VET Africa 4.0: Reducing Inequality And Enhancing Sustainability Through Skills Development

Lead Research Organisation: University of Nottingham
Department Name: Sch of Education

Abstract

A new approach to vocational education and training (VET) in Africa is needed to address the insights of Agenda 2030 that development cannot have meaning without concentrated attention on overturning complex disadvantage and securing environmental sustainability, as well as on economic growth and employment.

Since the African independence wave began 60 years ago, VET in Africa has gone through three phases, reflecting wider development orthodoxies of modernisation, basic needs and neoliberalism. With a new UNESCO VET vision and the SDGs, it is time to look at what a fourth phase of African VET theory and practice might look like that can address not just economic considerations but also issues of equity/inclusion and environmental sustainability.

To do this we draw on three main theoretical traditions: i) a political economy of development approach that combines learning from evolutionary, institutional and complexity economics with the existing political economy of skills tradition; ii) a new wave of human development and capabilities research that combines the capabilities approach with critical sociological traditions and applies this to VET; iii) accounts of skills development for sustainable development that emphasise the need for pro-poor and community-owned approaches to green skills. The fourth part of our thinking toolkit is provided by the methodological approach of realist evaluation, focused on how to ascertain what different stakeholders think works (and doesn't work) in each case study setting, when, where and why, and for whom.

We will use these four parts of our toolkit to examine four case studies:
1. Uganda - attempts to build local skills and employment into a major oil and gas project (Hoima)
2. Uganda - youth-entrepreneurship and community development in a post-conflict setting (Gulu)
3. South Africa - major infrastructure development initiative in Durban as part of larger ambitions regarding an economic corridor from the port to the industrial heartland of Gauteng
4. South Africa - rural, community-driven green skills (E Cape)

These provide a range of contexts in which skills development takes place within complex skills and work ecosystems. These include massive infrastructure projects, both urban and rural; green skills initiatives alongside continued developments in extractives; and small community projects, including in post-conflict contexts. They also all have important and complex dynamics of gender and economic inequality.

We will answer four research questions:
1. Is there evidence that different emergent approaches to skills for development in Africa are viable, both at the project level and, potentially, at larger scale?
2. What do different stakeholders think works (and doesn't work) in such initiatives, when, where and why, and for whom?
3. To what extent do the different interventions offer a fruitful approach for promoting decent work and sustainable livelihoods for all, with a particular emphasis on meeting the needs of those facing multiple forms of disadvantage? What enables and/or constrains this?
4. Are skills interventions such as these capable of overcoming the old productivist approach so
as to address the rising challenges of environmental sustainability?

By operating at both theoretical and applied levels across multiple cases, this research will make a significant contribution to addressing the grand challenge of successful VET reform. It will produce strong academic research, built through continuous engagement with stakeholders, that will be communicated in appropriate ways to academic, policy, practitioner and community audiences. This will enable the project team to offer new practical insights into how better to support VET system transformation through an ecosystem approach. This will result in new knowledge that can contribute to meeting the needs of the most marginalised, national development needs and the global SDG agenda.

Planned Impact

The overarching challenge that this project seeks to engage with is that the orthodox theory of change about how to support VET system reform does not work.

A key part of the overall problem of VET system change is that VET institutional reform programmes are largely unsuccessful. Moreover, whilst there is much rhetoric about engaging more with employers in VET systems, there is little good practice in this regard. Crucially, young people's voices remain marginal to VET reform processes. We also know too little about whether new approaches such as work readiness, green skills and supplier development programmes are effective in economic and equity terms. Finally, the SDGs point to new challenges regarding equity and environmental sustainability, challenges that VET reforms have been slow to address.

We seek to make a significant contribution to addressing these interrelated issues as part of meeting the grand challenge of successful VET reform. We will produce strong academic research, built through continuous engagement with stakeholders, that will be communicated in appropriate ways to academic, policy, practitioner and community audiences. This will enable us to offer new practical insights into how better to support VET system transformation through an ecosystem approach. Such transformation requires all relevant stakeholders to work more effectively together. We will also offer new insights into the effectiveness of specific interventions, and how equitable they are.

