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Skills advancement: making partnerships prosper

May 4, 2022

This article was published originally in the European Training Foundation and has been published here with permission.

If you want to go fast you go alone; but if you want to go far, you go together,” was the powerful message that kicked off a live-stream video discussion to a global audience on Thursday.

The event, “Building successful partnerships for skills development”, hosted by the European Training Foundation (ETF) and the United Nations Industrial Development Organisation (UNIDO), sought to explore partnerships and how best to make them work.

Featuring Virpi Stucki, UNIDO’s Chief of Rural Entrepreneurship, Job Creation & Human Security DivisionSiria Taurelli, ETF’s Senior Human Capital Development Expert; and Elfi Klumpp, Head of Partnership Development, Festo Didactic.  The hour-long discussion was moderated by Karin Monaco, UNIDO’s Learning and Knowledge Development Facility (LKDF) Project Administrator.

Engaging partners

The discussion began with Stucki highlighting the three different levels at which UNIDO operate: project, programme and platform. Regarding the first, UNIDO employs a Public Private Development Partnership (PPDP) methodology where partners can collaborate, for instance, to address a skills gap. Stucki gave the example of a Japanese heavy-duty equipment company approaching UNIDO in Zambia because it could not find machine operators. Simultaneously, the government was looking to update their Vocational Education and Training (VET) programmes, and so UNIDO used their expertise to help catalyse the project. At programme level, UNIDO employed their flagship PCP (Programme for Country Partnershipsinitiative to identify bottlenecks in industrial development, then prioritised tasks and convened partnerships to address the skills gap in Zambia. Finally, multi-stakeholder platforms such as the LKDF are important, Stucki explained “because this is the place where you can share successes, but also the failures.”

The ETF is the only EU agency that is a ‘knowledge hub in capital development’ and employs its extensive network in the EU and neighbouring countries to undertake projects, studies, and evidence-based policy analysis to promote partnerships. Specifically, Taurelli explained that the ETF has learned that partnerships to improve skills can unfold at local, regional and national level, and “should be beneficial to business and society, but also individuals, so they can update their skills to get good quality jobs.”

Festo Didactic, Klumpp explained, is a family-owned company, working across 170 countries, which, among other objectives, seeks to build bridges between industry and the education sector to fill the skills gap. Regarding partnerships, she emphasized the importance of the ‘five i’s’: Innovation, Information, Influence, Impact, and Increasing capacity; “it couldn’t be better summarised,” she said.

Including marginalised communities

 ‘How can skills development partnerships positively impact vulnerable communities?’ enquired the moderator.

Taurelli responded by saying that the ETF works with women and the unemployed, and highlighted its involvement in the Youth Guarantee, which aims to provide young unemployed people with quality jobs. One Serbia-based initiative brought together local training agencieseducation centres and companies to offer this group individual career counselling, soft skills and key competencies, which has led to a “really striking employment rate at the end.” Further, civil society stakeholders should be included in partnerships, she emphasized, as they can help create a powerful impact.

Stucki outlined UNIDO’s method to ensure that the needs of marginalised groups are met.

In Egypt, for example, we started with a diagnostic to understand where women are in the value chain to tailor the programmes accordingly. This can vary a lot, so assumptions should be avoided, she emphasized.

Festo Didactic, on the other hand, has brought its private sector experience to improve Morocco’s municipal and industrial wastewater sector, in a project led by UNIDO and funded with US aid. “This has become very successful” to the point where they are seeking to replicate it in other countries, Klumpp said. Festo is also collaborating with the Learning and Skills Development Platform, “which is another wonderful example of public private partnership.”

Partnerships are relationships

If partnerships are going to work then “people are crucial”, continued Klumpp. Innovation and tools, such as digitilisation and green technology, are also important, as well as the ‘right stakeholders’, which should include a public driver, business partner, financing source and civil society. “Then, in the right environment, the impact flows,” she said.

Taurelli agreed but emphasized the importance of co-design and the need to take time to plan and nurture agreement. “It is important that partnerships lead to positive outcomes for learners,” she said.

Stucki added that ‘partnerships are relationships’: time needs to be invested to build trust and explore whether values and goals are shared. Then you might ‘marry’ by clarifying roles and responsibilities and formalising the partnership. Risks are shared, but also the rewards; and if it works you can seek to replicate it, she said.

In summary, the speakers identified the following key takeaways: the need for partnerships to benefit learners, the five i’s, and the importance of the multi-stakeholder approach.

In response to a question from the audience about whether the motivation of international and domestic partners differ, Stucki responded that they do but only in terms of size, as multinationals have more resources such as equipment, technical expertise, and finance. Klumpp added that local companies also tend to want to develop local markets first. In conclusion, the moderator encouraged listeners to address any remaining questions to the ETF’s Open Space, online.

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