DARYA forges new needs for cooperation to address complex policy issues

The European Union’s first regional project on developing youth skills in Central Asia will need to navigate “complex policy issues” through broad cooperation among all stakeholders, Pilvi Torsti, the director of the European Training Foundation told an international gathering in Turin, Italy, Wednesday 22 November 2023.

Speaking on the first of two days of a “High-Level Group Meeting” of the EU’s DARYA programme (Dialogue and Action for Resourceful Youth in Central Asia), Dr. Torsti said the complexities of a project designed to foster inclusive opportunities for young people across an economically and socially diverse region, required participants to overcome long-standing divisions between education and the labour market.

The five-year, €10 million project funded by the EU and implemented by the ETF, brings together regional ministers from both the education and labour sectors, and is designed to create a level playing field for qualifications to increase regional economic stability, as well as encouraging greater inclusivity for women, rural communities and other disadvantaged groups.

“Policy complexity does not necessarily need to be seen as an obstacle, but that we bring results that reflect the complexity of what we need to do,” Dr. Torsti told a meeting that included the deputy ministers of from the education and labour ministries of the five Central Asian Countries – Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan.

“There really are no silos between education and the labour market, nor in policies – the labour market should be a driver for policies in education and vice versa.”

National policies tended not to be designed for broader initiatives and tended to keep education and labour apart, she noted. “One way to deal with this is to recognise the artificiality of this.”

Since the project launch, DARYA stakeholders have been working on the comparability and transparency of their qualifications, as they work towards broader mutual recognition of education and skills.

The deputy ministers of labour from three of the five Central Asian countries told delegates how important the DARYA project – which is being implemented by the ETF – was to their region.

Delegates from regional meetings on the project return keen “to strengthen capacity building” within the country and region, said Qiyomiddin Davlatzoda, Tajikistan’s deputy minister for Labour, Migration and Employment.

Halbibi Tachjanova, deputy minister of Labour and Social Protection, Turkmenistan, said: “For Turkmenistan, the chance to create opportunities for young people is really important, and also meets the needs of employers. DARYA takes in account the demographic growth of our country.”

Uzbekistan’s deputy minister of Employment and Poverty Reduction, Rano Turdiboeva, noted that “DARYA is in line with our strategic programme [where] we would like to underline inclusivity and dialogue on skills at a regional and national level.”

Representatives of the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) and the Asian Development Bank (ABD) – both of which have agreements with the ETF in supporting the delivery of DARYA – talked of the importance in economic stability of supporting the transition of young people from education and training to the workplace.

Sofia Shakil, Director of Human and Social Development, ABD, said that to improve the employability of young people, “you need a very strong foundation that incorporates more ICT skills and the ability to develop lifelong, cognitive and time management skills.”

Involving industry in the design and development of education and training curricula was also essential.

Biljana Radonjic Ker-Lindsay, Associate Director, Head, Access to Skills Employment, Gender and Economic Inclusion, EBRD, said that “the constant feedback we get from the private sector is that it is not able to secure young people with the right skills. At the same time, we have youth unemployment in many countries.”

Conference delegates were introduced to one example of European intervention to increase the availability of technical skills in Central Asia – the Turin Polytechnical University in Tashkent.

At a presentation at the university’s grand classical headquarters – the 17th century Valentino Castle - overlooking the river Po in the centre of Turin, university rector Professor Guido Saracco, spoke of the importance of recognising the increased complexity of today’s world that mean that technological and engineering solutions need to take into account a much wider context than in the past.

“It is clear that new products have been born in the past couple of years – in banks, cultural enterprises, film and automotive industries thanks to Artificial Intelligence. The world is changing.”

But that also means, he added, that today’s engineers needed to be more rooted in the “human and social sciences.”

"The UN has 17 sustainable development goals. With so many, you can understand that any action in the direction of solving one problem can impact in the other direction. You need new competencies to understand the ethics of the technologies you are creating in the new world.”

The university’s Tashkent branch, where bachelor courses in mechanical and automotive engineering, ICT and Civil Engineering are taught in English, has produced more than 1,000 graduates since its opened in 2009.

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