SRI LANKA:

Private Sector Endorses New Job Training Curriculum

June 4, 2008

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A new job-training curriculum will increase job opportunities for Sri Lanka’s overage and out-of-school youths by training them in the skills the private sector needs most.

The curriculum, developed by the U.S. Agency for International Development’s Accelerated Skills Acquisition Program, known as ASAP, was recently launched in Colombo, Sri Lanka and received the endorsement of the Ceylon Chamber of Commerce (CCC), one of the largest corporate chambers in the island nation.

ASAP is designed to boost the preparedness of youth for the workplace by providing training opportunities and obtaining the active support of the country’s private institutions, including the CCC. The unveiling of the curriculum also involved 20 of ASAP’s other public-private training partners and other key stakeholders with country-wide interests in building the workforce skills of unemployed youths ages 15 to 25.

“Recruiting youth of the regions for work in the fast growing and diversifying job market, is the solution for Sri Lanka. ASAP offers the country a chance to do this,” said the Secretary General and CEO of the CCC in his address, echoing the strong endorsements from the public- and private-sector partners. A 22-month program, ASAP is implemented by Creative Associates International in partnership with the Christian Children’s Fund and the International Youth Foundation.

Creative and its partners are working to strengthen the capacity of private- and public-sector training institutions in Sri Lanka to deliver quality training, job counseling, placement assistance, and school-to-work services to improve the employment climate for ASAP participants. According to the International Labour Organization’s Colombo area office, unemployed youth comprise about 40 percent of Sri Lanka’s unemployed workers.

“The ASAP curriculum is based on input that the private sector gave us about what skills they are looking for in the people they hire. The private sector — both individual firms and chambers — are also providing speakers for ASAP classes,” said Mark Sorensen, USAID’s Workforce Development Advisor in Sri Lanka. “In order for employability training to be effective, it has to be done in partnership with employers. I am very pleased to see the private sector in Sri Lanka participating in ASAP so enthusiastically.”

The USAID Mission Director Rebecca Cohn and ASAP Chief of Party Shevanthi Jayasuriya along with her team, attended the meeting. The curriculum launch was the last in a series of meetings held in Colombo and other regions with partners who work in – or are interested in expanding to – the five ASAP regions of Batticaloa, Ampara, Anuradhapura, Monaragala and Colombo.

The ASAP curriculum will be an invaluable tool in the effort to create a favorable employment climate for Sri Lanka’s overage and out-of-school youth by building the capacity of job-training centers to deliver demand-driven skills. The curriculum provides training materials on career skills, English language, business and entrepreneurial skills and computer literacy courses and offers students the flexibility to enroll in courses that align with their interests and skills.

The enthusiasm among ASAP’s training partners was clear. At the Colombo meeting, partners spoke about the quality of the ASAP curriculum and the program’s efforts to secure strong partnerships with the private sector. A representative of IDM Computer Studies Islandwide, a training institute, said that ASAP courses are being demanded by its branches outside of the ASAP target areas.

Private-sector partners also publicly commended the program and its impact. A representative from Delmage Forsyth and Co. Ltd., who was present at the meeting, said the “program is the exact requirement for our new recruits to orient them to the workplace. They will not only understand the basics of how to conduct themselves on the job, but will also gain the confidence needed to forge ahead in their chosen careers.”

Commenting on the quality of ASAP participants, a representative from Brown & Company PLC said that “ASAP entrepreneurship trainees would be a very suitable group of young people with whom we can work in our effort to outsource repair centers.”

The sentiments highlight ASAP’s success in gathering key stakeholders who play integral roles in increasing the job skills, opportunities and employability of Sri Lanka’s youth.

— ASAP Local Program Specialist Samudrika Gayani Sylva in Colombo, Sri Lanka, and Alexandra Pratt in Washington, D.C.

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