GAN Global and Corporación Formados have signed a Country Partner agreement to work closely together to raise awareness on work-based learning (WBL) and apprenticeships in Ecuador.
Established in 2018, Corporación Formados was born out of a cooperation project between the Federation of Chambers of Industry and Commerce of Germany and chambers and associations of Ecuador. Since its inception, Formados has been working on developing dual education programmes within vocational education and training. GAN Global, a multi-sector alliance convening and connecting businesses, governments, and international organisations to promote WBL, has been active in the Latin American region since 2016, with partners in Argentina, Colombia, Costa Rica, Guatemala, and Mexico, as well as key regional organisations such as ILO/CINTERFOR (The Inter-American Centre for Knowledge Development in Vocational Training). The partnership will allow the organisations to grow their common knowledge and understanding of WBL and apprenticeships in the region.
So, what is the current context in Ecuador? German development agencies brought its apprenticeship tradition to the country, further influencing its current technical vocational education and training (TVET) system and introducing dual education pathways. Dual education is part of the TVET system at tertiary level and when it comes to definitions and terminology, it refers to dual education pathways and dual education students, rather than apprenticeships and apprentices (the terminology that the German system uses). When a student chooses a dual education pathway, a training contract is signed by the training institution and the employer stating the roles and responsibilities of the parties. It is the training institution that covers the social security insurance of the students, and companies are under no obligation to remunerate the students.
Some companies, however, decide to support the student by covering the tuition fees and, in the case of the plastics sector, all companies have agreed to a standard remuneration. The type of contract, roles and responsibilities of the parties and definition of the participants as students rather than employees is key when regulating apprenticeships. Every country has its own mechanism of setting up this type of programme, leading to complex and nuanced discussions for the ILO Standard-Setting on Apprenticeships currently underway on an international level.
One of the issues in Ecuador is the gap between the number of students applying to tertiary education and the number of places available. Of the approximately 500 000 students applying, only half are accepted. Formados is working on bringing education and employment closer together as well as promoting dual education pathways that ensure students are taught the skills that employers need. They do so by engaging directly with employers from different sectors. Companies conduct an internal analysis of the skills that they need and work together with Formados to develop the corresponding curricula according to the established national educational standards and dividing the practical and theoretical training between a partner educational institution and the company itself. This plan is then submitted to the national authorities for approval. The timeline from inception of the pathway to final approval is usually around six months. And, as an additional advantage for the students, the curricula are built in such a way that they are also recognised by the German TVET system.
The current public TVET pathways do not provide the on-the-job component, which is why students that complete them do not have the hands-on experience that employers are looking for. As convincing employers is one of the main barriers that Formados must overcome, the partnership with GAN Global is a key opportunity to learn how other GAN Networks have confronted similar challenges. To participate in the dual education programmes, each company must have at least one trainer that has completed a special course. The trainers are also given the chance to receive an internationally recognised certification, but not many complete it. The dual education pathway legislation allows for tax incentives for companies that train dual education students, but the mechanism has not yet been developed. Companies from some sectors, like textiles, come together to find ways of training dual students as a group, dividing up the different skills between the different companies.
With 15 active members from different sectors and based in four cities in Ecuador, Formados works with two public universities, five public technical institutes and two private universities who oversee the off-the-job training of apprentices. With the help of Formados, over 130 companies have become involved in the TVET system so far and trained more than 600 young professionals.
Much remains to be done, including a possible skills anticipation initiative for Ecuador. Formados is working towards creating an education system based on skills needs that will allow young people to build successful careers and Ecuadorian employers to thrive. The partnership with GAN will allow Formados to connect with global employers and leading international organisations, as well as access the knowledge and experiences of other GAN Networks and Partners from across the globe.