Myanmar is one of the least densely populated countries in South-East Asia and its economy has grown rapidly over the last two decades. Consequently, poverty has declined in the recent years. However, Myanmar’s education and training system has suffered from chronic underfinancing for decades, and still receives low priority. As a result, literacy in the working-age population is low and vulnerable employment is pervasive. 

There is wide recognition that Myanmar’s development requires major investment in the country’s long neglected TVET system, which is lagging behind those in other South-East Asian countries and major trading and investment partners like China or India. The ongoing reforms of technical and vocational education and training (TVET) supported by development partners are still at a nascent stage. TVET system is fragmented, with poor quality and limited labour market relevance, and it focuses on multi-year programmes at advanced levels of education despite the large numbers of out-of-school adolescents in the country. Given the scope of the challenges, skills development programmes are not always adapted to respond to changing labour market needs and technological innovations. 

In the last years, Myanmar has produced a comprehensive set of documents outlining its development strategies and policies. Nonetheless, progress in TVET remains conditioned by the adoption of the draft TVET law by the Ministry of Education and the ongoing development of a new skills law by the Ministry of Labour. The latter aims to expand and improve the TVET system to respond to the demand for skills in the economy. It is up to international standards and aims at reforming the TVET governance so that (i) ministries are better coordinated, (ii) the private sector is involved, and (iii) TVET institutions and providers are better managed. 

ILO STED programme targets sectors for growth through increasing skills in developing economies
Publication Date: 20 Jun 2017
Source: ILO
It was to answer these kinds of questions that the International Labour Organization developed the Skills for Trade and Economic Diversification (STED) programme. STED is a strategic analytical and implementation tool used to provide guidance for skills development policies in various economic sectors.

In Myanmar’s case, with the support of the Swedish International Development cooperation Agency (SIDA), the ILO began employing the STED methodology in 2015 to survey and facilitate cooperation among all stakeholders involved in the tourism sector and develop training resources for tour guides.

The collaboration resulted in a three-tiered, competency standard for guides, with a new course curriculum for each tier. “Level one is for local guides or site guides; level two is regional guides; and level three are the national guides. Each level will require increased training in literacy and other guiding skills,” explains Daw Khin Than Win, Deputy Director General, Ministry of Hotels and Tourism for Myanmar, adding, “Our guides are our diplomats…they need to represent the best of our country.”

The STED methodology stemmed from the realization that a skilled workforce is critical to achieving economic prosperity and building more inclusive societies. With the right skills in the workforce, enterprises can be more productive and competitive in both local and global markets. Economies can grow faster and the benefits of development and trade can be spread more widely and evenly among workers. The process begins with a review by ILO and national experts in skills and employment, enterprise and trade, working in close consultation with country level constituents to identify and prioritize suitable sectors. Once the sectors that offer the best opportunities for trade development are selected, a process of extensive collaboration and research begins with the relevant worker, business, government bodies and other institutions and experts in the sector.

This collaboration develops concrete recommendations for policy and training. What’s more, the process of developing these recommendations develops an increased understanding of the importance of skills development and improved dialogue among the key players, which help contribute to tangible improvements within the industry.

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Skills for Trade and Economic Diversification: Tourist Guides Sector, Myanmar
Publication Date: 19 Jun 2017
Source: ILO
This report presents an application of the Skills for Trade and Economic Diversification (STED) methodology to the Tourism sector of Myanmar, with specific focus on tourist guides. STED is a sector-based approach to identifying and anticipating the strategic skills needs of internationally tradable sectors. It has been developed in recognition of the fact that having the right skills among workers is crucial for firms or industries to succeed in trade, and vice-versa, understanding trade is important to provide workers with the right skills. Availability of skilled workers contributes to higher and more diversified exports, more foreign direct investment, higher absorption of technology, and more sustainable growth and productive employment creation. At the same time, skills are the key determinant for a worker’s success in finding a good job and making a living. In order for skills supply to match skills demand in the labour market, it is necessary to take a forward-looking perspective, and to ask not just what skills are in demand today, but what skills will be in demand in the future.