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close this bookTechnical and Vocational Education and Training in the 21st Century: New Roles and Challenges for Guidance and Counselling (IAC - IAEVG - UNESCO, 2002, 149 p.)
View the document(introduction...)
View the documentPreface
View the documentIntroduction: Counselling and Guidance: International Perspectives, Hans Hoxte
View the documentChapter 1: Understanding the Context of Technical and Vocational Education and Training - William Borgen, Bryan Hiebert
View the documentChapter 2: Building Community Capacity - Diana Aisensen, Lynne Bezanson, Flo Frank, Phyllis Reardon*
View the documentChapter 3: Career Guidance and Counselling for Lifelong Learning in a Global Economy - Raoul Van Esbroeck
View the documentChapter 4: Basic Education and TVET - Howard B. Esbin, PhD
View the documentChapter 5: Reaching Marginalized People: Linking Skills Training and the World of Work - John Grierson, James Schnurr, Craig Young
View the documentChapter 6: Workplace Wellness and Worker Well-Being - Norman Amundson, Jeff Morley
View the documentChapter 7: Building Positive Work Habits and Attitudes - Mary McMahon, Wendy Patton
View the documentChapter 8: Where to from Here? Guidance and Counselling Connecting with TVET - Bryan Hiebert, William Borgen
View the documentBack Cover

Chapter 5: Reaching Marginalized People: Linking Skills Training and the World of Work - John Grierson, James Schnurr, Craig Young

Skills, training, enterprise, and livelihoods

This chapter explores ways in which enterprise approaches to skills training can help marginalized people enter the world of work and why education and training systems should, and how they can, adopt enterprise approaches to skills training for employment, self-employment and enterprise. Emphasis will be placed on enterprise approaches to skills training. This emphasis on enterprise approaches is based on the relative success of such approaches in facilitating the socioeconomic inclusion of marginalized people.

Education, training, employment, enterprise and work are wide-ranging, multifaceted concepts. This chapter uses a number of terms to subsume their diversity and complexity. The term livelihood is used to cover most aspects of the world of work, including employment, self-employment and enterprise. It is a useful conceptualization for two reasons: first, it recognizes and reflects the importance of the economic, social and cultural aspects of the world of work, and second, it is an inherently positive and people-centred concept, taking as its starting point people’s strengths (assets) rather than their needs. A livelihood comprises the capabilities, assets (including both material and social resources) and activities required to earn one’s living. A livelihood is sustainable when it can cope with and recover from stresses and shocks and maintain or enhance its capabilities and assets both now and in the future, without undermining the natural resource base. (see

The term skills training is used as a generic term subsuming formal and informal forms of vocational and technical education and training. Skills are understood to comprise the capabilities needed to successfully enter the work of work, which means to secure a livelihood. Enterprise approaches to skills training for livelihoods are characteristically:

1. demand-driven, and hence responsive to the local socio-economic context;

2. strongly influenced in their characteristics and practices by the needs and perceptions of both those undergoing training (users) and those benefiting from, and often supporting, training (especially enterprises); and

3. underpinned by the capacity of enterprise to facilitate social inclusion and economic empowerment.

The focus of this chapter is on the marginalized. Definitions of the marginalized vary according to place, culture and circumstances, but they are generally understood to include women, youth (particularly out-of-school youth), those with special needs, indigenous peoples, rural and remote populations, and the homeless.

This chapter touches upon the contribution made by technology and open learning in meeting the needs of marginalized people. Technology is used in two senses. First, to refer to the array of production and management skills needed to secure a livelihood in local markets, and second to refer to the rapidly expanding range of information technologies being used to reach and serve marginalized peoples.

