Kyaw Win (Labour)(Retd.)
In 2002, the “Enhancing Skills Recognition Systems in ASEAN Project” relating to ‘sub-professional level occupations’ was undertaken by ASEAN and AADCP (ASEAN- Australia Development Cooperation Program) in line with the decisions of the ASEAN Labour Ministers aimed at increasing skilled labour mobility within ASEAN.
The Ministry of Labour, Myanmar participated in the project as the focal ministry for Myanmar. The project though initially was to be from 2002 to 2004 was extended specifically for CLMV/T countries up to 2006.
The Ministry of Labour formed a Working Group, headed by the Director General of Labour and comprising of representatives of organizations under the concerned Ministries and Non-Governmental Organizations to participate in the implementation of the project.
The aim of the project was to identify skills recognition systems of the ASEAN countries relating to ‘sub-professional level occupations’ and to recommend measures to be taken for recognition of skills across ASEAN.
The project’s initial phase outcome revealed that some ASEAN countries are practicing system of skills training based on Occupational Competency Standards. It was surmised that conducting skills training and certification based on comparable occupational competency standards by all the ASEAN countries would facilitate mobility of skilled labour within ASEAN.
For some of the CLMV/T countries that had no Occupational Competency Standards or were in various stages of developing such standards, extension of the project was called for, with outcome focused on developing occupational competency standards. The extension project also included actual development of occupational competency standards for selected occupations on a trial basis. Five occupations were selected namely Air Conditioning Mechanic, Poultry Farm Worker, Tour Guide, Concreter and Welder for the competency standards development exercise.
During the term of the extension project, National and Regional Workshops were held in some of the CLMV/T countries and the five Occupational Standards were developed with inputs by the occupational experts of the participating countries and with the help of occupational experts from ASEAN Member Countries that had already developed such standards. The structure and template of the Occupational Standards were adopted by consensus among the CLMV/T participants.
After the completion of the extension project and based on it’s recommendations , the Ministry of Labour in 2007, with the approval of the Cabinet, formed the ‘National Skills Standards Authority’ to develop occupational skills standards in priority occupations to facilitate the training, assessment and certification of skilled workers, including those currently seeking jobs in the labour market and existing skilled workers who had no skills recognition certificates.
The NSSA was headed by the Deputy Minister for Labour and comprised of representatives of the various concerned Ministries and NGOs as representing the private sector. The Director General of the Department of Labour was appointed to be the Secretary of the NSSA.
The NSSA formed (14) Sectorial committees, each representing an industrial/service sector, headed by the Director Generals/ Managing Directors of the Governmental Organizations concerned, to draw up occupational skills standards at (4) levels namely Semi-skilled Worker (level1), Skilled Worker (level 2) , Advanced Skilled Worker (level 3), and Supervisor (level 4). Some 173 Occupational Skills Standards were developed based on international and ASEAN Member States’ standards.
After the 2010 multiparty elections and the forming of the Hluttaws and the Government in 2011, among the laws enacted by the Hluttaws was the ‘Employment and Skills Development Law’ to replace the historic but outdated 1950, ‘Employment and Training Law’ that was administered by the Department of Labour under the Ministry of Labour.
The NSSA functions are embedded in the new ESD Law as ‘Skills Development Body/Committee,’ to replace the NSSA. Pending the formation of the ‘Skills Development Body/Committee’ and drawing up of Rules under the new ESD law, the NSSA had continued to function.
Starting 2013, the NSSA, with the technical and financial assistance of GIZ and to an extent Swisscontact, undertook a pilot project to assess existing skilled workers against the occupational skills standards of (11) chosen occupations and award Competency Certificates to those declared ‘Competent’. It was decided to assess existing skilled workers at levels (1) to start with.
One important feature of the ESD law, is the separation of the functions of standards development and training from assessment and certification. The assessment process is to be supervised by the Assessment and Certification Committee of the NSSA. It is the usual process in countries awarding national level skills certificates to task assessment to a separate body.
Prior to the assessments the relevant Occupational Competency Standards were reviewed by a team of experts nominated by the Sectorial Committees concerned assisted by national and international consultants tasked by GIZ. The reviewed standards are in the structure and template approved by the NSSA.
The Assessment and Certification Committee under the NSSA was renewed and tasked with implementation of the assessment of existing skilled workers. The assessments were conducted in line with provisions of the ESD Law on skills assessment and using the reviewed standards. Some 700 workers have thus far been assessed and certified in the (11) selected occupations at levels (1)
As of now (14) more occupational competency standards at level (1) have been reviewed following the procedure mentioned above making a total of (25) occupational standards having been reviewed. Standards for levels (2) of the 25 occupations are also to be reviewed following which assessment and certification at level (2) will be undertaken.
GIZ has also been rendering technical and financial assistance to the NSSA for developing curricula guidelines based on the reviewed standards. The development of curricular based on competency standards will ensure the quality of training of workers by the employers (both in the public and private sectors), as well as by private training providers.
The Employment and Skills Development Law has paved the way for systematic skills
training, assessment and certification of workers based on Occupational Competency Standards. This will contribute in no small way to enhancing the skills and productivity of the Myanmar workforce.