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How our international campaign to lift skills and productivity benefits economic outcomes globally

by Stephen SP Ram Kissun, head of international at NOCN Group

As the UK's leading transnational education skills charity operating as an Awarding and Apprenticeship Assessment Organisation, we realise the importance of 'flying the flag' for Britain internationally and 'Education is Great'. Always outward-looking, our reputation for forging productive relationships with those who share our values and objectives has put us in high demand for affiliations and working partnerships worldwide.

We have a strong sense of responsibility and commitment to our learners, workers, communities and training providers everywhere. Our mission is to improve lives and boost economic performance internationally. Moreso in this period of uncertainty and desolation, to enable countries to rebuild and reskill their workforce over the next decade.

Apart from this being the ethical path, there is a pragmatic edge to our 'going global' efforts; we must ensure there are robust, developed, viable markets for UK plc to do business with worldwide.

It is vitally essential that developed countries help emerging economies who are enthusiastically and energetically cultivating their trade partnerships. While, two decades ago, most international businesses took place among and between advanced nations, the majority of it now is between advanced and emerging ones.

Strategic partnership

A crucial element of our international stable of alliances is our strategic partnership with WorldSkills UK, which brings business, education and governments together to kickstart and boost young people's careers so that they get the best starts in work and life. Since 2019, we have worked with it closely to champion' world-class apprenticeships' and technical aptitudes through worldwide competitions and bringing together skills role models.

Principally, this has also involved direct benefits to the UK economy, which has been made more productive and competitive as a result. For example, in August last year, NOCN accompanied the WorldSkills UK team of apprentices and students to the international WorldSkills Competition, hosted in Kazan, Russia. Here, we and WorldSkills UK arranged for a group of British industry leaders to network with their counterparts from around the globe, comparing notes and gaining invaluable insight, knowledge and tips.

As a result, new ideas and approaches were captured about new skills and techniques for their acquisition and development. Essentially, these included the latest digital breakthroughs.

Southeast Asia, Africa and the Gulf

We work with a host of key partners across India, South East Asia, Africa and the Gulf to provide educational and skills-related consultancy, accreditation and certification for qualifications, as well as endorsements for locally designed training courses.

An example is our January memorandum of understanding (MoU) with the highly respected Nettur Technical Training Foundation (NTTF). The educational trust established in 1959, in Bengaluru, India's southern state of Karnataka. NTTF has stayed at the leading edge of vocational learning and development ever since. Its new Lifelong Learning Centre has top-notch standards in robotics, CMC CAD, 3D component printing, integrated manufacturing techniques and steel design and erection for construction projects. Of vital interest to the UK construction and build sector is its new focus on off-site manufacturing or pre-engineered construction, which presents learning opportunities in an active emerging area that Britain lags.

NOCN's support for NTTF's 16 centres across the sub-continent, which deliver qualifications to some 6,500 dedicated students and 20,000 on-the-job learners – a third of them female - enhances a necessary skills pipeline of human capital for many Indian industries. The collaboration will see us benchmark NTTF vocational training programmes to ensure that all qualifications meet an international standard. With the primary aim to boost the employability and reputation of its graduates and supporting Indian employers in the industry.

Vocational and ESOL training in Indonesia

Another terrific alliance can be found 2,000 miles east of Bengaluru, in Indonesia, where an ambitious agreement to work with The West Java Provincial Education Office has just been unveiled. Here, we will develop the region's TVET offer in several vocational areas, including English language training (ESOL International), collaborating with key stakeholders in the region

Working closely with the National Vocational School, in Bandung, the first phase will focus on building capacity 'Training of Trainer' programmes. These support vocational teachers and higher education lecturer, professional certification development of modules, pedagogy and content in critical occupational sectors.

Kingdom of Bahrain's two new international centres

Bahrain is our next stop, where we opened our two latest approved global centres in the Kingdom, in February.

Al Moalem Institute will support the country's workforce and empower its Bahraini job seekers to secure sustainable employment. This will be a significant enabler of its national plan, Bahrain Economic Vision 2030, which will manage its transition from depending on oil and gas production to a knowledge-based economy. With the Bahrain government's recognition of NOCN qualifications, AMI now offers our Employability credentials, up to Level 2, to those seeking sustainable work.

The Institute provides comprehensive skills training, internationally recognised certifications and qualifications while enhancing staff aptitudes by working with top partners worldwide.

Meanwhile, Manahel Training Centre, in Manama, Bahrain's capital, will offer a range of NOCN regulated qualifications over upcoming months to boost both jobseekers' marketability and the talent pools of employers. It will be a vital support for the delivery of government-funded welfare-to-work programmes to unemployed Bahrainis, providing focused skills training, development and upskilling for many organisations across a wide range of the Kingdom's industries.

Across the Middle East

Beyond that, we are very active across the Middle East, where we have launched the Level 3 and 5 productivity improvement practice suite of management qualifications with a regional partner, Jafcon, in a wide range of industries. They include aviation, banking, manufacturing, oil and gas, telecom and the public sector.

And we are currently awaiting approvals for several key projects and in advanced discussions about many more. Among them are major new education centres, internship programmes, enterprise and entrepreneurship, apprenticeship schemes and recruitment of ex-pat construction workers.

Truly international outlook

Of course, our efforts are not confined merely to emerging economies. More established ones and individual sectors in these developed nations also face all sorts of challenges and, in this fast-moving, hyper-competitive age, can also encounter problems navigating the latest trends, demographic changes and digital breakthroughs.

Globalisation, the connected and interdependent global economic system that has emerged over the last 30 years or so, has improved the living standards and prospects of countless numbers. In China alone, millions have been lifted out of poverty, and there is a large, aspirational middle class. However, in recent years, a protectionist backlash has emerged in Western countries, as many in now rundown former industrial heartlands and other once-thriving sectors feel that they have been disadvantaged.

And although the financial crisis also had an impact; the recent viral pandemic outbreak has significantly impacted on people's lives, worldwide trade and presented a new timeline as a result.

For this reason, NOCN's outlook is truly international, which drives our concerted work with governments, government departments and NGOs across the first world too. We seek always to support local commercial development and start-ups, SMEs and major groups alike, to galvanise productivity, encourage positivity and inspire optimism.

Local partners in Greece

In Greece, for instance, we provide ESOL international English assessment and testing to hundreds of ambitious people, helping them boost their confidence and skills in the established global language of business and hospitality. Working with our strategic partner, Global Cert and local partners, we run examinations in a wide range of locations across the country, including the Greek Islands and Cyprus.
We are also working with technology developers in the country on a range of online skills delivery and testing services.

Apprenticeships across the US

A hop across the Atlantic in 2017 and again in 2019, found us sharing our expertise and knowledge in independent validation and certification with the US counterparts to help power the American Apprenticeship Initiative. The outcome of our visit had a bold impact on several state apprenticeship policymakers learning from the UK's learning and training architecture identified as the exemplar on which to base US efforts.

Here, there was no 'one-size-fits-all' national strategy, like our own. As a result, NOCN's focus was to communicate with individual states, rather than the federal government, on how we have managed to engage with employers and increase the volume of apprenticeship starts.

Working together

We continuously review all our international collaborations, looking for ways to improve them, diversify efforts and import innovations. At the same time, we take a systematic, considered approach to identifying new practical and useful relationships with new partners.

If you are interested in forging the next exciting world-beating international alliance, please contact us to discuss how we can work together to keep making the world go round.