Skills development in the time of COVID-19: Taking stock of the initial responses in technical and vocational education and training

Executive Summary 

Skills development in the time of COVID-19III X Foreword The coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic and related lockdown and physical distancing measures caused not only unprecedented disruption in the provision of education and training but also catalysed innovation in distance learning. While access to learning and skills development was maintained in some
contexts through a rapid shift to distance learning in technical and vocational education and training (TVET), the pre-existing social and digital divides deprived the most marginalized groups of continued learning and put them at risk of falling further behind.

Yet, the crisis may have an upside, as demonstrated in the present publication, which is based on the results of an online survey of the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on the provision of TVET and skills development, conducted by the International Labour Office (ILO); the United Nations Educational, Scientific
and Cultural Organization (UNESCO); and the World Bank between 5 April and 15 May 2020.

Key Findings

  1. The lack of appropriate platforms and tools deprives students and teachers of an effective common space to learn and work and may lead to a less effective learning experience.
  2. TVET providers from many countries, such as Canada, India, Morocco and the Republic of Korea reported the lack of preparedness of TVET teachers and learners to adopt distance-learning modalities, as a consequence of the low level of digital skills.
  3. The onset of the health crisis and the resulting lockdown led to challenges related to cash flow and financial viability, in particular for small TVET providers.
  4. The delivery of work-based learning, including apprenticeships, has faced serious disruption from the lockdowns imposed on enterprises.
  5. The health crisis and the resulting lockdown also led to the disruption of assessments and certifying exams, according to survey responses from most countries.
  6. Many teachers and trainers were not adequately prepared to adapt to alternative modalities of teaching, keeping students engaged and motivated in distance learning, and managing classes remotely.
  7. The unprecedented global health crisis has brought a sudden shift away from the classrooms to alternative modes of learning, training and assessment in many educational institutions, including among TVET providers. While distance learning options have been made available by many training providers, they were not widely adopted in the delivery of TVET before the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic.


The recommendations below suggest the three main areas where TVET stakeholders can work together during and after the COVID-19 pandemic. They outline the principal actions that may be undertaken to strengthen preparedness for future crises, reduce the adverse impact of such crises by improving access to education and training, and raise the relevance of TVET during the recovery stage.

  1. Invest in the development of adequate crisis-response plans for the education sector, from the national down to the provider level.
  2. Develop and reinforce capacities of TVET teachers and learners, and of the managers of TVET institutions to adjust to constantly evolving circumstances, whether those of the COVID-19 pandemic or any future crisis.
  3. Improve internet infrastructure and ensure affordable connectivity.
  4. Invest in developing and maintaining easy access to distance learning platforms and learning spaces for TVET.
  5. Collaborate with private entities in the education technology sector at the national level.
  6. Emphasize equality and inclusiveness to ensure that people have broad access to training opportunities throughout their working life.
  7. Adapt to the changing situation in the economy, the labour market and society at large in a timely manner and train young people and adults to meet current and future skills needs
  8. Mainstream successful emerging innovations in new training programmes, learning platforms and resources into the TVET system.
  9. Strengthen systems for the validation and recognition of all forms of learning.
  10. Increase efforts to reskill and upskill workers, with a view to rebuilding back better and achieving full employment.

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