| Training for self-employment through vocational training institutions (ILO/ SKAT, 1997) |
Unemployment is a growing global problem that besets industrialised countries, developing countries and the transition economies alike. Virtually every country in the world is struggling to cope with the limitations of the wage employment and public sectors and is turning, either by plan or by sheer force of need, to the informal sector and self-employment to help address the unemployment problem.
Over the years the ILO has been a leader in recognising and defining the role of the informal sector in poverty reduction and employment creation for the disadvantaged, young people, women and rural communities. The term 'informal sector' first came into common use as a result of the historic ILO mission to Kenya in 1971 which resulted in the report Employment, Income and Equity: A Strategy for Increasing Productive Employment in Kenya. It is certainly not coincidental that Kenya is today widely thought to represent the state-of-the-art in both national support for the development of the informal sector and in the development of systems to include the informal sector in economic policy and planning.
But the contribution of the 1971 ILO mission to Kenya was much more than the popularising of the term 'informal sector'; it included establishing the basis for the broad recognition that self-employment can indeed contribute to employment, income and equity. Currently, this recognition is expanding at an increasing rate, as is reflected in the recent ILO reports, The Promotion of Self-employment ( 1990), and The Dilemma of the Informal Sector, ( 1991). And recognition is being translated into practice. In the years since the 1971 ILO Mission to Kenya the ILO has laboured to identify, develop and refine systems and methodologies that use self-employment to help millions of people escape from poverty and become productive citizens.
Two of the ILO's early approaches to informal sector use and development, Training for Rural Gainful Activities (TRUGA), and Skills Development for Self-Reliance (SDSR) were extensively tested and evaluated during the 1980s in Africa, Asia, Russia and Belarus. Based on the lessons learned from these many programmes the ILO developed the Community Based Training (CBT) methodology and expanded the focus of ILO initiatives to include the urban informal sector. The ILO's interest in all aspects of small enterprise development continues to grow.
Enterprise is not easy. The demands of modern enterprise are increasingly complex and technical. In spite of this trend the modest production and service enterprises of the self-employed continue to be characterised levels of technology and skill and inefficient production methods. As a result, the rewards for much hard work are often exceedingly modest and the full potential for growth in productivity and employment is not being realised. Even though the informal sector does much to compensate for the failings of the modern wage employment sector, the informal sector itself is suffering from a crisis of inefficiency.
This crisis of inefficiency has as its counterpart the widely acknowledged 'crisis of vocational training'. World-wide, vocational training systems are being challenged to demonstrate their continued relevance in rapidly changing economies and labour markets. In a period when wage employment in the formal sector is stagnant or shrinking the question is frequently asked: What is the role of vocational and technical training systems and institutions in responding to the growing demand for efficient, productive self-employment? The Vocational Training Systems Management Branch of the ILO has been concerned with this question for some time. Answers are beginning to emerge as a result of concerted efforts to identify methods and strategies for linking vocational training institutions with those who are - or aspire to become - self-employed. To date, however, there has been no systematic assessment of international experience, leaving vocational training managers and administrators with a clear mandate, but with little to guide them. Those pioneering in the field, as well as those supporting them at the policy and planning levels, are in great need of information about successful self-employment approaches and programmes.
In response to this need the Vocational Training Systems Management Branch of ILO convened an Expert Consultation on Training for Self-employment Through Vocational Training Institutions in Turin, Italy, 29 November through 3 December, 1993. The objective was to identify 'lessons from the field', and to initiate a systematic search for techniques and methods that can be used to bring the considerable capacities of vocational training systems to bear on the growing need for self-employment assistance. The mandate given the assembled administrators and experts was a practical one: To develop a simple conceptual framework for considering self-employment reorientation, and to provide basic planning and operational guidance for those innovative vocational training institutions involved in or considering self-employment promotion.
It is perhaps necessary to stress that self-employment is fundamentally about business, however modest the micro-enterprises of the self-employed might appear to be. The approach taken here recognises this and addresses the issue of reorienting VTIs to self-employment from the perspective of enterprise development. Much has been learned in recent years about how to encourage and support small enterprises. Much remains to be learned, however, about whether and to what degree vocational training institutions can and should be involved in this complex process. This book has been prepared to help vocational training managers and administrators address the challenging issue of training for self-employment through vocational training institutions.
Nikolai Petrov, Chief
Vocational Training Systems Management Branch
International Labour Office, Geneva