We will engage with a range of stakeholder groups. These include marginalised youth and communities, particularly young women, both in and out of VET. Access will be achieved through the existing networks of the national teams with such groups. National small and medium enterprises, particularly those who are engaged in supply chains to larger projects, are another important group and engagement with them will also be facilitated by existing team networks. Large companies, including transnationals, involved in some of the case studies are also strategic stakeholders. Here, existing relationships will be utilised and gatekeepers will be identified to help with introductions to other important enterprises. Government officials in relevant ministries form another stakeholder group along with key intervention programme staff. We have considerable experience of working with a range of ministries in both countries (up to ministerial advisor level) and will use these relationships to build project-policy/programme relationships from project inception. The final key national stakeholder group are the managers and staff of vocational institutions. The Gulu Chair has key provider institutions within its formal Chair partnership, whilst both Wits and Nottingham have longstanding relationships with a number of South African institutions, including in the case study settings.

Additionally, we seek to influence international development practitioners and international development policies. Here the PI's experience for more than a decade of managing the discussion paper series of the VET donor working group will be crucial as will his experience of contributing to video and written materials for DFID advisors through HEART.

The project team are highly experienced in working with a range of stakeholders to maximise impact. Both the UK and Ugandan teams are built around a UNESCO Chair and a UNESCO-UNEVOC Centre, with detailed workplans for engaging with national stakeholders. Both feed directly into UNESCO regional and global processes of improving VET policy and practice. The South African team feature two NRF-SARCHI chairs, with national stakeholder engagement mandates. As all three main partner institutions have extensive impact experience, it is envisaged that this will be a shared function, with one member of each team being a designated impact lead. The PI will liaise with the three impact leads to support this key element of the project.

Publications

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McGrath S (2019) Vocational education and training for African development: a literature review in Journal of Vocational Education & Training

 
Description The VET Africa 4.0 project is based upon four cases in two DAC countries: South Africa and Uganda. We are still in the earliest stages of data collection, but some signs of social and economic impact are emergent. In the Gulu case (Uganda) a roundtable event for local stakeholders resulted in the regional traditional authority approaching us about how we could inform their plans for regional economic development. In the Alice case (South Africa), the team participated in a curriculum review workshop with the key local education and training provider in late January 2020. This project has application to all 17 Sustainable Development Goals however, it primarily addresses commitments in Goal 4 on ensuring inclusive and equitable quality education and promoting lifelong learning opportunities. All four case studies are drawing on engagement with local and national VET stakeholders to consider how VET can play a greater role in promoting sustainability and equality. To that end the project is particularly addresses several targets: particularly equality of access for all women and men to affordable and quality technical and vocational education (Target 4.3); increasing the number of youth and adults who have relevant technical and vocational skills, decent work and entrepreneurship (Target 4.4); and addressing issues of equality of access (Target 4.5); and a focus on skills for sustainable development. We anticipate that these interactions will result in tangible outcomes, and that further impacts will emerge across all four case study sites and the project as a whole during 2020. As of February 2020, the project has been invited to contribute to a Research Lab at the European Development Days 2020 on "Skills for A Green New Deal for Development" along with VVOB (Flemish Aid), UNESCO and Education International (global confederation of teachers' unions). The focus of the project on VET and equality and sustainability also draws attention to issues of race, gender and disability and equality of access to vocational education, and to meaningful pathways of progression through VET and into further education and work, thereby related to Goals 5 and 10. Initial project engagements with research stakeholders has indicated that issues of equality in VET are important but face challenges arising from funding, lack of awareness, and differing cultural practices and values. All case teams are committed to including individuals of differing race, gender and physical abilities as research participants throughout the data collection phase of the project. Finally, with regards to SDG 6 (availability and sustainable management of water) and SDG 13 (climate action), research arising from the South African case study in the Eastern Cape is demonstrating the value of deepening relationships between college curricula, farmers and extension services, and building local networks for collaborative learning in order to strengthen climate resilience among small-holder farmers in the region.
First Year Of Impact 2019
Sector Agriculture, Food and Drink,Education
Impact Types Societal,Policy & public services

