Technical Education for Communities (TEC), a pioneering global program designed to increase access to good jobs through local vocational education programs, was recently launched by the Cummins Foundation, the private foundation of IGD Frontier Leader company Cummins Inc. By forging partnerships with business, government, and community organizations, the program will deliver industry-relevant technical skills training. Ultimately, TEC seeks to develop a replicable model that will lead to a stronger and growing employment base in communities across the globe.
IGD Vice President Megan Bowman recently spoke with Mary Chandler, Director of Policy and Planning-Corporate Responsibility, about TEC and the program’s two Early Implementation Sites in Africa.
With manufacturing and distribution facilities around the world, Cummins has long been a global leader in education and training programs. Through the TEC initiative, the company is expanding its efforts to create community-based programs for teaching industry-relevant technical skills in nine pilot sites. What led to this evolution and is it directed primarily by business drivers, corporate responsibility or both?
The Cummins Foundation TEC program is driven both by research and Cummins’ longstanding commitment to its communities. Corporate responsibility is a core value at Cummins—serving and improving the communities in which we live and work. Cummins believes that a company is only as strong as the communities in which it does business. TEC resulted from an intersection between a business need and a community need. A recent World Economic Forum report estimates that 10 million manufacturing jobs worldwide are unfilled due to skills gaps, including technical, language, and life skills. Communities are suffering from widening income gaps due in part to skill set disparities. Industry needs more skilled workers. At the same time, communities will be improved with better educational outcomes and stronger and growing employment bases across the globe.
Two of the Early Implementation Sites are in Africa—Casablanca, Morocco and Lagos, Nigeria. How were they selected and what progress has been made to date?
TEC sites, including those in Morocco and Nigeria, are selected after reviewing a variety of factors, including strong Cummins leadership and employee community engagement, local industry need and commitment to coalition building, and community need. The Morocco program is led by a local, full-time TEC manager; the program team has completed a community needs assessment and has entered into a partnership with a local O.F.P.P.T. (Morocco’s Office of Vocational Training and Employment Promotion) vocational school. School teachers are participating in a soft (employability) skills training program and will teach the curriculum to students in classes starting in September 2013 when technical classes also begin.
In Nigeria, a full-time TEC manager leads the program with the help of a local team. The TEC team is conducting a community needs assessment and is engaged in discussions with potential business and education partners about coalition building around a TEC partner school.
How will a program like TEC help address the challenges Africa faces in promoting greater skills development?
TEC applies a research-based education framework for skills development. Through effective curriculum, market-relevant skills, qualified teachers, career guidance, and a combination of workplace and classroom learning, TEC aims to improve educational outcomes and access to good jobs. By forging partnerships with schools, business, government, and community organizations, TEC seeks to develop a replicable model of technical skills training.
Companies in our network often cite lack of basic professional skills, such as language and communication, problem solving, and time management, as a key constraint to employment in Africa. Are these soft skills included in the TEC approach?
Absolutely. Research shows that employees often lack certain skills that are necessary to be effective and successful in the workplace. Every TEC program will include employability skills training in the core curriculum. We have begun in Morocco, where The Cummins Foundation has made a grant to an NGO to conduct employability skills training at the TEC partner school.
What role do you think companies should play in helping ensure an adequate pipeline of work-ready talent, especially in frontier markets? Where in particular can companies add value?
Industry engagement is vital to building a strong pipeline of skilled workers. Recent research has confirmed that employers and schools must connect early and often to achieve the best outcomes. Industry engagement and coalition building is a key part of TEC.
Ways in which industry can add value include:
- Engaging in needs assessments, market studies, and dialogue with local government and schools to ensure that students are taught skills that are relevant to the needs of the local labor market.
- Providing students with opportunities for workplace learning such as internships, apprenticeships, and job-shadowing.
- Investing with company time and talent. Company employees can train teachers on new technology, teach classes, and mentor students.
- Funding equipment purchases or programs such as teacher training and guidance counseling.
These are but a few of the many ways companies can add value to education programs, including TEC.
How important are partnerships to the TEC model and what has been the response from local governments, employers, educators, and other stakeholders?
Cummins believes that a coalition-based approach is necessary to ensure both long-term success and sustainability. TEC is founded in part on the idea of partnerships forged between government, industry, and community partners that work closely with education providers.
The response from potential partners has been quite positive. The global community understands the need for dialogue around problems, coalition building around solutions, and increasing the strength of our local communities. Partnership development is gaining momentum and Cummins is in discussions with a variety of local, multinational, and global companies.
How will the learnings and best practices identified through TEC be shared externally and what is your timeframe for evaluating the program?
TEC is taking action with complete transparency and is committed to sharing research, outcomes, and best practices. We understand that we will learn over time. We anticipate sharing our findings in a variety of ways including papers, seminars, articles, presentations, and social media. We are working on metrics, including methods of data collection and analysis. We plan to begin data collection and program evaluation as soon as possible, and will share those results when available.