Many of the initiatives that reflect these characteristics are new and small-scale such as the United Kingdom’s Citischool, in Milton Keynes, “a school without walls ... [where] instead of moving from class to class, students move from workplace to workplace ... mainly in the city centre” (Citischool, 2002). The origins of the practices used by Citischool, and many other programmes, can usually be traced to programmes established long ago in developing countries, such as the Calcutta Youth Self-Employment Centre (CYSEC) (Grierson, 1997, pp. 21-26) and the vocational training schools of Bangladesh’s Underprivileged Children’s Education Programme (UCEP) (Swiss Development Cooperation, 2001, p. 37). Collectively this growing and global (if still modest) array of initiatives is demonstrating that enterprise-led approaches to skills training can help marginalized people improve their livelihoods in a wide variety of circumstances.

Training works better in a hospitable environment. While training can do little to create livelihood opportunities, it can be a key factor in empowering people to take advantage of available opportunities. Economic growth, the principal means of generating new economic opportunities, is, unfortunately, a blunt instrument, one that does not necessarily generate much-needed opportunities for marginalized people. For this reason there is a growing recognition of the need for pro-poor growth, meaning economic growth that responds directly to the needs and concerns of marginalized peoples. Skills training for the marginalized is most effective when set within the context of pro-poor growth, which provides a “hospitable environment” for it.

Context, challenge and opportunity

Governments and development practitioners are becoming more aware that standard approaches to skills training require fundamental rethinking. This is especially true for programmes serving marginalized people, who in developing countries increasingly seek their livelihoods in the informal sector. Increasing access to skills training alone is not sufficient to overcome the barriers confronting marginalized people, nor is adding on an array of often costly support services following training. Many reform initiatives are limited to one or both of these mechanisms. They are not enough.

Often well-intentioned efforts at guidance and counselling are constrained by the lack of marketable skills among those being counselled, itself a reflection of the dearth of appropriate training opportunities. Guidance and counselling work best and are most efficient when they can focus on two things: first, matching learners with training opportunities that reflect current local market demand and second, facilitating the final steps in the transition from learning to work. At present the low priority given to skills training for the marginalized means that there is often both a shortage of appropriate learning opportunities and a high level of demand for skills that cannot be met. Guidance and counselling can do little to compensate for either of these shortfalls, but can do much to make the process more equitable and more efficient when adequate training opportunities exist that correspond to current market needs.

Systemic change is needed to enable the marginalized to access, absorb and apply livelihood skills (Grierson, 2000, pp. 25-34). These systemic changes need to address what UNESCO has identified as a training crisis (UNESCO, 1996). Grierson describes this as a crisis in three areas: a crisis of cost, a crisis of relevance, and a crisis of equity. Broadly speaking, most conventional forms of skills training cost too much, fail to impart the skills in demand in local markets, and do little to serve those most in need of skills, the socially and economically marginalized (Grierson, 2000, pp. 26-27).

Addressing these crises is a daunting and growing challenge. It is generally accepted that a further one billion children and adults will require education and training in the years to come. This one billion will need to be prepared for a world of work that is becoming increasingly complex and differentiated, yet more integrated and inter-linked. The opportunities emerging are both inequitably distributed and complicated by the challenges of keeping pace with frequent, externally driven and often radical change. The technologies of work and communications, the work environment, learning methodologies and work itself are all in a state of semi-permanent flux. These changes influence all aspects of learning. The world of knowledge and skills transfer is struggling to keep pace with the need to customize skills training to respond to the needs of communities and individuals, and to do so while keeping costs at an acceptable level. The scale and pace of change place a particularly onerous burden on developing countries and countries in transition, where resources are limited and mechanisms for managing market-driven changes are weak.

There are no models or templates that can be broadly applied; the diversity of needs is simply too broad. However, there are approaches that have worked in specific circumstances, and valuable lessons can be learned from these successes that could be relevant to best practice, scaling-up and replication. The potential and the cost-effectiveness of enterprise approaches emerge as clear lessons to be learned, as do the benefits of open, people-centred approaches, the need to seek out and respond to the views of local markets and communities, and the power and effectiveness of information and communication technologies.

