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Vocational Skills Development Project (VSDP)

As Myanmar’s transition towards democracy has been progressing with the elected National League for Democracy (NLD) party since 2015, the country has been seen as the last frontier of South East Asia and has attracted an influx of Foreign Direct Investments (FDI). Despite the changes in investment policies, access to skilled labour still persists as one of the key barriers to investment, both local and foreign.
Myanmar’s ranking in the World Bank’s Ease of Doing Business index has hovered between the 170th and 171st place out of 190 over the period 2015-2019. With the highest poverty rate in South East Asia, at 32.1% (Asia Development Foundation: regional poverty data 2015), nurturing the workplace readiness of its labour force and creating employment opportunities for its underserved population are essential for the inclusive economic development of the country.

Areas of active conflict remain in Myanmar. Despite efforts to usher in peace and initiatives such as the Nationwide Ceasefire Agreement, conflict and unrest remain, and the 2017 crisis in Rakhine State has led to a mass exodus of refugees crossing the border into Bangladesh.

Decades of underinvestment in Myanmar’s education and training system has resulted in graduates lacking skills to effectively meet the needs of the labour market. The significant lack of appropriately-skilled labour throughout the country, particularly for vocational occupations, is seen as a major factor restraining the economy’s potential for growth. In order to support its economy, Myanmar needs committed, experienced and skilled workers. To achieve this, there is a need to improve the quality and access to technical and vocational education and training (TVET), especially for those with limited economic opportunities. This not only helps to address the needs of the labour market, but also contributes to more inclusive economic growth and undermines economic drivers for conflict. Strengthened public-private partnerships in TVET are also essential for implementing policies, skill standards and training initiatives that respond to the market’s needs. The Government of Myanmar has recognised this need and has identified TVET as a priority area for the development of the country.

The Project

The Vocational Skills Development Program (VSDP) is financed by the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC). It is implemented in Myanmar by a consortium led by Swisscontact (the Swiss Foundation for Technical Cooperation), in collaboration with INBAS (Institute for Vocational Training, Labour Market and Social Policy).

Program goal: To contribute to improved livelihood opportunities for women and men in targeted areas and occupations in Myanmar.

VSDP 1 was implemented between February 2014 to April 2018, while VSDP 2 is implemented between May 2018 to April 2022.

VSDP 2 aims to improve the access of women and men from disadvantaged groups to quality vocational education and training programs which result in employment or self-employment opportunities in the world of work. It contributes to improve the system for TVET and make it more inclusive and relevant in Myanmar. It works closely with the private and public sectors and targets learners in ways which ensure high relevance of training to the world of work.

VSDP 2 promotes:

Skills for semi-urban and rural areas

In townships throughout Mon, Kayin and Tanintharyi in Southeast Myanmar, vocational education and training is also provided to learners from disadvantaged backgrounds who want to work as tailors, sales clerks, house wirers, beauticians or rural mechanics. The competency based short training courses are implemented through locally-owned implementing partners and focus on occupations where there is demand for skilled labour. Technically skilled local practitioners are trained by the Program to acquire the relevant pedagogical and methodology skills to act as trainers for the learners. Combining the practitioner’s training skills with years of practical experience and good quality training material enables the vocational training courses to be well structured and practically-oriented. The Program is working in partnership with the Ministry of Education (MoE) and the Ministry of Labour, Immigration and Population (MoLIP) and increasingly works with existing Government training institutes such as Government Technical High Schools (GTHS) in implementing short courses.

In the same geographic areas, the Program also provides selected entrepreneurs and aspiring entrepreneurs with the opportunity to gain improved entrepreneurial skills.

Skills for Hospitality sector

In areas with high tourist numbers such as Bagan, Mandalay, Nay Pyi Taw and Yangon, the Program focusses on providing vocational education and training in hospitality occupations. The Program builds the capacity of hotel supervisors, so that they can deliver training to their own hotel line staff, as well as to groups of learners from disadvantaged backgrounds. While initially building the capacity of hotel supervisors through its own trainers, the Program is transferring these activities to locally-owned implementing partners in VSDP 2. In addition, the Program also uses an adapted version of this training approach to implement hospitality training courses in semi-urban areas in selected emerging tourist destinations in the Southeast of the country. The Program is working with the Ministry of Hotel and Tourism (MoHT) to support its capacity for vocational education and training within Myanmar as well as its integration of hospitality professionals into ASEAN.

Dual Apprenticeship training

In areas with a need for higher-level skilled labour, the Program is working with local and international companies, and relevant public institutions, to implement dual apprenticeship training based on the Swiss dual vocational and professional training approach, which takes place on- and off-the-job. The Program currently implements apprenticeships in Mandalay and Yangon for the occupations of cook and agricultural machinery mechanic, which are in high demand in the market. The participating apprentices are contracted by and receive a salary from the company. They receive training from in-company trainers at the workplace, as well as off-the-job training to improve their practical skills, theoretical understanding, and life skills. This approach ensures that apprentices complete the courses with strong technical skills and are ready to take on higher-level jobs.

Policy and stakeholder engagement

The Program works with the Government of Myanmar, private sector stakeholders and other development partners to help improve the harmonisation of activities related to TVET. It uses evidence-based experience, to provide inputs into discussions on policies and government strategies related to TVET in the country. It also engages with public and private stakeholders in selected States and Regions to encourage coordination on skills development activities, as well as to gather information on the local labour market, and identify priorities that could be addressed through TVET.
VSDP 2 continues to engage directly with the National Skills Standards Authority (NSSA), under the Ministry of Labour, Immigration and Population (MoLIP), to support the development and realisation of a national system for skills testing and certification. This system is intended to allow any skilled person to undergo theoretical and practical testing in their selected occupation, based on nationally recognised skills standards.

Throughout its work, VSDP 2 promotes opportunities for women and men to improve both their technical and life skills so that they have access to better earning opportunities and are more empowered. By working through locally-owned implementing partners, transferring training skills to practitioners and supervisory staff in companies as well as private and public training providers, and by providing evidence-based inputs into dialogue on the overall TVET system in Myanmar, VSDP 2 contributes to improvements in the relevance and quality of TVET in Myanmar. The Program considers gender equality and social inclusion principles, and follows a conflict-sensitive approach, during the planning and implementation of all its activities.


Expected results

  • 15,000 women and men from disadvantaged backgrounds are empowered and benefit from improved livelihood opportunities.
  • 650 hotel supervisors and 50 practitioners or government technical high school demonstrators have the necessary skills to act as trainers.
  • Locally-owned implementing partners are capacitated to manage and effectively deliver market-relevant vocational training courses.
  • Companies and government training institutes increasingly collaborate to implement dual apprenticeship training.
  • Evidence-based inputs have contributed to discussions on relevant government TVET policies and strategies.
  • Skills standards for selected hospitality occupations have been developed with relevant stakeholders.