UNEVOC Newsletter

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North America

1. Words from the UNESCO-UNEVOC Director

Action, that is the word that matters most when it comes to green education for TVET. Action for greening or sustainable development does not happen overnight. The real and sustained actions for greening require transformation, a fundamental change in belief and value systems. Green education for TVET can only be effective if it is intrinsically linked to real life, if it bears relevance to livelihoods, existence and survival.

This relevance has been inadvertently created by COVID-19. People and institutions have been thrown into a world where they have experienced, among others, the viability of living, working and learning differently. In other words, digitally in a less carbon-intensive manner. With COVID-19, actions have taken place in a way that was never imagined possible – in completely digital learning and working environments. Ironically, digital delivery presents the greatest challenge for green education. To effectively deliver green education for TVET via digital means, knowledge must be contextualized. More precisely, it has to successfully touch upon the immediate green needs of the learning community.

Even before this global health crisis, many in the TVET sector were struggling with digitalization and the changing nature of work. In the face of this challenge, networking and partnership will be important stepping stones on the path towards responsiveness and resilience. If we are to thrive in the ‘new normal’, we must seize this rare opportunity to rethink what is possible, reshape our perceptions and reimagine the future of TVET.

Soo-Hyang Choi

(extracted from a keynote speech delivered at Future Talk, 5 November 2020)

2. The Center for Training and Employment (CETE) Focused on ways to Contribute to the Sustainable Development Goal 8, providing Decent Work and Economic Growth During the Pandemic

Coordinates: Latitude: 39.997830, Longitude -83.034740
Academic Institution: The Ohio State University, Columbus, Ohio, USA

CETE prioritized building internal capacity in the distance learning space and provided trainings for 600+ educators to enhance learning technology and digital skills of instructors (TVET and beyond) to ensure lifelong access to learning opportunities and future workforce adaptability.CETE recognized that professionals were looking for ways to expand their knowledge from home, and offered the online learning module Principles of Competency-based Education free of charge. This module gained interest from learners ranging from Egypt to Afghanistan looking to upskill. The center also developed two new modules, Making Training Virtual, and Designing Instruction for Distance and Online Learning to meet the needs of overwhelmed TVET educators across the globe. These professionals are being asked to take their existing content and face-to-face experiences and translate them into an online setting often without the tools, knowledge, or understanding of where and how to begin. CETE wanted to offer high-quality materials at an accessible price.Traci Lepicki, Associate Director of Operations and Strategic Initiatives states,

“We know people need access to quick resources now. They don’t necessarily need to learn about the theory behind teaching or training in an online space, they need someone to show them how. There is a tremendous amount of pressure on individuals to perform right now, and they are too stressed out to figure out if something works. We have done the research legwork on the backend to provide what works in a way that is meaningful to them.”

The Center on Education and Training for Employment secures National Science Foundation Funding to Facilitate Pathways to Success for High-Achieving Pre-Collegiate African American Males in STEM

Additionally, Dr. Eddie Fletcher worked to secure a $1.5 National Science Foundation grant to study Black male participation in STEM. Research findings will help the STEM community identify the different positive and negative challenges that low-income, African American males experience in high school.

The Center on Education and Training for Employment Builds Capacity in the Distance Learning Space

3. A garden full of opportunities for the Cégep de la Gaspésie et des Îles

L’École des pêches et de l’aquaculture du Québec (EPAQ) is a national school that is a part of the Cégep de la Gaspésie et des Îles. Each year, the school trains the only aquaculture technician cohort in the province of Quebec. The aquaponic club Serre La Pince has been offering an experimental environment for students interested in exploring aquaponic concepts since 2016. Located on the EPAQ campus, the project’s greenhouse faces the sea directly, and is exposed to heavy winds and annual temperature changes ranging from -30ºC to 30ºC. In perpetual evolution, the most recent version of this student-built system is home to Saint-Lawrence crayfish, contains a biofilter and more than 20 square meters of plants growing with various techniques such as deep-water culture, nutrient film technique, as well as a media-based system.

Since its creation, the aquaponic club has offered an inspiring and stimulating extracurricular space where students are welcome to let their creativity guide them to test new techniques and to adapt aquaponic concepts to the Quebec climate and species. Indeed, several educational projects have been based directly on the club. For example, an optional class was created for students in the pre-university program. A personalized programming course was also organised to develop an automated system that allows continuous data analysis and WIFI communication with long distance students. The club is now focusing on integrating other plant growing techniques, perfecting crayfish farming techniques and developing new ways to reduce the level of surplus nutrients.

The aquaponic club Serre La Pince

4. Workplace Essential Skills – TOWES & WES at Bow Valley College

Bow Valley College is a national leader in Essential Skills research and development. We recognize the need for students to be better at training in current industry-relevant skills and competencies in order to increase their chances of employment. At Bow Valley College, we developed the Test of Workplace Essential Skills (TOWES) to identify students at risk of not completing training programs and diagnose areas of reading difficulty.