 
Description Literature review grant
Amount £5,000 (GBP)
Organisation Journal of Vocational Education and Training 
Sector Private
Start 05/2019 
End 12/2020
 
Description Transforming Education Systems for Sustainable Development (TES4SD) Network Plus
Amount £4,825,103 (GBP)
Funding ID ES/T002646/1 
Organisation Economic and Social Research Council 
Sector Public
Country United Kingdom
Start 11/2019 
End 10/2022
 
Description VET Africa 4.0 project partnership 
Organisation Gulu University
Country Uganda 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution The UK research team oversees the financial and administrative day-to-day management of the VET Africa 4.0 project, and works with the four case teams within two DAC partner institutions to ensure that the project meets its goals and objectives. This primarily involves the provision of research support and capacity development within the partner institutions, and facilitating the full participation and autonomy of both DAC partner institutions in all decision making and research processes pertaining to the ongoing development and direction of the project. The UK research team is providing expertise to the project on theories of VET for development and the development of new approaches to institutional development and evaluation in vocational education and training.
Collaborator Contribution The DAC partner institution Gulu University in Uganda is conducting case study research across two geographic sites (Gulu and Hoima). This involves building new relationships and arranging engagement activities with local and national VET stakeholders, and the development and deployment of various methods of data collection. The Gulu University team is providing expertise to the project partnership on the role of Participatory Action Research across the project, and research expertise on community and rural VET. The DAC partner institutions in South Africa (Witwatersrand and Rhodes Universities) are conducing case study research across two geographic sites (Alice in the Eastern Cape, and Durban Port). This involves building on established connections with local VET stakeholders, whilst also building new relationships and arranging engagement activities with local and national VET stakeholders within each of the cases. The Witwatersrand team is providing expertise to the project partnership on green skills research, and tools for researching educational pathways and vocational work-streams. The Rhodes team is providing expertise to the project partnership on Net-Map Interviews and Learning Networks.
Impact Direct outcomes of this partnership are an academic paper, engagement activities at four case sites, and full details are reported under the relevant sections of the form. Here we have followed the UKRI Guidance for Outcomes Reporting of Official Development Assistance Projects by reporting the partnership that was included as part of the original application for GCRF Funding involving a partnership between the UK and universities in Uganda and South Africa.
Start Year 2019
 
Description VET Africa 4.0 project partnership 
Organisation Rhodes University
Country South Africa 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution The UK research team oversees the financial and administrative day-to-day management of the VET Africa 4.0 project, and works with the four case teams within two DAC partner institutions to ensure that the project meets its goals and objectives. This primarily involves the provision of research support and capacity development within the partner institutions, and facilitating the full participation and autonomy of both DAC partner institutions in all decision making and research processes pertaining to the ongoing development and direction of the project. The UK research team is providing expertise to the project on theories of VET for development and the development of new approaches to institutional development and evaluation in vocational education and training.
Collaborator Contribution The DAC partner institution Gulu University in Uganda is conducting case study research across two geographic sites (Gulu and Hoima). This involves building new relationships and arranging engagement activities with local and national VET stakeholders, and the development and deployment of various methods of data collection. The Gulu University team is providing expertise to the project partnership on the role of Participatory Action Research across the project, and research expertise on community and rural VET. The DAC partner institutions in South Africa (Witwatersrand and Rhodes Universities) are conducing case study research across two geographic sites (Alice in the Eastern Cape, and Durban Port). This involves building on established connections with local VET stakeholders, whilst also building new relationships and arranging engagement activities with local and national VET stakeholders within each of the cases. The Witwatersrand team is providing expertise to the project partnership on green skills research, and tools for researching educational pathways and vocational work-streams. The Rhodes team is providing expertise to the project partnership on Net-Map Interviews and Learning Networks.
Impact Direct outcomes of this partnership are an academic paper, engagement activities at four case sites, and full details are reported under the relevant sections of the form. Here we have followed the UKRI Guidance for Outcomes Reporting of Official Development Assistance Projects by reporting the partnership that was included as part of the original application for GCRF Funding involving a partnership between the UK and universities in Uganda and South Africa.
Start Year 2019
 
