Public-Private Partnership: A More Effective Approach to Skills Development

As we look around,  there is a scramble by most governments in developing countries to put investments in skills development/TVET institutions having realized that the only way their country can attract new investments, expand existing industry and be competitive in the global market is by up-skilling their work force.

TVET Institution in Cambodia.

These investments are tackling several areas and work is hectic to improve not just the building and equipment but also curriculum, learning materials, standards, teacher training and student assessment.

The scramble in the developed world while different, is just as hectic as precision manufacturing combined with surging drive for increased productivity puts the “big guys” in a world wide struggle. ​

Do we see a major impact as a result of these investments? Absolutely! In the developing world, the buildings are being modernized and new equipment is rolling in.

The consultants have left a library of new standards, learning materials, teacher and student assessment instruments. Policies and strategies are in place.

The frustration is that not many students flock to the new buildings. The computers and other equipment are not used to capacity and the plaintive crys of business and industry keep mounting that they cannot get the skills they need.


  • Most TVET institutions responsible for providing the much needed skills in today’s economy are still very traditional. Teachers are government employees and are often paid less than skilled workers or engineers in the private sector. Thus, teaching staff usually have little Enterprise experience and little understanding of industrial standards and are ineffective in preparing students for the workforce.
  • Equipment is installed as part of the loan or grant that financed the original construction of the Technical Institute and the hardware ages without being replaced or updated until it does not represent current industrial practice. 
  • ​Usually, there is little government funding for new equipment. Some don’t even have the money to repair or replace broken parts. Even the electricity to use these is beyond their budget. One Technical Institute Principal said that they also have to build sheds for these equipment  as well as secure them and these cost a lot of money.
  • ​There is little or no money in recurring budgets for training materials so students stay at the equipment without any chance for hands-on work.
  • Curriculum is based on supplying a series of skills regardless of Enterprise need for those skills. 
  • Self employment is not taught so graduates remain without work.
  • Enterprise does not hire the graduates but does its own training of new recruits. A company in the Philippines built its own school and recruited University Engineering graduates to be trained as technicians. The Garments Industry in Cambodia is building its own school as is the Hotel Industry.
  • Often, these institutes were designed to meet the Government’s own needs for staff rather than any enterprise demand. 
  • Industry keeps assessing that employability skills are perhaps more important that technical skills. Attitudes, orientation to work, group skills, communications capabilities, timeliness…..without these new employees are in a revolving door…in today…out tomorrow.​
Private sector

In response to this, some funders have moved towards a much more active participation by the private sector in skills development. Public-Private Partnerships (PPP) are taking on a central role in TVET in many countries, supplying services which Government either cannot provide or is ineffective at providing itself.

Besides, let’s be realistic.

TVET is too expensive for any Government to provide by itself. PPPs make sense and work well. And although some are reluctant to accept it, industry does have a responsibility for training and upgrading its own workers just as government has a responsibility in providing a reasonable flow of new work-ready graduates to industry.

The use of  PPPs is an attractive option for the  future development of the Technical Institute sector. PPP institutions are directly linked to the needs of Enterprise for a skilled and adaptable workforce at the Technician level. 

Although some industry sectors have taken to building their own schools, there are still many other sectors that will need Government encouragement to strongly participate in the training of a skilled and highly competitive workforce.

The key is to give Industry incentives to become part of skills development, not just invest their own money but their time as well. Leadership on their part is an important component for any success in skills development in many developing countries.

As this develops, the role of Government changes. Working with Industry, develop national skills policy that ensures international training standards while rolling out an industry driven skills assessment service to ensure that everyone, regardless of how they were trained, can achieve certification of competence.

​Making sure the system is accessible to all and that the poor can receive support to get into the certified competence race is a basic Government function. The Industry involvement in training must grow as the Government accountability for consistency, quality and accessibility becomes stronger. 

Skills Development must be a partnership or everyone loses.

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