Skills Development Programs
Many people around the world are faced with the problems of being unable to find viable employment or not being qualified for the employment that is available. The increase of technology and the rise in globalization has created a workforce in which education and flexibility are vital to employment, yet many workers do not have these skills and are unable to compete in an ever-changing job market. To combat rising unemployment and poverty levels and an increasing lack of qualified workers, many governments are creating skills development programs which help build vocational skills in workers. These programs are focused on creating new jobs, innovative vocational training methods, and adult education opportunities which are having success in many parts of the world, particularly South Africa.
Keywords Developing Nations; Gross Domestic Product (GDP); Globalization; High-Skill; Industrialized Nations; Low-Skill; Skills Development Plan (SDP); Vocational Skills
Today's world is one marked by constant change, innovation, and upheaval in virtually all sectors of life. The labor market is no exception, and workers today are faced with many changes and challenges they must tackle. The increased globalization of the world means that workers are often transitory and mobile, moving from region to region and country to country either in pursuit of employment or as part of their employment. Technology continues to create new career opportunities and transmit innovative business ideas around the world. Technology is creating constant change, particularly in the agricultural, manufacturing, and business industries, and workers of today must be flexible and constantly learning in order to stay competitive.
In the job market today, education is becoming increasingly important to employment. Education, job training skills, and an ability to learn and adapt quickly are fast becoming requirements for workers. These skills help workers both survive and thrive. A classic example is a farmer in Africa. New agriculture developments such as genetically modified crops can help this farmer survive by keeping his crops from being consumed by insects or killed in a long drought. Technological and agricultural developments can also help him thrive by creating greater crop yields and allowing him to build a successful farm business. Different jobs skills and education help other types of workers, factory workers for example, be able to both obtain steady jobs and to advance forward into higher positions and better pay.
Sadly, work skills and educational achievement are necessities that far too many of the world's people do not possess. Illiteracy is a global problem which affected one in five people over age 15 in 2000 (UNESCO, 2003). In many developing nations, a significant percent of the population goes without a primary education. Vocational and professional skills are particularly low in many parts of the world. In South Africa, for example, only 20% of the population has "high-level professional skills" (Temkin, 2006). These serious issues mean that millions go without gainful employment or are unable to move beyond the lowest levels of employment. In South Africa, the unemployment rate is as high as 26% (AsigaSA, 2007). For most developing nations, the percentage of people without either employment or full-time employment is about 30%, in comparison to the 4-12% unemployment rate in industrialized nations (Central Intelligence Agency, 2007). In many cases, it is lack of worker training and skills that are a direct cause of employment difficulties.
In an effort to remedy this problem, many nations have channeled a great deal of focus into improving their education systems, both for children and for adults. Additionally, many nations are focused on providing vocational skills training and adult education programs so that workers can have more employment and vocational advancement opportunities. In particular, skill development programs (SDP) are in force in many developing nations. A skill development program (SDP) is a state-sponsored program that is aimed at fostering vocational skills in citizens.
These programs are increasing in popularity, especially in developing nations where education achievement among citizens is low in comparison to industrialized nations. South Africa in particular has established several government-sponsored SDP in order to help both youth and adult learners gain the skills they need to find employment. These programs are also focused on creating more employment opportunities for these newly equipped workers. In addition to improving the individual lives of the workers in question, SDP work to stimulate the economy of countries, reduce poverty rates, and help non-industrialized nations continue to develop and become more competitive in the global economy.
Examples from Africa
Africa, particularly South Africa, is a region of the world that is seeing a critical lack of qualified, trained workers. As stated above, only 20% of South Africa's population has the skill level for higher level professional jobs (Temkin, 2006). This problem has captured the attention of both the public and the private sector, and many corporations perform a variety of services such as helping businesses attract qualified staff, and provide skills development and vocational skills training. The managing direction of PECS, Martin Wescott, in a recent interview with Business Day, spoke at length about the reasons why South Africa is experiencing such a lack of qualified workers, particularly engineers and workers with more than ten years of experience. Population growth was a factor; the population grew from about 30 million in 1994 to over 45 million today, which means that there are more people in need of employment and vocational skills training and the supply has not been able to keep up with the demand. Another problem is that engineering and technical positions, the positions that are the most difficult to fill, offer low-level pay, and many skilled workers are leaving South Africa to seek better employment elsewhere (as cited in Temkin, 2006).
However, there are numerous SDP being implemented in South Africa to help workers receive the training and education they need. One such program is Accelerated and Shared Growth Initiative for South Africa (AsgiSA ). This wide-reaching program has many goals such as reducing poverty and unemployment and increasing GDP growth rate. To accomplish this, AsgiSA directs its efforts towards many areas, and vocational skills training is one. In particular, AsgiSA is focusing its efforts towards career guidance, adult education, and literacy (AsgiSA, 2007).
Under AsgiSA is a new institution entitled the Joint Initiative for Priority Skills Acquisition (JIPSA), which is focused particularly on vocational skills. JIPSA's mission is to identify what vocational skills are most urgently needed and how to most effectively meet these needs. One such outcome of JIPSA is that this year, 100 professional South African women became part of an exchange program with the United Arab Emirates. These women will travel to Abu Dhabi and Dubai to work in UAE businesses for six months to a year in order to develop their professional skills and collaborate with other professionals. Currently, South Africa has set aside 375 billion rand for public infrastructural development from which these women, upon completing the program, will benefit ("South Africa:SA/UE Skills," 2006).
Migrant Workers in North America
However, other nations outside of Africa are faced with the serious issue that many workers lack vocational skills. In the Americas, particularly the U.S. and Mexico, agricultural workers are often hampered by a serious lack of both job training and education. Kissam, Intili & Garcia (2001) said that presently, most U.S. agricultural workers are binational; they are born in Mexico but spend their work lives moving back and forth between Mexico and the U.S. Most of these workers are known as Migrant and Seasonal Farm Workers (MSFW). Although there have been several Acts and studies performed on behalf of MSFW such as the Workforce Investment Act (WIA), Job Training Partnership Act (JTPA), and the National Agricultural Workers Survey (NAWS), Kissam, Intilit & Garcia (2001) stated that there is no hard data which presents a clear picture of how these workers fare over the decades of their work lives: the authors argued that there needs to be comprehensive...
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