Description VET Africa 4.0 project partnership 
Organisation University of the Witwatersrand
Country South Africa 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution The UK research team oversees the financial and administrative day-to-day management of the VET Africa 4.0 project, and works with the four case teams within two DAC partner institutions to ensure that the project meets its goals and objectives. This primarily involves the provision of research support and capacity development within the partner institutions, and facilitating the full participation and autonomy of both DAC partner institutions in all decision making and research processes pertaining to the ongoing development and direction of the project. The UK research team is providing expertise to the project on theories of VET for development and the development of new approaches to institutional development and evaluation in vocational education and training.
Collaborator Contribution The DAC partner institution Gulu University in Uganda is conducting case study research across two geographic sites (Gulu and Hoima). This involves building new relationships and arranging engagement activities with local and national VET stakeholders, and the development and deployment of various methods of data collection. The Gulu University team is providing expertise to the project partnership on the role of Participatory Action Research across the project, and research expertise on community and rural VET. The DAC partner institutions in South Africa (Witwatersrand and Rhodes Universities) are conducing case study research across two geographic sites (Alice in the Eastern Cape, and Durban Port). This involves building on established connections with local VET stakeholders, whilst also building new relationships and arranging engagement activities with local and national VET stakeholders within each of the cases. The Witwatersrand team is providing expertise to the project partnership on green skills research, and tools for researching educational pathways and vocational work-streams. The Rhodes team is providing expertise to the project partnership on Net-Map Interviews and Learning Networks.
Impact Direct outcomes of this partnership are an academic paper, engagement activities at four case sites, and full details are reported under the relevant sections of the form. Here we have followed the UKRI Guidance for Outcomes Reporting of Official Development Assistance Projects by reporting the partnership that was included as part of the original application for GCRF Funding involving a partnership between the UK and universities in Uganda and South Africa.
Start Year 2019
 
Description Durban, South Africa - face-to-face engagement with local policy and sector stakeholders 
Form Of Engagement Activity A formal working group, expert panel or dialogue
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Regional
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact During September 2019 through to January 2020 we engaged with 16 local policy and sector stakeholders (DAC country: South Africa). Through a wide range of semi-structured interviews we have started to generate insights into both the dynamics of national policy and how local actors interact with these policy processes. This has generated insights on where certain programmes have sought to encourage skills production linked to a particular trade (e.g.: construction), and the role that parastatals and institutional collaboration has in these processes. Further work needs to be done in understanding specific dynamics around some occupational categories and how they have been handled in the context of changing skills demand. We also identified examples of positive changes around occupational dynamics.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2019,2020
 
Description Facebook 
Form Of Engagement Activity Engagement focused website, blog or social media channel
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Study participants or study members
Results and Impact The Ugandan team set up a Facebook site. To date, this has not been proactively used by the project team and we will review its usefulness as an engagement tool over the coming months.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2019
URL https://www.facebook.com/vetafrica4.0/
 
Description Gulu Roundtable (Stakeholder engagement) November 2019 
Form Of Engagement Activity A formal working group, expert panel or dialogue
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Regional
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact A Roundtable was held with 12 stakeholders from NGOs, the local inter-religious council; private entrepreneurs, and formal and non-formal VET institutions in the Gulu district (DAC country: Uganda). The objective of the Roundtable was to map key stakeholders and their networks, interconnections and influence in order to develop our local connections and support the next phase of data collection. We identified complex and interrelated connections of actors and individuals engaged in VET.
This engagement activity is part of the Participatory Action Approach adopted by the case team. This was the first time these stakeholders had engaged pro-actively with each other to talk about vocational education, skills and employment opportunities in the region. We will continue to work closely with these stakeholders and others on the direction of the research process and in seeking to be part of a solution through the research. The regional traditional authority approached us about how we could inform their plans for regional economic development. We were also asked to lead the development of a local network which is focused on policy and action in the field of vocational education and skills development.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2019
 
