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Unrealised potential: The role of independent training providers in meeting skills needs

This report is about the role of the Independent Training Providers (ITPs) within the wider skills system and their contribution to national skills, economic and inclusion priorities. The role of ITPs is often unrecognised and is an under-researched area of technical and vocational education and training (TVET) provision, and with this research we aim to prompt national policy makers to reconsider whether they are making the best use of them in their country. We also aim to raise awareness among ITPs about the work undertaken by counterpart organisations in other countries and encourage them to consider whether there may be commercial or operational benefits from international collaboration. ITPs are private or charitable non-state providers of technical training provision and as noted they represent an under-researched and poorly understood sub-sector within wider TVET. Yet, as will be argued from the research evidence in this report, ITPs play an increasingly important role in delivering government policy priorities in the development of TVET systems, and they often contribute towards global development priorities as set out in the UN Sustainable Development Goals (United Nations, 2015) – particularly with regard to: » the elimination of poverty through creating jobs via sustainable economic growth » the provision of quality education » revitalising global partnerships for sustainable development. The report is based on research conducted by the Association of Employment and Learning Providers (AELP), the UK’s trade body for work-based learning providers with over 900 companies in membership, supported by the British Council. The research started from the premise that the UK system of embedding ITPs within the formal TVET system was relatively unusual in world terms, and prompted discussion about which characteristics of ITPs had led this to happen, and whether they might have a role to play in newly emergent economies. In addition to the UK therefore, research was undertaken into TVET systems in sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia, both of which are regions that are hoping to benefit from a demographic dividend in terms of poverty reduction, employment generation and economic growth. In this context, the importance of skills development as a driver of socio-economic development is paramount, and governments in these regions have recognised the importance of TVET in this process.The study does not try to present a comprehensive view of policy and practice globally, but instead aims to give an overview and series of insights into the ways in which our researchers found ITPs to be positioned to help meet national policy priorities. We selected six countries overseas – Botswana, South Africa, Uganda, India, Nepal and Sri Lanka – for research into the contribution that ITPs played, or could play, within each country’s TVET systems; systems that we felt were broadly representative of a spread of emerging economies. The study used qualitative methods – desk-research, 18 telephone interviews and a UK policy expert workshop – to address the research aims and objectives.