SPDI In Pakistan

SPDI In Pakistan

Vocational skills training programs in Punjab, Pakistan

Approximately two-thirds of Pakistan’s population of 180 million are under 30 years of age, and millions of young workers are expected to enter the job market every year over the next two decades. However, given current training levels, only 3% are formally trained in the right kind of skills to meet employers’ needs. To address challenges to vocational training in Pakistan’s most populous province, the Government of Punjab and the British aid agency the Department for International Development (DFID) created the collaborative Punjab Skills Development Fund (PSDF). Their aim was to stimulate a market for training services and provide quality skills and vocational training opportunities to the poor and vulnerable populations of Punjab, particularly women and other marginalized groups, in order to improve livelihood prospects. Seeking to use rigorous research to design programs and policies based on evidence, PSDF partnered with economists at the Center for Economic Research Pakistan (CERP), Evidence for Policy Design (EPoD) at Harvard Kennedy School, and Princeton University. See how they worked together through the steps of the SPDI cycle below!

Step One: Identify

PSDF and the research team worked to fully understand both the skilled labor Providers’ minimum education requirements market and the market for skills training in Punjab. The labor market was moving away from agriculture towards more technical sectors, where labor supply fell short of demand. Meanwhile, workers were unable to meet most of the skill qualifications that employers required, yet if they sought training to improve their job prospects, they found inadequate supply of training programs.

Step Two: Diagnose

The research team launched a set of surveys of households, trainers and employers. Demand for skills training among individuals appeared high: 90% of household survey respondents stated that at least one household member would attend a training, if offered. However, there appeared to be a mismatch between the kinds of training needed and the training supplied. A majority of the training courses required Trainee’s education profile basic schooling as a prerequisite, yet many respondents, particularly women, lacked basic numeracy and literacy skills and had not attended school.

Step Three: Design

Based on the market mismatch that the surveys identified, PSDF worked with training institutions to adjust both what they required and what they offered. Training providers adjusted their prerequisites to include trainees who lacked basic schooling, and integrated basic literacy and numeracy components into their trainings. They also designed and launched a pilot of a diverse set of courses to attract different segments of the population.

Step Four: Implement

Researchers designed an evaluation of these courses to test impact on earnings, employment, and participation of women and marginalized groups in the labor market. They offered randomly selected individuals in target districts vouchers to enroll in training courses.

Step Five: Test

In spite of the previously observed high demand for skills training, of those who received vouchers, only 5% actually enrolled in and completed courses. The percentage was even lower among target groups like women and the poor.

Step Six: Refine

The low redemption rate of vouchers clearly indicated that the program was not likely to be successful at scale, particularly among women. Therefore, the research team and PSDF embarked on a series of pilot experiments that specifically addressed the accessibility challenges among women. Data from the accessibility pilot experiments identified that the social and financial costs of travel to and from training centers constrained women from enrolling in training courses. The research team further diagnosed the causes through field visits to rural households involving interviews and focus groups with women, which then helped PSDF to design interventions to alleviate those constraints. PSDF expanded its pilot training program for rural women to a much larger sample and to a wider variety of treatments, as identified through researchers’ qualitative efforts. PSDF implemented this expanded program and collaborated with the research team to test voucher take-up by randomly varying access to:

• Physical distance, tested by setting up training centers in selected villages

• Safe and reliable transportation, tested by offering the option of free group transportation

• Information, tested by distribution of leaflets and holding informational sessions with trainees

• Social norms, tested through community mobilization efforts

• Financial stipends, tested by offering various levels of stipends to trainees The most effective approach was in-village training, raising voucher take-up as high as 50%. In second place—but at half the impact—was group transportation. Information and community support did not have any effect.