Description Hoima Roundtable (Stakeholder engagement) January 2020 
Form Of Engagement Activity A formal working group, expert panel or dialogue
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Regional
Primary Audience Study participants or study members
Results and Impact A Roundtable was held with 11 stakeholders from NGOs, the local inter-religious council; private entrepreneurs, and formal and non-formal VET institutions in the Hoima district (DAC country: Uganda). The overall purpose of the Roundtable was to introduce local stakeholders to the project and begin to establish what VET based connections and influence exist within Hoima. Participants identified various stakeholder groups who are important to consider and engage with in the Hoima case including: Formal and Non-Formal Vocational Training Institutions; key funders/funding-partners including Enabel, World Vision, Baylor Uganda; curriculum designers; policy makers; accrediting Bodies (UBTEB, DIT); Employers/Companies, and parents. All participants expressed a strong desire to participate in transforming VET in Uganda and engaging with both policy makers and the community to promote the vital role of VET in Hoima and beyond.

Participants also shared opinions on the future of VET in Hoima and its relevancy to the local community in the event of the expected oil production in the country.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2020
 
Description Instagram 
Form Of Engagement Activity Engagement focused website, blog or social media channel
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Study participants or study members
Results and Impact The Ugandan team set-up an Instagram account: vetafrica4.0. We are reviewing the usefulness of this as an engagement activity over the coming months.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2019
 
Description Participatory Action Research (PAR) Workshop (Gulu) 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Other audiences
Results and Impact The Gulu project team in Uganda organised a one-week workshop with a focus on Participatory Action Research (PAR). This took place between 14-18 October 2019 under the UNESCO Chair Youth and Work, and involved 16 participants from Uganda, a DAC country. The workshop adopted the theme of Vocational Education and Training, and gave us the opportunity to explore the deeply held negative perceptions about VET within Uganda with the participants, which included academics and skills-based practitioners from various organisations. The workshop also involved engagement with the local community and initial connections were made with local VET institutions and students who were introduced to the VET Africa 4.0 project. Finally, this workshop also included training on PAR methods, which further contributed to the development of research skills among all members of the Gulu and Hoima case teams.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2019
 
Description Public Lecture by Dr Wedekind at Fort Cox Agriculture and Forestry Technical Institute 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Regional
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact Approximately 50 participants attended a public lecture by Dr Wedekind at the end of a day supporting Fort Cox College's curriculum review process. He provided an overview of recent policy and research about agricultural skills and knowledge in South Africa and linked this both to Fort Cox's ongoing curricular processes and to the VET Africa 4.0 project. Attendees included college lecturers, staff from local universities, farmers and staff of organisations working with the farming sector. Dr Wedekind's lecture offered new insights into the place of the curricular review process at the local level within national and sectoral developments.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2020
 
Description Public seminar, University of Witwatersrand 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact More than 50 people attended a public seminar presented by Professor McGrath at the Centre for Research in Education and Labour, University of the Witwatersrand. The audience included several officials from the South African Department of Higher Education and Training, staff of Sector Education and Training Authorities, HR managers from large corporations, trade unionists and consultants, as well as academics and students. The event introduced some key ideas related to the project to this audience and served as a key means of making key end users and stakeholders aware of the project at an early stage.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2019
 
Description Website 
Form Of Engagement Activity Engagement focused website, blog or social media channel
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Study participants or study members
Results and Impact We designed and established a project website. This involved a collaboration between the South African and Ugandan (DAC country) project teams who contracted a South African company to build the website. The website provides a mechanism for engaging directly with research users, research participants and other interested parties.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2019
URL http://www.vetafrica4-0.com/