The forces of change are forging a new culture of open learning

Demand-driven learning requires more openness and flexibility in training and education. In essence, this creates a new and more challenging learning environment. A fluid combination of economic, technological and social forces is driving this paradigm shift in the culture of education. This new educational culture must respond to demands for increased accessibility from non-traditional clients, many of whom will have had little or no exposure to formal education and training systems. The outcomes they are seeking will not be achieved effectively by continued use of the traditional supply-driven approaches to skills training that are still adopted in most places. Skills training policy must adopt the new, open learning practices in order to offer a flexible array of livelihood path-ways that will enable marginalized people to learn as they work and work as they learn.

The conditions in which marginalized learners pursue their livelihoods, with their fixed and inflexible time frames and schedules, often compel them to forego learning opportunities. Independent, self-driven learning takes the marginalized person’s motivations and constraints into account, and abandons traditional fixed time frames in deference to the learner’s needs. Traditional skills training providers often find such adjustments difficult to make.

The role of technology

Readily available technologies can support the shift to new, open, interactive learning environments that respond to the learners’ needs and wishes. Technologies are readily available that will help marginalized learners to overcome distance and access barriers. These technologies are rapidly becoming cheaper, easier to use, and more effective. The challenge for skills trainers is to design programmes that utilize existing communication and learning technology tools while working with technology providers to improve and expand the range of tools available.

Policies to create opportunity

There is a need to strengthen institutional capacity for delivering training to the poor and marginalized and to encourage institutions to deliver these services. In general, training systems have not developed the attitudes, knowledge and skills needed to help marginalized people take advantage of useful training. This is in part due to the absence of policies to stimulate and guide the integration of enterprise education and livelihoods skills development into the formal education and training curriculum, establish linkages among non-formal and formal training programmes, and build links between training systems and the private sector. Nonetheless, despite a generally accepted view that “in the context of mass poverty in most developing countries, the critical role of training in furnishing badly needed skills ... seems particularly obvious and straightforward” (Bennell, 2000, p. 3), the need to address this problem is all but universal. The United Nations Development Programme’s Human Development Report (UNDP, 2001) reflects the broad reality that training for the marginalized is neither a common policy objective nor generally on offer as a basic social service. Training for the poor and marginalized as a means of poverty reduction is not generally seen as a priority.

Emerging education and vocational training policy

In many developing countries, education and skills development policies are being reformed to bring enterprise education and skills training into the formal curriculum of schools and training institutions. The implementation of these reforms is constrained by two key factors: first, reconciling welfare and poverty alleviation with economic development objectives, and second, the lack of institutional capacity to put social programmes into practice.

The formal education system is typically seen as the entry point to most forms of education and training. There is a need to look outside the formal system in order to create alternative pathways, particularly for marginalized peoples, and to introduce policies to ensure that they reach their destinations In recent decades, non-governmental organizations (NGOs), donors, and private sector institutions have begun to respond to the growing demand for livelihood and enterprise training. Many of their responses offer innovative non-formal training programmes for new labour market entrants which provide much of the training in the workplace. These programmes tend to be disconnected from formal social policy and do not make a clear distinction between poverty alleviation and broader economic development goals. Many are “one-off” pilot programmes, offering instructive examples which are not well publicized, while their methodologies are rarely replicated. Many of the lessons to be learned from them are straightforward and could be directly and usefully applied if the appropriate policies were introduced. They include the following:

1. many benefits of learner-driven training approaches. Account needs to be taken of the insights and demands of learners both to help identify focus areas that reflect their insights and aspirations and to ensure that training is as accessible as possible. Learners need to be seen as customers.

2. The need to be market responsive. Enterprise-led approaches to training enhance efficiency and impact, first by co-opting the power and resources of the market, and second by closely linking training with local market demand.

3. The importance of the local context. Each community, like each market, is to a degree unique. Community involvement is needed to identify, assess and respond to these unique characteristics. Community involvement helps skills training programmes accommodate the interests of the learners, of the market and of the broader society.

