The prospects for employment and decent wages in the Lao PDR have received a boost from a World Bank supported project to enhance skills development across the country. The $46 million Priority Skills for Growth Project was approved by the World Bank’s Board of Directors this week and is expected to begin operations in mid-2022.
Although the COVID-19 pandemic has had severe effects on key sectors, Laos has some notable advantages for recovering growth. It has a young population, shares borders with some of the world’s fastest growing economies, and is developing rail and road connections that can activate this trade potential.
However, to take advantage of this situation, Laos quickly needs to improve its human capital. Lao employers report that they cannot find the skilled workers they need to grow their businesses.
Agriculture, logistics, and information and communication technology are among the sectors with the highest potential, but are also where skills shortages are most noticeable. To meet this challenge, the Ministry of Education and Sports and the Ministry of Labor and Social Welfare will work with the World Bank on four project components to rapidly upgrade the skills of young people entering the labor force, and those of people already in jobs.
The project will improve the quality and relevance of technical and vocational education and training schools, modernize the curricula in priority sectors, offer massive online open courses customized to the Lao context, and organize easily accessible training programs that focus on language skills and job readiness. To improve job matching and youth employability, job centers will be revamped and employment generation programs piloted. Support will be given to the government’s ongoing scholarship program for disadvantaged students, with priority going to female students and those from remote areas.
An improved quality assurance system for vocational training will match ASEAN skills standards and certification systems, with attention paid to training of teachers, plus evaluation systems. The project will refurbish selected training institutions and procure new equipment, goods, and services, including farming machinery, logistical equipment, computers and software for practical training.
Alex Kremer, World Bank Country Manager for the Lao PDR, said the success of this project is crucial to development. “With its exciting new developments in road and rail infrastructure, plus increasing international trade and business, Laos needs a workforce with a range of skills to take advantage of new opportunities. This project will give young Lao people those skills.”