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Kazakhstan: Taking Another Step Forward to Narrow the Skills Gap

September 22, 2011

Why do skills matter? Skills contribute to a nation’s economic growth and competitiveness and gainful employment; skills determine a firm’s productivity; skills define a worker’s ability to adapt to new technologies and opportunities for decent jobs. Skills make a difference between poverty and wealth.

Kazakhstan, a fast growing middle-income country, has a vision to become an industrialized country by 2025, but low workforce productivity and huge gaps in skills are major impediments to increased competitiveness. The present technical and vocational education (TVE) system in the country, engineered to support a command economy, suffers from lack of linkages to market economy and faces daunting challenges regarding relevance, management, quality, and internal efficiency. It does not produce graduates with skills and competencies required by today’s fast changing labor market, and contributes to a mismatch of the demand and supply of the skills.

" Going forward, it is necessary to focus on further advancing the country’s competitiveness by strengthening institutions, improving education, and investing in people "

Sebnem Akkaya

World Bank Country Manager for Kazakhstan

On September 9, 2011, in Astana, Ms. Sebnem Akkaya, the World Bank Country Manager for Kazakhstan and Mr. Serik Irsaliyev, the Vice Minister of Science and Education of the Republic of Kazakhstan jointly announced the official launch of the Technical and Vocational Education Modernization Project for the Republic of Kazakhstan. During the launch, the challenges and the opportunities to narrow the skills gap under the project were discussed with the policy makers, academicians, teachers, business representatives, government officials, and the general public. The launch took place in a modern technical lyceum built in partnership with the industry and social partners.

The Project with the total amount of US$ 33.23 million, including Kazakhstan Government co-financing of US$ 4 million, is supported by the World Bank to improve workforce productivity in key sectors and enhance skills development capacity to meet the demands of key industries and businesses in Kazakhstan. It will be implemented from 2011 to 2013 by the Ministry of Education and Science (MES) of the Republic of Kazakhstan in partnership with industries and stakeholders (including educational institutions, academia and trade unions).
During the opening ceremony, the Vice Minister Serik Irsaliev mentioned that the Government expects the World Bank participation to provide a high level of international expertise and project management. “The labor market will have modern standards for employees as a result the Project, “ said Mr. Irsaliev. “Based on these standards we will update educational standards and programs. In order to implement new programs lyceums will be equipped with modern facilities. This will allow us to provide training of personnel which will be capable in implementing advanced technologies and providing high productivity. Our Ministry will have the general responsibility for project implementation. But we will rely on advice from the National, Industrial and Regional Skill Councils," – he added.

“The Project will assist the Republic of Kazakhstan in improving the quality, relevance and efficiency of technical and vocational education through an improved policy framework and institutional capacity,” said Sebnem Akkaya, World Bank Country Manager for Kazakhstan. “The World Bank is very proud to team up with the Government for the implementation of this project. Going forward, it is necessary to focus on further advancing the country’s competitiveness by strengthening institutions, improving education, and investing in people.”
The project will help raise the rate of returns to TVE as the skills and competencies of the graduates of the “new” TVE system are significantly enhanced and match the demand of the dynamic labor market; and contribute to increased workforce productivity and competitiveness.

Few days earlier the project was presented to employers, teachers, and trade unions in Shymkent city, South Kazakhstan region with participation of the same range of stakeholders from nearby regions.  The Government is planning to take similar launch events to other regions for reaching out to a wider set of stakeholders and potential beneficiaries for their support of the reforms that the project finances.