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Webinar outcomes: ‘Learning Cities’ COVID-19 recovery: From research to practice’ series - TVET, business learning and entrepreneurship'

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©Dusan Petkovic/Shutterstock.com
5 November 2020

On 16 September 2020, the UNESCO Institute for Lifelong Learning (UIL), together with the PASCAL International Observatory, hosted the third webinar in the series ‘Learning cities’ COVID-19 recovery: From research to practice’. This latest webinar meeting looked at the challenge of developing the role of technical and vocational education and training (TVET), business learning and entrepreneurship in learning cities.

A welcoming remark was given by UIL Programme Specialist Ms Marie Macauley, who also moderated the webinar. Ms Macauley addressed the challenges to traditional educational provision brought by the COVID-19 pandemic, and stressed the need for cities to put into practice structural changes to ensure learning continues throughout this and future crises. Ms Macauley then underlined the aim of the webinar: to examine the role of TVET for sustainable development in cities. She welcomed the inputs of the participants, which comprised experts in the field of education, city authorities, university networks and stakeholders.

UNESCO–UNEVOC International Centre for Technical and Vocational Education and Training

After welcoming the webinar participants, Ms Miki Nozawa, Programme Specialist at the UNESCO–UNEVOC International Centre for Technical and Vocational Education and Training, stressed the importance of TVET for the labour market, but said that the sector needed to evolve to keep pace with crises such as the current pandemic, which have a significant impact on the world’s economy. The development of entrepreneurial learning calls for partnership at policy, institutional and classroom levels, she said, and emphasized the role of TVET institutions as incubators of innovation and entrepreneurship.

Swansea University, United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland: member of the UNESCO Global Network of Learning Cities (GNLC) and PASCAL Learning Cities Network (LCN)

Representing PASCAL Director Dr Michael Osborne, Ms Judith James, Coordinator of the LCN’s ‘Reimagining Inclusive Economic Futures’ network and Head of Strategic Regional Collaboration at Swansea University, suggested that the pandemic has had a positive effect on society’s attitudes towards the professional sectors, such as healthcare, science and education. This, she said, is something city authorities can use as a form of leverage when implementing policies promoting TVET. Learning cities, she urged, need to ‘manage the well-being of learners, trainers and educators; support additional skills for trainers and educators; and reward professional training.’

European Training Foundation (ETF)

Next, Ms Olena Bekh, Senior Specialist in Human Capital Development at the European Training Foundation (ETF), presented on ‘Entrepreneurship: Key competence and enterprise skills’, wherein she spoke about the need for competency skills development for small- and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) in the EU and partner countries. She defined entrepreneurial learning as ‘all forms of education and training, both formal and non-formal, which contribute to an entrepreneurial spirit and behaviour’. As an example of good practice in implementing TVET initiatives, Ms Bekh shared the case of Georgia, where a national initiative comprising seven pillars for TVET development – (1) support for facilitators with leaders with entrepreneurial competences; (2) support for teachers and educators to transmit the impact of entrepreneurial learning on their students; (3) building TVET networks; (4) innovative teaching, learning and assessment; (5) integration of technology; (6) financing for VET; and (7) reputation management – has been implemented.

City of Cotonou, Benin. PASCAL Learning Cities Network

Finally, Mr Idowu Biao, Professor of Lifelong Learning at the University of Abomey-Calavi in Benin, spoke about the City of Cotonou, the commercial capital of Benin, to which many rural migrants – the majority of whom are illiterate and unskilled – relocate in search of work. To assist these migrants, the city has designed and implemented a work-oriented literacy programme that simultaneously teaches literacy and numeracy skills along with job-related technical skills chosen individually by the students. To date, over 100 participants have improved their literacy skills since the programme's inception.

Questions and answers

The presentations were followed by a lively Q&A session moderated by the UNESCO–PASCAL team, and included the following highlights:

  • ETF: Teachers should act as coaches, leaving their students to define their own learning goals. In addition, students should be centrally involved in their entrepreneurial projects. Many aspects of the learning process must change, but any framework should not be replicated as a whole; teachers should choose relevant activities according to students’ needs and demands.
  • Swansea: The pandemic has caused a change of attitudes, particularly in the UK, where an increased respect for professional sectors may have a long-term effect on the labour market. In addition, the staggering rise of unemployment due to the pandemic demands a new approach to government-led TVET. 
  • ETF: The perception of TVET needs to change.
  • UNESCO–UNEVOC: It is very important to have role models in the entrepreneurial sector.
  • Cotonou: Social changes and circumstances have elevated the perception of vocational skills. Many more people who are now in vocational training are earning good salaries and it this changing situation within society that is promoting the relevance of vocational training. Currently a major trend is towards skill acquisition.

Ms Macauley closed the webinar by thanking the presenters and participants and by drawing attention to the consequences of COVID-19 on the future of TVET programmes. ‘Learning gaps are likely to emerge as a result of closures, possibly even more for TVET than for general education,’ she said. Promoting entrepreneurial skills is therefore essential to better equip youth for the world of work.

The summary was prepared by the Coordination Team of the UNESCO Global Network of Learning Cities, with support from Mr Sergio Hernandez Mendoza, University of Glasgow, and Prof. Catherine Lido, PASCAL International Observatory.