The Annual Development Cooperation Conference took place on 23 June 2017 on the shores of Lake Geneva at the EPFL, one of the top institutions for training and research. The annual conference is organised jointly by the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC) and the State Secretariat for Economic Affairs (SECO). This year’s conference was dedicated to vocational skills development in the field of development cooperation.
Various speakers contributed to the debate on how vocational training creates prospects – Federal Councillor Johann N. Schneider-Ammann, head of the Federal Department of Economic Affairs, Education and Research, representatives from the SDC, SECO and institutions working on projects in Burkina Faso, Nepal and Peru, as well as Swiss MPs. The Nigerian former foreign and finance minister Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala emphasised the importance of vocational skills development in Africa.
“Young people are the future. They can be a positive central force for innovation and change, as long as they are given the chance”, stated Schneider-Ammann in his opening. Training opens up job and earning opportunities, especially for young people, who are often exposed to unemployment and underemployment. It improves people's lives and prospects by getting them into work. That is why training is a core element in development cooperation. A well-trained workforce fortifies regional and national economies and gives people a way out of poverty.
The challenges are great, and improving access to training takes time and commitment. Basic and continuing education is an area in which Switzerland has invaluable expertise, which it wants to pass on and share with its partner countries so that they may be inspired to develop their own training culture. Schneider-Ammann went on to describe how a new Serbian IT company was able to create and market innovative products and services thanks to Switzerland’s support.
There was also an example from Burkina Faso, where a Swiss programme combining school and on-the-job training in order to support vocational skills development for adults who were not able to complete their education was set up. The programme mainly benefits people in such trades as mechanical repairs, carpentry, welding, tailoring, hairdessing and weaving. Between 2006 and 2012, more than 25,000 people were able to raise their incomes by almost 40% thanks to their new skills and more than 1,000 young people learnt a trade, one third of whom were girls. The programme also supports training in sectors connected to agriculture, livestock and forestry.
This year the SDC has a basic education and vocational skills development strategy. In addition, the 2017-20 Dispatch on Switzerland's International Cooperation places greater emphasis on Switzerland's engagement in the field of vocational training. That is why the SDC is allocating an additional 50% in financial resources for vocational skills development over the next four years. In the same period, SECO will also invest between CHF 40 and 50 million for specialised vocational skills building.
Because training is essential for people to build a future and because it benefits society as a whole, greater efforts are needed in this area. The message from this year’s Annual Development Cooperation Conference is clear: Switzerland is fully committed.
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Annual Swiss Development Cooperation Conference 2017 SDC/SECO
SDC: Basic education and vocational skills
SECO: Promoting entrepreneurship (by vocational skills)
Speech by Federal Councillor Johann Schneider-Ammann at the annual conference of SDC/SECO (de/fr)
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