Rising demand for qualified staff throughout Myanmar has accelerated vocational training initiatives, which have been undertaken by both government agencies and foreign institutions. Since the opening of the economy to the outside world, workers have noticed a dramatic expansion in job opportunities, but often lack the skill set required to fill postings. The arrival of multinational corporations in sectors such as energy, telecoms and finance has overstretched the labour market, leading to a growing shortage of skilled workers, and has made employee retention a troublesome task. With a vast array of jobs on offer, many can quickly jump ship at the chance of better remuneration.
Given its importance in promoting employment and placing future generations in management positions, the overhaul of Myanmar’s technical and vocational education training (TVET) sector is a key focal point of the Comprehensive Education Sector Review (CESR), which calls for greater development of skills-based education. A study by the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA), stated that the majority of TVET students opt for courses in engineering, with 90% enrolled at a Technological University (TU) under the Ministry of Science and Technology. However, 40% of students that started working towards earning an Associate of Government Technical Institute certificate were not able to commence their second year of training due to failing the annual examination. According to government records 7% of teachers employed within the TVET sector hold a PhD and approximately 40% hold a master’s degree, meaning a little under 60% of technical trainers possess no more than a standard degree. The private sector is also responsible for a variety of vocational institutions, which are often registered as a division of a non-government agency, service provider companies or non-profit organisations.
According to a report produced by the Asian Development Bank in early 2013, TVET in Myanmar is highly supply-driven and the subjects taught are often determined by officials who have little relationship with the labour market. The report also concluded that neither labour market partners nor training institutions had much of a say in the development of curriculum. However, in line with international standards and the establishment of the National Skill Standards Authority under the Ministry of Labour curriculum will be transformed into outcomes-based education.
In an effort to broaden Myanmar’s talent pool, which is largely agriculture based, the government is actively engaging global investors and donors to help develop the country’s TVET segment, with a particular focus on key growth industries such as tourism and labour-intensive manufacturing. A 2014 business survey conduct by the OECD and Union of Myanmar found that out of 3000 firms 60% cited skills shortages as a major problem, particularly in the hospitality industry. Furthermore, the full implementation of the ASEAN Economic Community by the end of 2015 will lead to an increased flow of goods, services and investment, which means the country will need to address these shortcomings if it is to retain jobs for nationals and take advantage of new opportunities.
In line with this, several countries are keen to get involved. In late 2014 the government of Switzerland announced a $20m project to promote vocational skills in the hospitality industry in south-east Myanmar. The Vocational Skills Development Programme is a critical investment that will take the region’s service industries to the next level. The Indian government has signed a memorandum of understanding with the Myanmar government to assist with the establishment of the Myanmar Institute of Information and Technology (MIIT) in Mandalay. With its first students in August 2014, MIIT is modelled after the well-known International Institute of Information Technology in Bangalore, which is also providing technical and academic support. Singapore is also getting involved through the Singapore-Myanmar Vocational Training Institute, which will train instructors. The programme was announced during the state visit of Singaporean President Tony Tan to Myanmar in April 2013. Singapore’s vocational education provider ITE Education Services will design the curriculum. Furthermore, in cooperation with Paris-based international relief organisation ACTED, the Thai government’s Official Vocational Education Commission is committed to supporting TVET in Myanmar, particularly in the east-west corridor between the two nations. According to figures from JICA, the establishment of the Dawei Special Economic Zone on the Thai-Myanmar border will create as many as 1m jobs.
Keeping Up With The Times
Not content to rely solely on the objectives set out by the CESR, the Ministry of Education (MoE) is determined to take full advantage of recent advances in technology. The arrival of international telecoms providers in the form of Qatar’s Ooredoo and Norway’s Telenor, as well as Japan’s KDDI partnership with local provider Myanmar Post and Telecoms, is already having a dramatic impact, and the increasing number of telecom towers is rapidly improving the ease of doing business and acting as a catalyst for students to access learning material.
An e-education programme, which was originally launched by the MoE in January 2001 to enhance learning opportunities, is set to benefit greatly from the expansion of internet coverage. However, until the internet reaches all corners of the country, students, teachers and researchers will be able to benefit from the groundbreaking project eTekkatho, or eLibrary, which contains over 1700 resources. The project was Rising demand for qualified staff throughout Myanmar has accelerated vocational training initiatives, which have been undertaken by both government agencies and foreign institutions. Since the opening of the economy to the outside world, workers have noticed a dramatic expansion in job opportunities, but often lack the skill set required to fill postings. The arrival of multinational corporations in sectors such as energy, telecoms and finance has overstretched the labour market, leading to a growing shortage of skilled workers, and has made employee retention a troublesome task. With a vast array of jobs on offer, many can quickly jump ship at the chance of better remuneration.
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