Job prospects for the Lao PDR’s young people are to improve with the Priority Skills for Growth Project, launched today by the Ministry of Education and Sports and the Ministry of Labor and Social Welfare. The World Bank-supported project is designed to develop skills among Lao youth in three priority sectors: agriculture, logistics, and information communications technology.
Unemployment has been rising in Laos in recent years and this has been exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic. Many young Lao people lack the skills to take advantage of the country’s position as a logistical hub at the heart of Southeast Asia. Digital skills require upgrading if Laos is to compete in regional technology markets, while agricultural production needs modernizing if local farms are to make use of the export potential offered by recent infrastructure investments.
Dr. Sisouk Vongvichit, Vice Minister for Education and Sports, said “Youth unemployment has been on the rise. It is high time to re-examine the delivery of technical and vocational teaching and learning to ensure that courses respond to current needs”. Dr. Sisouk said staff and teachers at vocational colleges and skills development centers must embrace technology and innovation for the country’s future.
The project will strengthen 13 Technical and Vocational Education and Training colleges, 10 Skills Development Centers, and 17 Job Centers — one in every province. These will benefit an estimated 30,000 young people and teachers. Following refurbishment, curriculum development, and training for teachers, the colleges and centers will offer online learning platforms, career counselling, improved information management systems, and stipends for disadvantaged students.
Mr. Phongxaysack Intharath, Vice Minister of Labor and Social Welfare, explained that Laos has a young population and a steadily growing working-age cohort. “To reap the full benefits of this, vocational colleges and skills development centers must be well-equipped with quality training resources to support students and help them seize the opportunities that arise as we recover from the COVID-19 pandemic”.
The pandemic severely affected activities, such as tourism, that are crucial to the Lao economy. However, with its young population, its borders with fast growing economies, and its new rail and road connections, the country has the potential to recover and grow more equitably and sustainably through trade and exports. To capitalize on these advantages, Laos needs to improve its human capital. Agriculture, logistics, and information and communication technology are among the sectors with the highest potential, but are also where skills shortages are most noticeable.
Mr. Alex Kremer, World Bank Country Manager for the Lao PDR, said, “the World Bank stands ready to help the Lao government train graduates in relevant skills. Lao employers report that they cannot find the skilled workers they need, so investment in human capital is crucial if Laos is to become more competitive”. He added that the World Bank will work closely with both ministries to involve other development partners and the private sector in making this project successful.