The assimilation of these three lessons calls for considerable flexibility on the part of individual training institutions. Because it requires constant and long-term flexibility, it is management intensive, in terms of both time and skills. This, and the evolution in thinking and practice needed to prioritize and respond to customers, communities and markets, means that the necessary degree of systemic change is unlikely to occur, unless it is mandated and guided by policy.

Multiple pathways to and within the world of work

Over a lifetime, it is typical for the work of the marginalized to proceed in cycles. Often the cycles are overlapping. Self-employment or enterprise activity can follow employment, or the reverse, each often interspersed with periods of unemployment. Frequently there are combinations of several forms of work. Sometimes the process involves the formal sector. More often, particularly in the case of marginalized people, the process unfolds in the informal sector where an increasing portion of the economic activity of marginalized peoples takes place. Over time, changing livelihood demands often compel cyclical changes in work status and encourage opportunistic combinations of employment, self-employment and enterprise. Many individuals alternate regularly between employment and self-employment as their working life progresses. This is particularly true for those who start work early in life, as is characteristic of marginalized people.

In looking at education and training for the informal sector, McGrath, King, Leach and Carr-Hill (1995) identified six pathways to work. They can be broadly summarized in two: (a) from school to employment to self-employment or enterprise, and (b) from school to self-employment or enterprise to employment. As emphasized above, this is by no means a linear or a one-time-only process. Each of these broad avenues subsumes a number of alternative pathways reflecting various levels of schooling, types of work, degrees of formality of training, and other factors (McGrath et al, 1995). The fluid, complex, multidimensional reality of people’s quest for livelihood is such that livelihood support programmes must include both employment strategies and strategies for self-employment and enterprise.

The respective roles of education and training

The diversity described above is a useful weapon in the war on marginalization, and one that is particularly relevant to livelihoods. Seizing the opportunities inherent in this diversity presents a formidable challenge. It is increasingly recognized that systems intended to support one form of work, e.g., employment, must at least understand and often accommodate other forms of work as well. Education and training systems are only now coming to terms with the reality that they can no longer live within the comfortable confines of homogenous clientele hierarchical structures and narrowly-defined objectives. Education and training systems must help people develop the capacities needed to cope with stresses such as loss of work, as well as recognize and create opportunities, such as self-employment, as viable employment alternatives. Education and training each respond to this challenge in quite different ways. While each offers considerable transformation potential the fundamental difference between them is that education makes a broad general contribution to people’s development, while training usually makes a specific and more immediately applicable contribution.

Education is in a very real sense the base asset on which most human capital is built. Education results in the acquisition of general capacities that can be widely applied over time. A solid foundation of education enhances virtually all other efforts to build human capital. This is the rationale behind the many calls for Education For All. Education works best when delivered early, usually at a time when most other options for young people are either impractical (e.g., workplace-based training or training requiring literacy and numeracy) or undesirable (e.g., child labour). Education lends itself to the large-scale systematic delivery of standardized products. Even if only the basics (reading, writing and arithmetic) are addressed, education results in a sustained and synergistic array of civic, social, health and economic benefits (Lauglo, 2000, pp. 17-18).

In terms of human capital enhancement, the ability to access, absorb and apply virtually all employment-related skills is a function of training. However, due to the very different nature of training, there are unlikely to be calls for training for all. With few exceptions, training needs to be both specialized and situation-specific. Training is specialized in the sense that it seeks to impart a precise set of skills for a narrow range of tasks. The application of such skills is most effective when the training-to-work transition is short and the skills imparted closely match work tasks. Training is situation-specific in the sense that it is most effective when it responds to both the aspirations and ideas of those seeking training and the opportunities currently available in highly differentiated, fast-changing local markets. In marked contrast with education, the high levels of specialization and specificity called for in training mean that the large-scale delivery of standardized training programmes is seldom viable (Middleton, Ziderman, & Van Adams, 1993).

