“A change in direction and focus for the education sector in Vanuatu,” declared the Minister for Education, the Hon. Joe Natuman at the signing of the subsidiary agreement for the new Australian Government funded Technical Vocational Education and Training (TVET) Sector Strengthening Project last week.

The Minister for Education and the Australian High Commissioner, John Pilbeam, signed the Subsidiary Agreement for the Technical Vocational Education and Training (TVET) Sector Strengthening Project, a 6 year initiative with funding of 960 million vatu (A$12 million). The purpose of this project is to strengthen and extend provision of skills development and training by targeting support to those responsible for the delivery of technical training in both the formal and non-formal training sector in Vanuatu – the Ministry of Education, the Ministry of Youth Development and Training, the Vanuatu National Training Council, the Vanuatu Institute of Technology, and NGOs such as the Vanuatu Rural Development Training Centre Association (VRDTCA).

The Minister for Education pointed out that since Independence, the Ministry of Education focus has been on academic education to provide administrators and white collar workers for the new nation.

“Bifo, yumi neglectem plante risos long teknikal edukesen,” stated Joe Natuman.

Mr Natuman went on to say that although the support was still strong for basic education at the UNESCO conference which he recently attended in Europe, the focus was strongly on the urgent need to improve technical education and skills training right around the world.

“We must be regionally competitive in quality and standard of technical training in New Zealand and Australia. With globalisation and technology development, we must focus on skilled manpower particularly with the Comprehensive Reform Program and the Priorities and Action Agenda emphasizing private sector led growth and the stimulation of the productive sectors, especially in rural areas. To attract private investors to places like Pentecost and Malakula, we must have the solid base of a skilled workforce.”

John Pilbeam pointed out that Mr John Howard, the Australian Prime Minister, recently made an announcement at the Pacific Forum of a major study of the options for implementing an Australian funded technical vocational and trades college for the Pacific with a network of campuses to deliver Australian standard qualifications to further upgrade the supply of trade skills in the Pacific.

This recognition of the importance of technical skills in enhancing stability through better economic performance is recognized by Australia. Funding of the new TVET Sector Strengthening Project continues Australia’s commitment to the training sector in Vanuatu, previously demonstrated through not only support for the 8 year Vanuatu Institute of Technology Strengthening Project but scholarships for technical trainers in Australia, Fiji and Noumea.

“Grassroots people need training and development in rural areas,” concluded Mr Natuman with a powerful message. “The delivery of skills training in the provinces should help stop the drift to town, putting pressure on town services and security. Rural people have resources but they need urgently need skills both to attract investment and for self employment. This project is a big step forward in that direction.”

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