TOWES is a comprehensive tool that has been used nationally and internationally. Over 120,000 TOWES assessments have been used in Canada alone, with thousands more used internationally. The TOWES pre-assessment shows a person’s skill level and can be used to place a person in a specific program. The assessment shows where essential skills can be added to curriculum and teaching materials to improve student skills. This expertise is crucial for community and stakeholder engagement, since it creates closer relationships between TVET institutions and employers by bridging curriculum gaps.

Workplace Essential Skills (WES) at Bow Valley College was developed to help fill the skills-gaps in students who have taken the TOWES Assessment. WES is taught by a subject matter expert and it helps students to develop skills that meet or exceed the minimum Essential Skills level standards set by their career program. The WES training program is a college funded initiative aimed at assisting students in reaching their full potential while studying and learning new skills at Bow Valley College.

5. ImpAct: New SDG Toolkit for Canadian Colleges and Institutes

As we plan for the recovery from the pandemic, we must build back better – a future that is sustainable, resilient and equitable, leaving no one behind. Education for Sustainable Development (ESD) in the Technical and Vocational Education and Training (TVET) sector plays an important part in responding to the changing employment opportunities and demands for skills, knowledge, and competency to transition into a low-carbon economy and climate-resilient society. As a signatory of the Global SDG Accord, College and Institutes Canada (CICan) committed to leadership in building Better Futures for Peoples and Communities by advancing the role that education plays in advancing the SDGs.

As Canada’s national association for TVET, CICan plays an important role in raising awareness of and action on the SDGs. CICan launched the ImpAct initiative in 2018. CICan is inspiring and supporting collaboration amongst our TVET institutions to respond to the post-pandemic needs of Canadians, aligned with the SDGs.

As an example, the Campus Sustainability project working group (PWG), a pan-Canadian PWG with 6 provinces represented, led the drafting of an Open Letter: Building Back Better to Ensure Well-being for All to three federal ministers. The letter acknowledges the potential that TVET in Canada has to contribute to our country’s transition to a just, inclusive, net zero economy.

CICan’s new open education resource (OER), SDG Toolkit for Canadian Colleges and Institutes shares best practices for finance and administration, academic, applied research, physical infrastructure, and students and community. Within the OER, there are institutional contacts who can provide additional information on efforts to advance the SDGs.

6. Covid-19 Update

During April 2020, the international division of CICan launched a survey to all its local, institutional and ministerial partners implicated in the EFE projects to better understand the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic on the continuity of TVET.

In light of the findings of the survey, carried out among 12 ministries and 59 TVET institutions in 12 countries, a number of needs related to the maintenance of training were identified, such as the low level of internet access, the lack of training of teachers in the use of distance learning platforms, the challenges related to hands-on training and the low rate of student participation.

This information helped better guide CICan’s support to its partners, in order to facilitate the continuation of lessons learned and the maintenance of ministry activities, in compliance with the hygiene standards imposed to curb the pandemic.

This is the case in Senegal where the PSG-EFE project has adapted its activities in order to support its main partner, MEFPA, in the development of its e-jàng distance training platform and in the development of management tools. With this, training courses on the production of virtual teaching resources have been offered as well as new digital platforms, enabling students to apply online, schools to transmit results in real time and the Ministry to manage human resources remotely.

Finally, the survey found that more consideration should be given to the gender component. In response, the project has carried out a specific study on the particular situation of girls and is in the process of developing advocacy.

7. Words from CICan/UNEVOC Center President

In March, our world turned upside down and Canadian colleges and institutes quickly pivoted to come to the aid of medical professionals, employing applied research facilities and 3D printers to find innovative ways of meeting demand for medical equipment; and quickly responded to physical distancing measures by moving teaching and learning online.

The versatility of the Canadian system became quickly evident, as well as its capacity to support those most in need in communities across the country. The CICan website showcases some of the college and institute responses to COVID-19 in areas ranging from applied research and online learning to support for small businesses and student well-being.

The pandemic posed many challenges for young people, many of whom missed out on opportunities for summer employment, internships, and co-op placements. Canadian colleges and institutes quickly made a wealth of support mechanisms available for students, including resources for managing stress and anxiety, tailored approaches for Indigenous students, help in acquiring necessary equipment to complete studies virtually, and creative ways of maintaining connected communities while physically distancing.

Challenges facing international students also became a priority as borders closed and clarity on new travel restrictions, visa-processing requirements, and changes to post-graduation work permit eligibility was urgently needed. While colleges and institutes were grateful for several advocacy wins in the months since the pandemic began, CICan continues to work very closely with government officials to ensure concerns are heard and addressed with as much flexibility as is possible.

As global circumstances remain uncertain, colleges and institutes continue to support their communities in many ways; and, we look forward to positioning Canada’s colleges and institutes as vital partners to support COVID-19 response and recovery.

Denise Amyot
President and CEO, Colleges and Institutes Canada (CICan)