A way forward for skills training for marginalized people

This chapter has considered aspects of the widely-recognized crisis of training and emerging evidence that enterprise approaches to skills training can deliver effective skills training for livelihoods to the marginalized. Figure 1, below, draws together and summarizes these elements.

The four factors noted in Figure 1 are interrelated. In virtually all cases, modifying any single factor will affect one or more of the other factors, either positively or negatively. For example, addressing equity and asset enhancement concerns (such as reducing marginalization) often increases costs and complexity, aspects that, if they can be provided for, can nonetheless be more than compensated for in terms of relevance. The art of designing useful employment support measures is that of finding an appropriate balance of factors in relation to local resources and circumstances.

Figure 1. Factors influencing training for livelihoods


Problem statement and proposed remedies (in italics)


There is a mismatch between training opportunities on offer and the skills and capacities in demand in local labour markets.
· Training should respond to local labour market demand and lead to some form of remunerative work (employment, self-employment or enterprise).


Training is expensive, due to specialization and the need to customize training to respond to current learners and current local needs, and due to inherently high unit costs.
· Training can be made more efficient by involving local businesses in all aspects of training. Enterprise involvement can make training more efficient (through greater cost-sharing)and more effective (through constant orientation to local needs).
· Training programmes should make use of indigenous skills transfer systems (e.g., traditional apprenticeships)and available facilities (particularly local enterprises).


Training is often difficult to access and difficult to use, especially for those who, due to social or economic disadvantage, are in greatest need of work-related skills.
· Make provision to overcome economic and social barriers to access and participation by, inter alia, adequate funding for basic provision, scholarships or vouchers for those in greatest need, and restructuring schooling in terms of location, schedules and vernacular languages.
· Training programmes should reflect and accommodate the circumstances and customs of those they serve. Training curricula, schedules and structures should address the needs and accommodate the social realities and multiple obligations of those they are intended to serve.

Asset Enhancement

Training initiatives are seldom designed and administered specifically to enhance livelihood assets.
· Training should provide the skills needed to grasp existing work opportunities and identify future opportunities;
· Asset enhancement should be assessed in terms of increased income, greater flexibility, reduced vulnerability to crisis and enhanced access to economic support networks.

(Adapted from Grierson and Schnurr, 2000)

The report of the recent Cairo workshop on girls’ livelihoods of the Population Council and the International Council for Research on Women (PC/ICRW, 2000) summarizes the principles of good training for livelihood skills for one particularly marginalized group, young women. The PC/ICRW workshop found that good training:

· recognizes the wider economic environment;

· offers training in new, demand-led growth areas and is wary of training in already crowded sectors;

· ensures that skills offered are matched to the needs of communities;

· encourages women and girls to train in new and growing sectors that are as yet “ungendered”;

· keeps programmes simple and consistent;

· exploits traditional knowledge while being wary of traditional barriers; and

· recognizes that a business-like approach is more realistic and holds far greater potential for long-term success (PC/ICRW, 2000, pp. 41-42).

Bennell (2000) proposes incorporating market-driven strategies into the design of pro-poor training strategies and finds that skills training for the marginalized “should be driven by a people-centred pedagogy which maximizes locally available skills and empowers people to learn for themselves.” (p. 48). The learners themselves should influence training design and management, including resource allocation and utilization. These notions will not be easily absorbed.

Education and training are moving closer together and closer to the marginalized

While the respective contributions of education and training remain sharply differentiated, the roles and responsibilities of education and training systems are becoming less and less so. There is a growing array of experiments which involve “vocationalizing” primary and secondary education curricula. Many education programmes now include entrepreneurship as a component of study. It is increasingly common to find re-orientation towards self-employment as a major component of training rehabilitation programmes, in some cases in the interests of the learners and in some cases as a means of institutional rescue (Hoppers, 1994). In many developing countries vocational training has become at least as much about enterprise and self-employment as about its traditional role of preparation for specific employment options (Grierson, 2000, p. 25). In general this is resulting in a new and positive recognition of the needs of marginalized people. For many training institutions and programmes marginalized people are clearly the emerging priority, albeit one for which they are as yet largely unprepared.

