-formal vocational training programmes for disadvantaged youth could thus start with a closer examination of what provisions have been made available to this specific population, followed by analysis of: (i) programme aspects which have proved to be more or less successful; (ii) strategies and approaches which stand out as particularly innovative in this area and, finally, (iii) the means through which the necessary support has been obtained.