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June

Closing speech by Parliamentary State Secretary Thomas Silberhorn


at the conference "Improving TVET – Priorities for Sustainable Growth in ASEAN", 14 June 2017 in Nay Pyi Taw, Myanmar

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Ladies and gentlemen,

1. ASEAN – an important partner for sustainable economic growth

The ASEAN region is an important trading and economic partner for Germany. Because of the region's rapid growth and its huge potential, it is now the EU's third-largest trading partner outside of Europe. And, within the EU, Germany is the most important trading partner of the ASEAN countries – with German goods making up almost a third of all EU exports to the ASEAN region.

Together, our ASEAN partners and we want to foster sustainable growth – in keeping with the goals of the 2030 Agenda. For us, growth is sustainable when a country's resources are used responsibly, and when growth reaches the whole of society. That is why we are currently supporting 59 projects in Asia, worth a total of 680 million euros. The main focus of our development cooperation with ASEAN countries is on vocational education and training, for we consider vocational education and training an investment in a country's most valuable resource: its people.

2. Training and education in close collaboration with business and industry

However, good qualifications are only half the battle, as the saying goes. The other half is for qualified trainees to find a job. They have a better chance of doing so if their vocational training is relevant to the practical requirements of processes in the workplace. That is what creates employment and income. And these in turn generate personal pride and satisfaction.

And that is what makes Germany's dual school-based system of vocational education and training so successful. Our approach to vocational training combines theoretical instruction in a vocational school or college with practical training in a business or factory. It is the practical application of learning in the workplace that fills that learning with life. Trainees who have received both theoretical and practical training are more useful to potential employers, and are able to perform their work more competently right from the start. In fact, they can contribute to the success of the companies they work for.  For the trainees, it means that they are likely to keep their jobs in the long term.

It is this concept that we are propagating in our country's development cooperation programme. And that is why we consider it very important that (a) vocational training schools and businesses work closely together, (b) training curricula are modern and based on actual practice, and (c) training leads to a recognised qualification.

3. Dual school-based system of vocational education as a driver of economic growth in Asia

We believe that dual vocational training based on the German model can become a driver of economic growth in many Asian countries.

We want big companies to make a commitment to train national staff for work in their infrastructure projects. For example, wherever a company builds a port or a hydropower station, we want local trainees to work in these projects. For many countries, this will be a new concept. But it will help train up Asia's young people.

We already presented an initiative which embraces the "on the job" concept: Build4Skills. The idea behind the initiative is that whenever construction work, for example, has been publicly funded – either by the state or international donors –, only companies that undertake to train up young people will be given the contract to do the work.

4. Flexible vocational education adapted to local requirements

That said, it is obvious that to simply take the dual system the way it is operated in Germany and export it "one to one" to another country will not work. Rather, we have to offer more flexible models which can be adapted to local circumstances. For example, models need to be adapted to:

  • the local economy,
  • the local culture of cooperation between the public and private sector,
  • and the level of demand for fully qualified workers – which in some countries is very high.

Flexibility does not mean establishing only a single system of vocational education, but also providing shorter training schemes where appropriate. The people working to deliver Germany's programme of development cooperation practise this kind of flexibility in areas outside vocational education, too. Nevertheless, nearly every area in which we are involved in development work also requires some form of vocational training and advanced training. This training might involve "on-the-job training", practical training on newly acquired machinery mentoring and exchanges of experience, or study visits.

We offer support of this kind not only through our technical cooperation work (which is carried out by the GIZ). Our financial cooperation programme, which is implemented by the German KfW bank, often also includes a significant advisory component coupled with training measures. 

For example, if Germany, as part of its agreed development cooperation activities, delivers a machine designed to overhaul locomotives to the locomotive works in Ywahtaung, then we have also to enable a sufficient number of the workers there to operate the machine properly. Or if we provide subsidies to help promote domestic solar installations as a means of rural electrification, then we must also provide guidance on how to service these installations. Otherwise, there is the risk that staff will not be able to repair the locomotives, or that the solar installations will be damaged through inappropriate handling.

5. Vocational education in the Digital Age 4.0

We know that in Asia there are many champions in digital transformation – champions who, in terms of connectivity and the development of digital technology, even surpass Germany, which prides itself on the spread of digital technology in its industry, styling itself as an "Industrie 4.0"-level country. These champions of digital transformation in Asia include Singapore and South Korea, and in many cases also China.

However, in spite of Asia's progress, there are still regions and groups that have been left behind. That is why, through our programmes, we want to help these regions and groups to benefit, too, from technical innovations discovered by young start-ups, and from the income and jobs generated by such innovations. Our goal is broad-based, green and inclusive growth! From 2018, we want to support start-ups in two Asian pilot countries, and we will work together with companies, industry federations and IT activists from Germany, Europe and Asia to do this.

We firmly believe that in the ASEAN countries, in particular, there is huge potential for great leaps forward in development through information and communication technologies. Huge potential for increasing the digital dividend!

For example, the Build4Skills initiative will use big data to check whether the training model we are proposing meets the medium-term needs of local labour markets. And we will check regularly whether the trainees find good jobs afterwards. A digital platform will help us to adapt the TVET curricula if needed.

In Myanmar and other countries in the region, modern control engineering in the fabrication of work pieces and the use of 3D printers is already shaping many work processes. That is why Germany's programme of vocational education is providing CNC (Computerised Numerical Control) machines when equipping vocational training schools. In order to fulfil the maxim of making best use of digital technology it is vital that we continuously update vocational training to ensure that it meets the latest standards.

6. Appreciate work of ADB as a partner and of Myanmar as host

Myanmar is the most suitable host for this closing conference, for Myanmar regards vocational education and training as very important. Consequently, we are working closely with Myanmar's government, for example at the Government Technical Institute Insein, where our two sides are working together to offer technical vocational training courses for mechanics, mechatronics, technicians and electricians. Tomorrow we will open this beautiful and historic building for a new generation of trainees. And I learned that our host, Deputy Minister U Win Maw Tun, is a graduate of this renowned institute.

The Asian Development Bank (ADB) is a strategic partner in our work and, for the first time, is co-hosting this series of conferences. Together, we will step up our support for vocational education and training in Myanmar and other ASEAN countries, for example in the case of infrastructure projects, for which there will be a compulsory syllabus of instruction. I look forward to our continued close cooperation with the ADB.

Now it is my special pleasure and a great honour to hand over to Dr. Dr. U Myo Thein Gyi, Minister of Education of the Republic of the Union of Myanmar. Dr Gyi did his PhD in Mathematics at the Technical University of Berlin and is therefore a living example of the educational ties that link Myanmar and Germany.

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