Training works best in an expanding economy

In developing countries there has been a structural shift towards self-employment and the informal sector, for the most part as a somewhat desperate response to growing un-and underemployment. Large-scale unemployment and underemployment is a function of three inter-related problems: the dearth of employable skills, the lack of equitable access to either decent work or useful skills training opportunities, and the severe overall shortage of jobs (Crump, Grierson & Wahbah, 2000). Education and training can do little to increase the number of jobs. Appropriately structured economic growth is the key to solving the job shortage problem. Human capital development initiatives can, however, do much to expand the diversity and quantity of relevant training and to make access to training alternatives more equitable. Economic growth can and should generate livelihoods opportunities for the marginalized. Initiatives intended to enhance welfare and employability work best when overall labour absorption capacity is growing (ILO, 1999). Pro-poor growth has the specific objective of ensuring that growth includes opportunities for the marginalized. Training can and should impart the capacities needed to grasp the opportunities offered by an expanding labour market. Open, enterprise-led approaches to skills training are an efficient, effective and equitable means of giving marginalized peoples livelihoods skills.

Pro-poor growth is based on the idea that both poverty alleviation and economic growth objectives can be addressed simultaneously, provided that economic policies and support programmes are carefully structured to pursue both these objectives. Pro-poor growth demands an acute understanding of how national economies, local economies, and specific economic sectors work. Certain activities and sectors offer much better pro-poor growth potential than others. In Mellor’s (1999) analysis, small-scale, non-farm enterprises, largely producing non-tradable (i.e., locally-consumed) goods and services are central to pro-poor growth. Mellor sees these small enterprises as the key to tomorrow’s pro-poor employment. De Soto (2000) makes a compelling case for the potential of urban housing as a pro-poor economic sector. Pro-poor livelihoods initiatives are most likely to be effective when they focus on sectors that offer good growth prospects (such as transportation and waste management), many entry-level opportunities for micro-enterprise and self-employment (such as housing), and good prospects for disaggregation as opposed to economies of scale (light construction and many types of services, including appliance repair and hairdressing). Many sectors, such as waste collection and sorting, tend by their nature to favour local community-based enterprises. New growth sectors such as electronic assembly tend to be ungendered at the outset, and traditional sectors often lower gender barriers when they modernize and adopt new technologies (for example, machine-based shoe manufacture). Skills training for the marginalized works best when it complements and supports pro-poor economic growth.


This chapter has presented the case for enterprise-led approaches to skills training for marginalized people. The emphasis has been on responding to the aspirations of marginalized learners, interacting with the markets in which they will seek their livelihoods and understanding the communities they represent.

It is useful to be reminded that while training can do little to generate either economic growth or job opportunities it can do much to help seize opportunities that emerge in local markets. Training is more effective in an expanding economy, particularly if it is designed to interact with the economy. Training for the marginalized works best in a context of pro-poor growth, which is not limited to expanding, dynamic economies. As has been noted, the imperfect opportunities of the informal sector are often the only pro-poor opportunities available when an economy is stagnant or contracting. The logic of pro-poor growth applies, even when seeking opportunities in adverse conditions.

In all circumstances the fundamentals of enterprise-led skills training for the marginalized apply. Training needs to be relevant to the needs of local markets, however these might be structured, and to the needs and aspirations of marginalized learners. Training must be cost-conscious and ever in search of more efficient and cost-effective ways of operating. Training must be equitable; it must ensure that the marginalized can access, acquire and apply useful skills. Training must help enhance the assets needed to secure a livelihood and face the downturns and crises that life inevitably presents.

Enterprise-led approaches to skills training can help address and reduce social and economic marginalization.


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