Lesson Learned: Vocational Training Project

February 22, 2021

Mark Rolls leads Palladium’s work on Skills and Employment in the EMEA region of the world (Europe, Middle East, Africa). He recently wrote about his work developing cost effective and successful vocational training, which may offer lessons for organizations like The Fedcap Group, as we work to address the unemployment crisis.

He stated that “Around the globe, employers are struggling to find workers with the skills they need. For workers, this can be a huge opportunity to re-train, upskill and find new well-paid jobs, which makes it all the more puzzling when reviews on the effectiveness of vocational training programs come back mixed. Recent evidence reviews find that many training projects have only a modest impact on job creation and employment and are expensive relative to the income gains that they achieve.” 

Rolls went on to discuss a joint vocational training project between the UK and Switzerland entitled Sudokkho—which over the last six years, has helped over 71,000 young people gain steady work. Rolls highlighted that the Sudokkho training model has been particularly successful at reaching the extreme poor, who represented 63 percent of Sudokkho trainees.

Below is an excerpt from this article, Vocational Training is Worth the Money: Private-Sector Led Training in Bangladesh.

Industry-Aligned Training: Sudokkho tested two models of training delivered by the private sector. The first was delivered by commercial training institutions, and the second was delivered directly by employers in the workplace.

Focusing on sectors with a shortage of semi-skilled labour in Bangladesh – garment and construction – the program seized on the often-ignored opportunity for the private sector to deliver training that met the needs of the poor who had fallen through the gaps in the skills training system.

In a context where training has historically been paid for by donors and government who pay high subsidies, Sudokkho instead sought out existing training courses that individuals were willing to contribute to and that employers valued. Partner training institutes have noticed a difference. “The quality of training has greatly improved, with trainers preparing lesson plans according to the curriculum and conducting the classes accordingly,” says Md. Sumon Molla, owner of the Glorious Technical Training Institute. “As a result, the rate of graduation has increased to almost 100%. Our employee performance, training outcomes, business growth, and the recognition and reputation of my organization have greatly increased.”

In-Factory Training in the Garment Sector: The approach to in-factory training with the garment sector proved to be particularly successful and has been implemented in 194 factories across Bangladesh, which have invested a total of 6.9 £ million in training. In this approach, unskilled workers (91 per cent of whom are women) received structured in-house training delivered and funded by the employer. The training courses are short and intensive, responsive to the needs of the factory floor, actively involved middle management, and were delivered by supervisors. According to Sakhawat Hossain Khan, Deputy General Manager at Far East Knitting and Dyeing Industries, employees trained by Sudokkho added productivity to their operations. “The biggest development we observed after we started working with Sudokkho workers was that we could quickly deliver trained workers within 15 days according to the demands of the production floor,” he notes. “It brought a drastic change to our way of working.”

Affordable and Effective Training: Why has Sudokkho’s training proven to be so cost-effective? First, it focussed on affordability. The direct costs for a Sudokkho course were between 56.00£ to 85.00£, which trainees could recoup within two months of employment. In contrast, other training courses typically range from 350.00£ to 12,500.00£ per person, which could take upwards of four years for employees to recoup the costs. Second, employers were more willing to invest in training delivered directly in the workplace. Finally, the emphasis on industry-aligned, competency-based training has helped over two-thirds of training graduates into better jobs.

This experience in Bangladesh provides insight into how we can jump-start upskilling in the US, the UK and other parts of the world. 1) Find existing, industry-aligned training models that are respected across the field and leverage economies of scale in delivery to reduce costs. 2) Create a joint incentive for success by having the training participant pay for (at least a portion) of the training. 3) Engage business to provide the training at the workplace. 4) Measure impact both in completion of training, immediate job placement and ongoing productivity of trained workers.

This next year is the time for smart, effective partnerships between business and the nonprofit sector—working to help the unemployed obtain training and secure jobs that employers are having a hard time filling.