Breaking barriers during the pandemic with technological training solutions

Flexibility and adaptability remain crucial elements in implementing development projects during this pandemic. In this complicated context, the world has become more and more virtual and as an international cooperation organisation Swisscontact has provided the technological tools to our partners so that the projects we implement continue to achieve their goals. In the following, we share two initiatives of vocational training projects in Bolivia and Honduras which, through digital technologies, managed to continue carrying out training for young people at risk of social exclusion.

Digital marketing for trainers

In Bolivia, the Professional Technical Training project fosters equal access to technical training and education. It promotes youth employment with a broader objective of reducing poverty, boosting economic growth and contributing to the sustainable development of the population.

The opportunity to access a training centre represents a big change towards a better life for many vulnerable people in the country. The pandemic, however, made it difficult for training centres to promote themselves in order to attract students. Moreover, face-to-face training was banned. Taking into consideration those impediments, the project started training the trainers in digital marketing, focusing on 100 directors and teachers from 72 vocational training centres (video in Spanish). The idea was to create valuable and compelling content that is appealing to students. In addition to the tailored content of the courses and careers, the programme also included information about the employment opportunities which technical training offers to young people, special activities at the centres as well as graduate success stories, among other things.

The main benefit of this initiative is that people could improve their skills to be able to offer learning services on social media. This marks a new era for vocational training centres in Bolivia since even though some training centres have digital learning platforms, their the implementation is not very systematic.

Concerning this initiative, the Professional Technical Training project in Bolivia has been awarded first place in the InterlatDigital 2020 awards (video in Spanish) on the use of social media. This confirms that training teachers on the virtualisation of their teaching offer is a trend that needs to be addressed to generate value.

The Professional Technical Training project in Bolivia is financed by the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation SDC and implemented by Swisscontact in consortium with FAUTAPO.

Online platforms and courses

ProJoven is a project that ensures the integration of vulnerable young people into the labour market in Honduras. It trains at least 7500 young people and aims to ensure that 80% of them find employment by working with public and private institutions as well as the private sector to provide training that meets market demands. 

The situation caused by the pandemic in Honduras was not much different from other countries in the region. Schools and vocational training centres were closed, a strict curfew was imposed with a severe restriction on geographical movement and most economic activities were paralysed, for at least six months. As a result, many socially vulnerable students were unable to attend on-site training.

In view of this situation, the project encouraged the use of digital tools to achieve training continuity. In a first phase with the use of WhatsApp and Google Classroom, learning material included digital formats such as infographics, e-books, games and exams, as well as videos produced during live practices. Instructors facilitated learning activities such as forum discussions, information search, problem solving, simulation games and practical work. But the continuing pandemic made it necessary to improve some tools by incorporating the Carlos Slim Foundation's "Capacitate Para El Empleo" platform, which contained online learning material, homework and existing evaluations. Some adaptations were made in terms of content and duration in different subjects such as sales, cooking, motorcycle mechanics, networks, graphic design.

The digital gap between students and trainers was an obstacle that the project solved by offering systematic support for a few weeks. In addition, volunteer psychologists counseled students through a permanent hotline to face the psychological effects of the pandemic such as anxiety, depression, grief, or suicidal thoughts.

As a result, some 1200 students completed their technical vocational training and 340 instructors acquired core competencies in online training and participatory learning by applying online teaching methods and using new tools and media.

ProJoven is a programme of the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation SDC, implemented by Swisscontact.