| Training for self-employment through vocational training institutions (ILO/ SKAT, 1997) |
|Part III - Lessons from the field: Country studies from India, Colombia, Kenya, Ghana and Chile|
Jaime Ramirez-Guerrero, translated by Dora Jaramillo and Patricia GarcÃa
SENA: Servicio Nacional de Aprendizaje
SENA was created in the late 1950s. It is one of a group of Vocational Training Institutions (VTIs) which came about in Latin America between 1940 and 1960 and which share certain basic characteristics of purpose, organisation and financing. Collectively these are often referred to as the 'Latin American Model' (CINTERFOR/OIT, 1990). The official purpose of SENA, to carry out the social policies of the Government in the area of professional education, is being seriously questioned. SENA's organization is based on the ILO's tripartite principle of government, employers and workers. It is financed through compulsory contributions from businesses. It is a public sector institution under the Ministry of Labour and Social Security and a part of the country's general educational system, under the Ministry of National Education. The appearance of SENA in Colombian education was significant, not only because of its appreciation of education for work, but also because of its use of teaching methods based on principles of active pedagogy - 'learning by doing' - which departed from the theoretical and memory-based approaches of the formal education system. It is a large institution with 92 training centres and approximately 8,000 employees, about 5,000 of whom deal directly with training and business consultation.
Though an important and respected institution in Colombia, SENA is now at a difficult cross-roads. Colombia is changing rapidly and SENA should change with it. In past years SENA was seen as an appropriate instrument for the implementation of government social policies and programmes. This led to the creation within SENA of significant specialised 'social' programmes parallel to the original structure which continues to address the training needs of workers in the formal sector. The two systems co-exist but do not collaborate; they have not established the operational linkages that would make them complementary. An opportunity for mutual enrichment was lost and SENA's institutional identity and effectiveness deteriorated. SENA is struggling to overcome this internal problem while simultaneously adapting itself to evolving social and economic realities in Colombia.
Self-employment in Colombia
Colombia has recently abandoned an import-substitution model of industrialisation and adopted the recommendations of the International Monetary Fund for a structural adjustment programme to stabilise macroeconomic conditions and open the Colombian economy to the international marketplace. The employment assumption which underlies the new development model is that the new conditions of transparency and the open markets, together with policies which support productive activity and provide for human capital, physical infrastructure and technological development within stable macro-economic conditions, should together stimulate economic growth and business activity. This should, in turn, increase employment. Nonetheless, the indications are that the labour market will be characterised in coming years by open unemployment rates of approximately 10 per cent, underemployment and temporary employment rates at levels close to 20 per cent, and the presence of a strong informal sector. Two key demographic variables will determine the structure of the Colombian labour force: decreasing population growth rates (from 3.2% during the 1950s to the current level of 1.8%) end rapid urbanisation. Today, 70% of the population lives in urban areas. These changes mark an accelerated social modernisation process (though not necessarily a development process) which has produced profound changes in the characteristics of the labour force.
Colombia is a country of small businesses: the National Economic Census of 1990 reveals that businesses with less than ten workers constitute 94.7% of the total. Most, more than 83.2%, are individually owned. The National Economic Census indicates that 54.2% of all enterprises have been in business for less than five years. Since the 1980s, polices supporting the informal sector have been introduced through the National Plan of Development for Microenterprises (PNDM). The informal sector comprises almost 50% of the working population in the country's ten largest cities. Colombia's urban informal sector has relatively high levels of productive activity and of enterprises with permanent workers. This structure is influenced by a model of industrial organisation which emphasises subcontracting.
SENA and education for self-employment
In what has been called the 'opening process' of Latin American VTIs, SENA is perhaps the first institution which departed from the professional education model for wage employment which was once universally shared by the VTIs of the region. (Banguero, 1990). This was stimulated by early evidence of chronic unemployment among the graduates of its apprenticeship programme. This was but one aspect of a growing problem that has resulted in open unemployment in Colombia reaching levels close to 20%. In response the government assigned SENA the task of training the unemployed. SENA developed two programmes for Popular Professional Promotion: PPP-U (urban) and PPP-R (rural), both based on a Spanish model from the 1950s and 1960s of accelerated labour training. Neither proved effective, and the PPP programmes have been replaced by two new strategies for self-employment: training for employment and self-employment through cooperatives, and training for self-managed businesses. In addition, SENA created a counselling programme for small and medium enterprises. The lessons learned and the skills developed from operating these programmes have evolved into a new programme, Education and Counselling for Entrepreneurs (FACE), which is described later in this paper. In February, 1993, the National Council of Economic and Social Policies (CONPES) outlined SENA's development for the years ahead: 'The new model of development, which has as its fundamental basis more competition and the modernisation of productive processes, will increase the demand for professional education ... some sectors will demand services which are presently unavailable ... SENA's present structure makes it difficult to address the new training needs which have arisen from this new model of development'. In response SENA formulated a Medium Term Plan which outlines the mechanisms needed to respond to these changes. The mechanisms needed include: vocational training; technological research and development; business counselling; and support for the informal sector. SENA will use these mechanisms to focus the attention of vocational training institutions an apprentices, redundant workers, and on further training; while concentrating on basic technical and business training and quality improvements; and forming networks of employment services to make labour supply and demand information readily available to VTIs.
