Latin America and the Caribbean establish a strategic alliance for dual VET


Vocational education and training institutions from 15 countries held an opening ceremony for the alliance for dual VET in Latin America and the Caribbean. This highlight marked the end of the regional conference of CONALEP (the BIBB partner institute in Mexico), BIBB and ILO-Cinterfor.

Latin America and the Caribbean establish a strategic alliance for dual VET

With a festive closing ceremony, which was also the main highlight of the three-day virtual conference Alliance for Dual VET in Latin America and the Caribbean – Prospects and Consolidation of Dual VET from 28 to 30 June 2021, representatives of public and private vocational education and training institutions from 15 countries pledged to actively support the expansion and consolidation of dual vocational education and training in the region.

In establishing the alliance, the countries strive to

  • promote cooperation between leading institutions for dual VET in Latin America and the Caribbean,
  • form cooperative communities for the consolidation of the dual systems,
  • analyse national, regional and sectoral best practice examples from participating countries,
  • renew models of cooperation between the productive sector and educational institutions and
  • facilitate the mobility of the individual actors in the dual system.

Dr Enrique Ku Herrera, Director General of CONALEP (Colegio Nacional de Educación Profesional Técnica), thanked the founding members of the alliance from Bolivia, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Cuba, the Dominican Republic, Ecuador, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Mexico, Panama, Paraguay and Uruguay for their willingness to work together on the best strategies for the benefit of young people. He also emphasised the importance of close cooperation with BIBB.

Birgit Thomann, Head of the VET International department of BIBB, thanked the alliance for nominating BIBB as reference institution and Germany as reference country, and assured the alliance representatives and president that BIBB will continue to support the network with its expertise.

BIBB initiated this process together with CONALEP in 2020 and has provided advisory services in several dialogue sessions since October 2020. It collaborates intensively with ILO-Cinterfor (Inter-American Centre for Knowledge Development in Vocational Training of the International Labour Organization – for Latin America and the Caribbean), which has been actively supporting this regional exchange since March 2021, to promote the quality of dual VET in Latin America and the Caribbean.

CONALEP is the first party to assume the presidency of the alliance. Dr Enrique Ku Herrera thus has the task of advancing the process to establish the advisory council with its secretariat, plenary session and working groups over the coming months. 

Anne Caroline Posthuma, Director of ILO-Cinterfor in Montevideo, invited the alliance to take part in the ILO-Cinterfor workshop in Madrid in November 2021 and take the opportunity to introduce proposals from Latin America and the Caribbean to this important international stage. We need to make the most of this historic moment, says Anne Posthuma.

All about dual VET in Latin America and the Caribbean

The foundation of the alliance was preceded by three intensive conference afternoons, during which representatives of educational institutions, governments, chambers, companies, employers' and employees' representation bodies, trainees and multilateral actors from Latin America and the Caribbean attended lectures and discussions led by top speakers and extensively exchanged views and ideas on the current situation and challenges of dual VET in their countries.

The discussions covered the qualifications of the future, digitisation and Industry 4.0, quality in dual VET, dual VET under COVID-19 or post-pandemic conditions, and the qualification of vocational education and training staff. Central issues included the establishment of new relationships between the actors from the economy, state and society, as well as social dialogue, which is often lacking in Latin America but is indispensable for the promotion of dual VET.

Vinícius Carvalho Pinheiro, Regional Director at the ILO (International Labour Organization), stressed that young people, particularly in Latin America and the Caribbean, were most affected by the consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic. In view of this situation, maintained Carvalho Pinheiro, activating dual VET as a quality model is one of the best options for helping to reactivate the economy and society.

Prof. Hubert Ertl, Director of Research and Vice President at BIBB, stressed that dual VET can play a very important role in society, as it “means investing in people’s know-how and is a form of training that is geared both to the needs of the market and to the requirements of the productive sectors, while at the same time providing young people with high-quality skills that guarantee their integration into the labour market”.

Dual VET as a new international working standard

In his contribution, Srinivas Reddy, Chief of the Skills and Employability Branch at the ILO in Geneva, pointed out the importance of the international context for dual VET. He stated that dual VET, or “quality apprenticeship” as the ILO calls it, is to be a subject of discussion at the 2022-2023 International Labour Conferences and is set to be recognised round the globe as a new international labour standard. There are various steps involved here, which require the participation of member states. Reddy called on the assembled states to make use of these mechanisms and also get actively involved within the alliance.

Dual VET under pandemic conditions

With regard to the focus topic of dual VET both during and after the coronavirus pandemic, Thomas Giessler (DGB), Dr Mark Heinzel (DIHK) and Oscar Alfonso García (Educational Centre in San Salvador, AGAPE) discussed making adjustments to vocational education and training following the pandemic in order to maintain quality in dual VET. Giessler and Heinzel provided numerous examples to demonstrate how the state, employers and employees in Germany contribute to the improvement of the dual system through their cooperation in numerous committees and at different levels, and how this has proven successful even during the difficult times of the pandemic.

The three-day debate included numerous reflections, allowing participants to consolidate their mutual understanding of the similarities and differences between the various forms of dual VET in Latin America and the Caribbean. One thing became clear, namely that all the founding members shared the conviction that the relationships between the education sector and the productive sector need to be redefined for the benefit of young people and the quality of dual VET. This must be done bearing in mind that most companies are micro, small and medium-sized enterprises. Further approaches that need to be discussed comprise establishing a common framework for dual VET in Latin America and the Caribbean and developing basic quality standards – steps that will also help to consolidate dual VET in the long term.

In addition to lectures and discussions, the 15 countries plus Germany – represented by BIBB – and ILO-Cinterfor presented their training programmes and institutions in digital pavilions. A total of 600 people from over 15 countries attended the event. Between 3,000 and 5,000 people streamed the conference via YouTube.