| Training for self-employment through vocational training institutions (ILO/ SKAT, 1997) |
Unemployment and under-employment are huge and growing global problems. The ILO describes the problem as a long-term persistent trend affecting up to 30% of the global labour force, some 820 million men and women (ILO, 1994). These figures, for all their magnitude, do not sufficiently convey the fear, anger, poverty, insecurity, and hunger of those without an adequate means of livelihood. The human cost of this deteriorating situation is borne for the most part by the citizens of the world's less developed countries. But in these same countries much of the drive and capacity needed to face and manage this problem are also to be found, as the world's millions of self-employed workers graphically illustrate. Developing countries have a wealth of existing and aspiring entrepreneurs who can be helped, through enterprise and self-employment, to face the threat of unemployment and underemployment. Vocational training systems and institutions (VTIs) have a role to play in helping them do so.
Stagnant economic growth, along with new technologies, new forms of industrial organisation and burgeoning populations have combined to force a growing share of the international labour force into the informal sector, and into self-employment. What was once thought to be largely a phenomenon of developing economies has become a prominent characteristic of the industrialised countries and economies in transition as well. Almost all governments are now looking to self-employment to help with this daunting problem. This re-orientation often represents a dramatic change in thinking. Until quite recently many governments were for the most part uncertain about, unsupportive of, or openly hostile to the informal sector (Peters-Berries, 1993).
Increasingly, however, programmes to support new business start-ups in small and micro-enterprises and self-employment, are part of the policy framework adopted to help meet the growing demand for jobs and productive employment (Wilson and Adams, 1994). But as these programmes proliferate it becomes increasing clear that expectations often far exceed reality. Put simply, self-employment is not a panacea for unemployment and is unlikely to become so. It can be a safety net for many, a means of supplementing and diversifying income for some, and an entry point to the market for the enterprising few, but it cannot solve the unemployment problem. Enterprise, including self-employment, is rigorous and demanding. Some have the capacity to survive as self-employed entrepreneurs, but most do not. When there is an array of options relatively few choose self-employment. In the industrial economies less than 5% of the unemployed opt for readily available self-employment assistance, and in spite of increasingly sophisticated selection and screening procedures between 30 - 60% of these fail within the first few years (Wilson and Adams, 1994). Developing countries, with larger numbers of unemployed and fewer options on offer, have a much higher portion of their citizens self-employed but similar levels of self-employment failure. Much remains to be learned about self-employment capacity and potential.
Most existing training systems offer only limited support to those seeking work or self-employment. Indeed, it is commonly accepted that the inability of vocational training systems to serve labour markets is a problem of crisis proportions. A re-orientation to self-employment is increasingly being considered as one of the many possible ways to address both the unemployment crisis and the training crisis.
Self-employment and the 'crisis of vocational training'
The emerging emphasis on the private sector and on micro-enterprise and self-employment, has both helped precipitate the 'crises of vocational training' - and helped identify a re-orientation to self-employment as a possible response. The vocational training crisis has two interrelated aspects: the crisis of cost, and the crisis of relevance. Vocational and technical training is expensive. For this expense to be justified the training provided must be seen to be relevant to the changing needs of changing economies, and responsive to non-traditional clienteles and target groups as well. Those seeking or needing self-employment are increasingly being defined as one of the new target groups of VTIs. A growing number of vocational training institutions are seeking renewed relevance through self-employment re-orientation. 'In practice it has become very common (for vocational training institutions) to regard a reorientation towards self-employment as a major contribution towards revitalising' their institutions (Hoppers, 1994).
VTIs are often being compelled to reach down and to reach out as they attempt to stake their claim to a relevant future. They are reaching down to the informal sector and they are reaching out to the diverse world of private enterprise. If they hope to reach and teach these new client groups and partners they must learn about the realities of the informal sector, about the complexities of small enterprise development, and about the techniques and benefits of intimate involvement with local markets.
The challenge of learning about self-employment is a formidable one. While the many modest enterprises that comprise the informal sector are typically of low technological sophistication they often operate in environments of high socio-cultural complexity. In informal sector trading, for example, systems of 'highly personalised relationships' are often used in lieu of the formal sector practices of product differentiation and competitive pricing (Murray, 1991). Similarly, traditional apprenticeships are sophisticated and subtle manifestations of the cultures and sub-cultures that they serve. The methods of work and organization, and the techniques of skill acquisition, used in the informal sector are quite different from those of formal enterprises, organisations and training institutions. These differences are often not well understood. And even though the informal sector is emerging as an important 'market' for VTIs, it is, at present, the level and type of enterprise that VTIs have the least familiarity with.
