Pacific connections - supporting links between Pacific island skills and employment initiatives

Students at the Kiribati Institute of Technology

Australia has committed to step up its engagement for a more resilient and prosperous Pacific by supporting inclusive economic growth and employment opportunities.

Scope Global is supporting the Australian Government to build stronger regional links and relationships through managing a diverse range of programs in the Pacific. These programs include the Kiribati Facility (including the Skills for Employment Program), the Pacific Technical Assistance Mechanism Phase 2, Tonga Skills and the Vanuatu Skills Partnership.

We are working to share knowledge across programs, support Pacific island leaders, and contribute to inclusive and sustainable development outcomes across the region.

Thinking politically and working differently: Implementing DFAT skills initiatives in the Tonga and Vanuatu

Tonga Skills and the Vanuatu Skill Partnership, while at different stages of implementation, both seek to work as catalysts for systemic reform in their respective national skills systems. Insights gained through implementing these initiatives contribute to existing knowledge on successful efforts to ‘think politically and work differently’ and demonstrate how fit-for-purpose implementation approaches can achieve tangible development results.

At the 2018 Australasian Aid Conference, Scope Global presented a panel of experts who explored this topic in the context of delivering skills for inclusive growth activities in the Pacific. The panel consisted of Vanuatu Skills Partnership Director Fremden (Fremy) Yanhambath, Team Leader of Tonga Skills, Dr ‘Uhila Moe Langi Fasi, advisers Anna Gibert and Anthony Bailey, and Christelle Thieffry from the Australian High Commission in Vanuatu.

The panel explored a range of topics, noting that both initiatives are locally led and implemented with an explicit thinking and working politically approach. Panel members agreed that local leadership, knowledge and connections are integral to navigating complex cultural and political economies. As Fremy remarked,

It’s easy to work alongside the government but it’s very difficult to work within the government. That’s where the Vanuatu Skills Partnership has found success.

Acceptance of local leadership, in itself, challenges assumptions and paradigms sometimes inherent in international development that have traditionally focused on capacity development being delivered by international external experts. To ‘think and work politically’, the Vanuatu Skills Partnership sought to navigate intersecting operating contexts, cultures and political economies – those of the local culture, development partners, and the managing contractor – to address significant historical power dynamics.

The panel noted that for both programs to build on their successes, they require flexible support that creates space for local ownership and enables adaptation and innovation. For the Vanuatu Skills Partnership, this meant transitioning from the traditional ‘managing contractor’ model to a ‘support contractor’ model in Phase 4. Scope Global took on this role in September 2017.

To build stronger links across the Pacific, collaboration across the ‘sister’ programs is delivering real value to both leaders and their teams.

Soon after the panel presentation, Fremy attended the Tonga National Skills Sector Steering Committee. The Vanuatu Skills Partnership is widely regarded as one of DFAT’s most successful education aid investments in the Pacific, and Fremy’s presence in Tonga was a great boost for the program team. Dr Fasi said,

Our team could relate to the Vanuatu experience and see that others have done what we are trying to do. The team could also work out some shortcomings and come up with ways to address them.

The visit is the beginning of a long-term strategy to build deeper links across the programs and develop trust between the program teams. As Dr Fasi said,

Fremy’s visit put more meaning to the ‘sisterhood’ of the two programs as he is one of us and not an outsider.

Scope Global supports a range of skills for growth activities on behalf of the Australian Government with programs across Kiribati, Sri Lanka, Tonga and Vanuatu. See more:

Training supports Tongan people increase income

Sione presenting the Honourable Julie Bishop, Australian Minister for Foreign Affairs, with a gift in Tonga

Traditional Tongan handicrafts are an important source of livelihoods for people in Tonga. One such craftsman is Sione Tele, who learned the skill of wood-carving from his uncle.

Sione was one of three people with disabilities who participated in formal pearl carving training facilitated by Tonga Skills in 2017. The training helped Sione learn how to apply his wood carving skills to pearls, which has helped double the income-earning capacity of his craft.

Tonga Skills aims to address the lack of access to quality skills development services that are linked to economic development priorities and growth opportunities across Tonga. When Australian Foreign Minister Julie Bishop visited Tonga in March 2018, she was delighted to meet the talented Sione, who presented her with one of his carvings as a gift.

Kiribati bridging program a catalyst for change

Kiribati Institute of Technology Bridging Program student

The Kiribati Institute of Technology Certificate I Bridging Program students are learning practical skills as they undertake activities to help their community.

Under the direction of their construction teacher Karotu, the young men recently renovated the laboratory at the Betio Hospital and painted two local clinics. The clinics continued to operate while the students quietly and respectfully worked around the nurse and patients.

As the students undertook these projects, they developed employment-related skills such as communication, working in a team, following directions, taking initiative, problem solving and self-management.

The Bridging Program was piloted in 2017 in a collaboration between the Kiribati Institute of Technology and ChildFund. It was designed to develop skills for employment and improve access to further training for early school leavers. It’s now part of the regular curriculum and separate courses are offered for young men and young women.

The program has been transformative, as reflected by one of the young men selected for the pilot: “A turning point occurred in my life when I was selected to be one of the bridging course students. Being in school at KIT has changed my life – I now know that I am responsible for my life.”

Women in Vanuatu getting ahead in the hat trade

Women in Vanuatu are learning new techniques to speed up making handwoven hats

Women in Vanuatu are adapting their existing skills to create handwoven pandanas hats in collaboration with Sydney-based milliner Rosie Boylan.

Through the collaboration, the women are experimenting with new tools to speed up the hat-making process. They are also learning about distributing their products to a wider market in order to increase profits that flow back to their communities.

This activity has been coordinated by the Vanuatu Skills Partnership, a joint initiative supported by the Australian and Vanuatu governments.

* This article originally appeared on ABC News – read the full version. The image was supplied by Pacific Trade and Invest. 

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