The United States Agency for International Development (USAID) has announced a new partnership with 12 leading universities and vocational institutions in the lower Mekong sub-region in a bid to empower students with essential skills so they can thrive in
“The United States is committed to developing youth potential, especially [that of] women,” said Todd Sorenson, acting director of the USAID Regional Development Mission for Asia.
“Youth need the technical skills, as well as work-readiness skills, including teamwork, communication and adaptability to succeed. The best way for youth to learn these skills is through hands-on experience with real workplace situations – by being connected with real employers, like those joining with us in this programme.”
According to industries in the lower Mekong, the need for skilled graduates is clear. In a recent USAID study of employers in the lower Mekong countries, more than 71 per cent indicated that they were looking to hire new staff to expand their businesses. Surveyed businesses also noted that they believed 60 per cent of their staff still needed work-readiness skills training.
Created by the USAID “Connecting the Mekong through Education and Training” programme, the MekongSkills2Work network taps into partnerships through the Mekong Learning Centres at universities and training institutions. These centres will work with industry partners such as Cisco, Intel, Google and Microsoft as well as other local employers to ensure students are receiving opportunities to learn from leading companies.
“Intel is committed to connecting today’s youth to their potential, empowering them to seize the opportunities made possible by the rapidly developing knowledge economy,” said Anjan Ghosh, regional director of corporate affairs for Asia Pacific and Japan, Intel Corporation.
“We believe that empowering youth through technology access, workplace readiness skills and innovation skills is essential to shape and drive the knowledge economy. Our global programmes empower faculty and students to keep pace with the demand for new skills required in today’s digital world.”
The institutions hosting Mekong Learning Centres will receive training and resources covering workforce development, pedagogy and technology, including teaching standards and tools to help instructors effectively prepare students for the demands of tomorrow’s labour market.
After a year of implementation within their own institutions, selected Mekong Learning Centres will work to adapt the MekongSkills2Work model and create a regional network of leaders in the areas of science, technology, engineering, mathematics, accounting and tourism. Lead instructors will develop and implement approaches learned through their own classes and throughout their institutions.
This week, instructors will take part in a five-day training programme to go beyond lectures to engage students and collaborate with industries in their fields to bridge the skill gaps between education and employment.
Selected as part of the competitive USAID Comet grants programme, the following universities and vocational schools will form a network of Mekong Learning Centres hosted at their institutions: University of Technology – Yatanarpon Cyber City (Myanmar); Institute of Technology Cambodia (Cambodia); University of Southeast Asia (Cambodia); National University of Laos; Lao National Institute of Tourism and Hospitality; Mahidol University (Thailand); Maptaphut Technical College (Thailand); Ho Chi Minh City University of Technology and Education (Vietnam); University of Economics (Vietnam); University of Danang (Vietnam); Hanoi University of Science and Technology (Vietnam); and Hue Industrial College (Vietnam)