It has yet to be demonstrated if VTIs can re-orient themselves to this specialised field of enterprise development. Efforts have been initiated to begin what is certain to prove a long and arduous learning process. At the outset, these efforts have been directed towards determining if, and to what degree, it is appropriate and possible for VTIs to re-orient themselves to self-employment. As part of its expanding commitment to stimulating and upgrading informal sector employment and self-employment the International Labour Office convened an Expert Consultation on Training for Self-employment Through Vocational Training Institutions, in Turin, Italy, 29 November through 3 December, 1993. The purpose was to explore the VTI self-employment reorientation issue, with a view to identifying how VTIs can make a much greater contribution towards expanding and improving self-employment.
Those participating assessed the many issues and options offered VTIs and vocational training systems considering or attempting a self-employment reorientation; first broadly, from the perspective of enterprise development, and then in light of recent experiences in Africa, Asia and Latin America. The participants were asked to focus their efforts on three critical areas:
• Strategies for Re-orienting VTIs to Self-employment;
• Planning and Coordinating Self-employment Training Within National Vocational Training Systems; and
• Guidelines for Re-orienting VTIs to Self-employment;.
These three focus areas are the underlying themes of the essays and case studies presented here.
The structure of the volume
This volume has four principal parts. Part I sets the stage with a brief overview of enterprise development issues, and provides an Assessment Framework for Vocational Training for Self-employment to assist individual VTIs and vocational training systems in considering self-employment reorientation. Part II, is an overview of self-employment re-orientation issues and options. Part III, presents a collection of case studies from Africa, India, and Latin America. The final section, Part IV, offers a synthesis of eclectic experiences to date and a systematic 'way forward'.
Effective vocational training for self-employment will necessarily stretch the range of VTIs; upstream into the domain of many new and different target groups, and downstream into demanding and critical markets. In Part I John Grierson and Iain McKenzie provide an outline of current thinking in small enterprise development as preparation for this journey, and a conceptual framework for vocational training for self-employment to help map the way.
In Part II Kenneth King, Robert Nelson and John Grierson look broadly at self-employment re-orientation issues and options. Kenneth King sets the stage with an overview of the forces driving the interest in self-employment and the options that are emerging, for national governments, for educational and training systems, for VTIs, and, not least, for the aspiring self-employed themselves. Robert Nelson provides detailed guidelines for re-orienting vocational training to self-employment. His essay emphasises the role and function of Small Business Centres and Advisory Councils, and gives guidelines for the structure and content of a multi-phased VTI self-employment programme. John Grierson draws on insights from enterprise development and social networks to make the case for enterprise-based training as an effective methodology for imparting marketable skills, along with access to both local markets and low-cost follow-up support.
Part III presents five case studies: First, Dinesh Awashti assesses three dramatically different attempts at vocational training for self-employment in India. Jaime Ramirez-Guerrero outlines the history of the self-employment initiatives of Colombia's Servicio Nacional De Aprendizaje (SENA), with emphasis on the extensive institutional networks that characterise the operational practices of this 'Latin American Model' VTI. Then, shifting from a macro to a micro perspective, Ahmed Ferej describes the workings of traditional apprenticeships in Kenya, and offers suggestions on how traditional apprenticeship technologies can enhance the process of a re-orientation to self-employment in VTIs. The case study by James Quarshie and the late Charles Abban summarises the evolution of a multi-institutional sector training programme initiated by the Ghana National Association of Garages. And finally, Oscar CorvalÃ¡n-Vasquez draws together the experiences of more than a dozen of the major agencies and institutions in Chile that are supporting self-employment, either directly or in a variety of supporting roles.
In Part IV John Grierson and Iain McKenzie draw together the many strands of the case studies and essays, and summarise the findings of the expert consultation on re-orienting VTIs to self-employment in terms of its guiding theme: strategies for training for self-employment through vocational training institutions. Part IV provides a planning framework to help VTI managers and administrators design effective self-employment support programmes based upon a degree of self-employment re-orientation that is appropriate for their individual institutions.