This approach has the specific objective of ensuring that the unemployed and underemployed and those who have been unemployed for long periods of time, are able to create their own source of employment according to their socio-economic capabilities.
SENA experiences in self-employment education
I. FACE: Education and Counselling for Entrepreneurs
The objective of FACE is the creation of employment by fostering the entrepreneurial mentality to create businesses. 'Entrepreneurial mentality' is understood to mean 'the development of enterprise capacity so as to induce the use of such capacity for immediate benefit' rather than as an employee. The target group is those who will start a business, and who can obtain the necessary financial resources to do so, and VTIs and higher education institutes interested in implementing business development programmes.
The implementation of a FACE programme is a structured sequential process, that proceeds through the following stages:
4 entrance into the programme
5 service and training plan
6 development of the training
7 preparation of the project
8 implementation of the project
9 creation of the business
10 counselling the new business
Training is carried out in seminars and workshops covering business skills development; general business knowledge; and technical knowledge and skills.
SENA offers help and guidance to programme participants to help them develop a business plan and to start their own businesses. This help includes information, counselling, and technical assistance as well as business and technical training. The FACE programme receives the support and cooperation of many institutions including the Chamber of Commerce, the Development Finance Corporation, the Agrarian Bank, the National Guarantee Fund, the Social Savings Bank, and many universities. Participants must commit themselves to discovering their entrepreneurial potential, making decisions, participating in training, designing their own projects, and keeping their commitments to SENA and other agencies.
II. The Popular Programmes for Professional Promotion (PPP-U and PPP-R)
The PPP-U and PPP-R programmes offered accelerated training in semiskilled trades through mobile easy-to-assemble facilities which were taken to poor communities and by using the facilities of the communities themselves. This approach had its limitations; the accelerated training did not substantially change the employment prospects of those trained. This led to the development of several different strategies for the PPP programmes. The first strategy was 'incorporative' and aimed to train manual labourers for assimilation into paid jobs. The second strategy was 'promotional' and aimed at supporting those informal sector workers who had created their own jobs as independent workers or as small businessmen. The crux of the incorporation strategy continued to be accelerated technical training for semi-qualified jobs. For the promotional strategy, it was initially decided to combine the technical and productive elements of training with training to improve business management. The promotional strategy evolved into an associative approach which sought to create mechanisms for raw materials supply, commercialising products, and so on, while still maintaining individual enterprise ownership. These developments permitted the PPPs to create a extensive body of techniques for informal sector vocational training. Different strategies were eventually developed for different types of informal workers as well as for diverse forms of business organisations. Though these efforts were generally intended to address the need for self-employment, they tended to benefit workers and small businessmen who had already generated their own employment. This was the logical outcome of a process of self-selection that recognised that experience in economic activity improves the benefit-cost relationship of training.
Nonetheless these strategies have given rise to various programmes including the Programme of Support to Microenterprises. The Programme of Support to Microenterprises is designed to: increase productivity, increase wages, and develop support organisations for small businesses. The most dynamic microenterprise sectors, in terms of productivity, are leather, woodworking, manufacturing, electrical and electronic maintenance, and building materials. The approach involves counselling, business training, technical assistance and training, and counselling and training for micro-entrepreneurs organisations.
III. Apprenticeship training
Apprenticeship training is intended for new labour market entrants. Most of SENA's activities deal with youth training, and especially with programmes for apprenticeship education. There is little practical evidence, however, of an orientation towards self-employment in this area. This is surprising because SENA has at its disposal theoretical and methodological instruments in the pedagogical area which would permit the introduction, in an intense and systematic manner, of guidance and education for self-employment in the apprenticeship education programme. SENA's pedagogical strategies, which aim at the development of creativity, individualisation and self-control, could constitute an adequate basis for an orientation towards self-employment. However, it is evident that the programmes. aimed at the informal sector, as well as those aimed at entrepreneurs, do not take advantage of these pedagogical resources. It is also noteworthy that orientation towards self-employment is absent from most conventional vocational training programmes. Practice remains oriented to paid employment.
