|Reforming Training Governance: The Jamaican Experience (HTNTA - IIEP, 1999, 204 p.)|
Throughout the world, technical and vocational education and training (TVET) systems are struggling hard to cope with global change and its dramatic economic and social impact. Invariably, reforming the governance of TVET lies at the heart of coping strategies. Hence, it is increasingly felt that government, and more specifically ministries of education, should not be the sole, or even the main actors, in the decision-making process or in the planning and implementing of TVET policies. Other key stakeholders, first of all employers but more generally speaking social partners, have a legitimate right to make their voice heard and become actively involved in TVET matters. Furthermore, mobilizing collective effort is considered as a major step in improving the efficiency of the system and its contribution to economic and social goals.
For many years, TVET in Jamaica has been subjected to a number of policy and institutional changes. One of the most significant reforms was the establishment, in 1991, of a National Training Agency responsible for financing and operating the training system. Advocates of the National Training Agency concept argue that autonomous institutions, financially secured, free from political interference and close to employers, may be better placed to provide demand-led training. Indeed, in many cases experience has shown that the public sector is naturally more inclined to adopt a supply-centred approach.
The relative success of many Latin-American countries in devoting training responsibilities to specific institutions, enjoying autonomous status and financial independence, was a source of inspiration for many others, even beyond the boundaries of the Latin-American and the Caribbean region. Jamaica provides a recent example of that trend. However, while the so-called 'Latin-American model' was developed in a period of industrialization and in a context of expansion of modem sector employment, the Jamaican experience takes place in a far less favourable environment. As such it reflects conditions that are now felt by a majority of economies in Latin America and the Caribbean as well as in Africa. The training issue is no longer to build a coherent and strong system that can meet the growing demand of the labour markets, but rather to invent a new system, closely related to the labour market and capable of reconciling economic and social objectives. While there is still a need to produce, on a relatively small scale, a competitive labour force for supporting the dynamic sectors of the economy, often in service activities, training systems increasingly must take stock of the continuous expansion of the informal sector and are asked to further contribute to the alleviation of social tensions.
Unlike its Latin-American predecessors when they were established, the Jamaican National Training Agency must face a dual challenge: building a coherent training system (the supply-side issue) and adapting training institutions to new markets (the demand-side issue). Prior to 1991, training was provided in a fragmented unco-ordinated way. Historical factors had produced a diversity of providers, linked to various ministries and with few connections with each other. As a consequence, each organization had developed its own offerings and strategy, sometimes with high political interference, and the transparency of the system was very poor both for enterprises and individuals. Establishing a National Training Agency was therefore first meant to introduce coherence and transparency. This institutional change also indicated a marked departure from the previous regime, often dominated by a political agenda. A significant expected side-effect of that reform was also to restore the image of training before employers and the public at large. While strengthening linkages between training and the labour market and involving business representatives in the new institution were likely to improve employers' perception of TVET, changing people's opinions might prove to be more complex. Hence, TVET in Jamaica does not enjoy high social value. Although this pattern is shared with many other countries, in Jamaica negative attitudes towards vocational education may be aggravated by a post-colonial syndrome, legacy of the slave-based plantation economy.
In addition to making training coherent, efficient and attractive, the National Training Agency must learn to cope with a secular decline in the economy, combined with a rise of the informal sector and pervasive poverty. Recognizing the reality of economic vulnerability, labour market segmentation and social fragmentation, the Agency must therefore be able to generate a system both market oriented and socially sensitive. Combining those two objectives requires a new training philosophy where the reform of the existing training institutions goes together with devoting more responsibilities to employers, deregulating the provision of training and imagining innovative ways of delivering training to disadvantaged groups.
This publication explores the Jamaican National Training Agency's experience in making training provisions more coherent and in implementing new directions towards increasing autonomy of training institutions, incentive-based mechanisms and the establishment of an open market for training. These trends were taking place at a time when government was expanding Jamaica's private sector. The year 1991, which saw the birth of the National Training Agency, also marked the second phase of a privatization programme, initiated in 1981. Therefore, the efforts to increase employers' involvement in the regulation of training and in skills development must be seen against a broader policy background in which the overall intention was to reduce the roles of government, while increasing those of the private sector. The implementation of such policy relied very much on market principles.
There is no doubt that the recent Jamaican experience illustrates issues, challenges and options common to many medium-income-level countries, in slow growth contexts. Although coping strategies are necessarily intersectoral, the governance of training represents a significant concern to improve the competitiveness of the economy and maintain social cohesion within global change.
The analyses of issues which highlight the main features of the Jamaican reform of training governance are presented as follows. In Chapter I, a country profile describes the environment in which the National Training Agency operates, with special reference to the institutional, economic and educational background. An attempt is made to express this information into concrete challenges for the training system.
Chapter II is devoted to a presentation and discussion of the 'National Training Agency model'. The review of the experience of other countries in applying the model provides a comparative framework to identify the distinctive features of the Jamaican National Training Agency. Specific developments describe the historical process leading to its establishment. That long-term perspective helps to clarify the factors and rationale which explained the policy and institutional changes that have affected training since the 1980s. The successive reform of TVET can easily be related to a shift on the political agenda from self-reliance and collective ownership of key means of production to export-oriented growth and privatization.
Chapter III analyzes training provision and policies. Historical trends in enrolments, resources and expenditures testify to the impressive growth of the training system. Information is also provided on training modes, skills taught as well as on the operating model used to manage the agency and regulate the training system. This description documents the gradual shift from a traditional training organization, mainly involved in operating training centres, into a complex body, increasingly relying on enterprise-based training, supporting the emergence of a market for training and finding innovative ways to deliver specific training programmes to poor rural communities and other disadvantaged groups.
Chapter IV is dedicated to an in-depth analysis of two key components of the ongoing policy: reforming training institutions and involving more employers in training delivery through incentive-based mechanisms. Those developments clearly reflect a new training philosophy. In this emerging context, training institutions are gradually seen as agents of local development and as genuine actors of the community in which they are located. Furthermore, innovative incentives are being designed to enrich the partnership with enterprises and contribute to the establishment of a co-operative training formula where responsibilities for imparting skills will be shared between training institutions and employers.
In the concluding remarks, the main features and lessons of the Jamaican experience are summarized. Looking at the National Training Agency confirms some of the elements that produced many success stories in Latin America. Relative autonomy from the Ministry of Education, dissociation from the school system, closeness to industry and financial stability are certainly important ingredients. However, the difficulties encountered also indicate the limits of the National Training Agency model in a context of employment stagnation and social fragmentation. Although it became a necessity, facilitating the transition of young people into the informal sector cannot constitute an alternative to re-deploying the training system. Nor can it offer a satisfactory way to alleviate poverty when there is no evidence that the growth of the informal sector has been helping the poor in an effective way to cope with economic hardship. The most complex challenges facing the National Training Agency in the years to come will probably remain in the balancing of economic and social goals, provided that such reconciliation is possible.