IV. SALI: the Integral Labour Adaptation Service
The purpose of SALI is to decrease the social cost of the labour adjustment process that results from modernisation and industrial conversion. SALI promotes and co-finances mechanisms for negotiation between businessmen and workers to address situations such as: business closures; layoffs and relocations; business re-organisation; modernisation; and re-training. Among the results expected from SALI's initiatives are: training and reassessment; support for job placement; and self-employment.
SALI is a recent programme whose implementation was transferred to SENA a little over a year ago, but whose operation was initiated only recently. There is little documentation yet, but it is significant that self-employment is clearly stated as an objective. Nonetheless, it is also worth noting that the SALI proposal does not define the mechanisms for the promotion of self-employment, apparently assuming SENA already has such mechanisms.
Conclusions and recommendations
In Colombia, favourable socio-economic and socio-political conditions exist for self-employment. There is a relatively dynamic socio-economic context, a well-educated labour force, a predominance of small businesses, a general entrepreneurial spirit, and the desire for social participation. Negative economic factors that encourage self-employment include low generation of employment in the formal economy, businesses closures and modernisation, and industrial conversion. There is a framework of development policies which place great importance on the promotion of self-employment, and there are both public and private institutions ready to participate. SENA has a variety of experiences in the area of vocational training for self-employment and is an important source of methodological and operational assistance in the design and implementation of self-employment programmes. Unfortunately, there are no systematic evaluations which would permit making conclusions about the efficiency of those experiences. The lack of evaluative evidence is a serious shortcoming in that there is a clear need for conceptual instruments to frame the diagnostic processes and help design and execute policies and programmes in the area of vocational training for self-employment. Vocational training for self-employment practice differs greatly depending on whether those receiving training are seeking to become self-employed, or whether they are already self-employed and are seeking to consolidate or improve their self-employment status. It is not enough to merely reduce or simplify the contents of conventional vocational training, nor is it appropriate to merely add entrepreneurial and managerial modules to technical training curricula.
Self-employment is not an easy process, even in its spontaneous, informal mode. It is even less so in situations which seek modern productive jobs with satisfactory working conditions and income levels. In such cases, and these should be the primary objective of self-employment promotion, the basic axiom of all professional education is especially evident: training does not create employment. Hence, training should respond to real demands in the market and be accompanied by the other assistance with the other factors of production. In other words, the planning of vocational training for self-employment should be based less on labour market analysis than on analysis of the local market for goods and services. Training for self-employment should be complemented by an adequate inter-institutional apparatus to provide support services including finance, product development, enterprise organisation development and technological development. These are essential for the survival and development of the enterprises of the self-employed.
All of the above indicate that training for self-employment as a national strategy makes sense when it is seen as an integral part of policies and programmes directed to that end. Global strategies must be identified which raise the social income yield of investments in this area. They should combine a strategy of general impact with focused impact. Impact strategies should facilitate ex ante education, through the systematic introduction into normal vocational training programmes of pedagogical strategies and materials aimed at developing attitudes conducive to self-employment. The focused strategies should concentrate on target groups which have opted for self-employment and offer ex ante education (for example, SENA's FACE programme), complemented by ex post training, to encourage workers and small businesses to take full advantage of their self-employment potential.
The empirical evidence suggests that being able to work independently as an employee or a self-employed worker is a function of accumulated experience and capital. The majority of business people who receive training, credit, and other support services have been able to start their own businesses only after many years of employment in other businesses. This reality calls attention to the issue of selection, and especially selection based on criteria such as age, gender and social disadvantage. It must be recognised that ignoring the clear evidence of working experience in business as a vital success factor increases the risk of failure.
And finally, to bring our attention once again to SENA, it is clear that this institution offers a rich store of experience which can be taken advantage of, not only in fine tuning and strengthening its own training programmes for self-employment, but in encouraging the development of policies and methodologies for international application as well. However, the institution's current process of internal review and reorganisation creates uncertainty about the future of SENA's self-employment programmes and reminds us that efforts to re-orient VTIs to self-employment must be sustained by political support. The desirability of and responsibility for training for self-employment should be clearly established and the institutional requirements for the success of these efforts should be put in place.