In Edujesuit we are dedicating the month of February to work training. We want to go deeper in how the right to education is directly related to the right to work. For that, we wanted to know more about the context of the working world and how, from the Society of Jesus, some responses are being articulated.
We have interviewed Asier Bengoa, coordinator of Training for Employment of the International Federation of Fe y Alegría.
What is your analysis of the global context of the working world?
The current working world, especially referring to the scope of technical training and moving a bit from university and scientific training. Until very recently when thinking of what it would be technical or even technological training, the image of a mechanic or a tailor would come to mind and those jobs would also be very associated with a certain gender. Back then, technical training was a set of skills and was closely associated to manual labor. In recent times, we are aware that the world has moved towards a high automation therefore, what before used to require a lot of low skilled manpower, now requires little but very qualified workforce. That is why; the matter of automatism has been one of the big changes in today’s world.
I also think that another great leap has been the entry in the communication era and the internet that has detached worked from a fixed or determined space. Now people move in a more global manner worldwide. Those two contexts in which the presence of automatism and breaking with geography or job stability, make people need different competences and abilities. Nowadays it is not as important to have manual dexterity as you need another type of abilities that allow you to adapt to changing labour environments, to work in a more interactive way with other people. Before, you worked with a machine or you were associated with a certain tool but now increasingly you have to be in contact with other people more than with machines. All that makes necessary to have a different set of skills.
That is one of the main themes and we have in our hands one of the great challenges in technical education which is to transform our centers from an industrial mentality to a XXI century one with what it entails.
In this context that you are talking about. Which is the additional difficulty for the people in a vulnerable situation?
The context I am talking about is a general context. If people on top of that have a situation of vulnerability because of access limitations, gender-based or sex-based limitations for the fact of being a man or a woman, limitations because of being disabled, being an indigenous person or living in certain contexts: in rural areas, jungle zones… Obviously this deepens the difficulties they have to get on in today’s context. Clearly as Fe y Alegría, we focus on limiting the inequalities or shortening the gap that may exist, therefore, we put our attention in the regions with the highest inequalities in this context. But evidently, independently of the people we serve which are our main focuses; this reflection is based on the necessity we have to shape ourselves to also reshape that context. But we find ourselves in a time in which our proposals either change or they will also have a gap and therefore we would transmit that gap to the people we work with. If we are out of focus we can be very centered on a target audience but we won’t be giving them a relevant service and a relevant education. That is why the question of propriety is not only in the hands of people but in what we transmit to that people. That is why our proposals need to answer to current labour contexts.
Which is the response that Fe y Alegría is giving to this reality?
One of the high stakes is to change the conception of technical education as people think it consists on using a hammer, sewing or other similar skills to show that that it consists on working on personal, intellectual, organizational or entrepreneurship skills. In other words, much more general skills. In fact, that is why they call them general labour skills, because they are the ones that make it possible for people nowadays to get on in a working environment regardless of the specific kind of job they are doing. Obviously, they need to have some kind of a base in any of the areas but just a base because, as the specific part changes a lot, they acquire those skills in the working environment. Inside the companies themselves they are going to acquire the specific skills of that job. What is essential in our role is to give a good technical base but, above that, is to give a good base on the personal, interpersonal and organizational competences being those the main competences that have to be emphasized. What is interesting about that is that, as those competences are new, they are not gender-based and do not have a very specific role. In other words, before the tailor, the mechanic and others had very defined roles buy in today’s working world new jobs are created with new skills that are not linked to a gender-based role. But yes, that is one of the main challenges, to transform the centers so their role is not limited to teaching technical skills but also to generate another type of attitudes and values that make it possible to give an all-round education as we traditionally say in Fe y Alegría. Therefore, something that is so historic is also very current and necessary.
Could you give a concrete example of the work of Fe y Alegría?
We are doing things regarding what we call employability, which refers to working on general labour skills. Nowadays we are working in 21 countries so that all their technical educational centers introduce in their curriculum certain competences that have to do with team work, the tolerance to frustration, decision making etc… One of the first actions that we are carrying out is to incorporate these competences in the centers curriculum. We are working with over 300 centers so that they work on those competences making it possible to introduce them in their curriculum. In addition to this, we are generating another element. As we are incorporating elements that are common, we can also establish a common way in which we can measure it and also an external way as it is independent from the teacher and the students are the ones who measure it.
Through an evaluation or self-evaluation that the student carries out at the beginning and at the end of the training we can evaluate the progress or his or her contribution to the learning process and that is something independent of the teacher. This way we can firstly see the initial situation of the student and his or her skills in the beginning of the process and then we can see the general situation. From that we have some more or less objective goals to reflect in the center and say: well, some progress has been made, no progress has been made, what are the causes… It does not only depend on the fact that something has been learnt or not, but this allows us to evaluate internally the teaching and learning process not depending on the evaluation carried out by the center itself. I believe that those two are important elements.
Another important aspect is that, if we refer to Fe y Alegría, we always talk about the context and that in popular education the context is one of the key elements. I do not know to which extent some work is being done actively. There are several differences between schools and technical education centres. The community goes to the school because it provides compulsory education and sometimes it is even said that the school is a small point of development. Where there is a school an activity is generated. In technical education, as it is not mandatory, the students do not have the obligation to go to the center, therefore the center should go out to them and it does not always happen. Sometimes the center stays inside its 4 walls. Another of the main aspects that we work on is to not only interact with the community but also interact with the companies and all the living actors that affect the economic and productive development of the area in which the center is located. Those are the three main actions in which we are working.
Are you working with others in the making of these responses you are giving?
Yes, in fact, the work we are doing with those 21 countries is linked to the networking with different organizations of the society. Fe y Alegría has not been working on this answer on its own, it has been a joint action and a joint reflection with different actors of the society: JRS, the social sector of the company in México, Radio ECCA in Spain, Fe y Alegría en Chad and the rest of America and then with Cristo Rey in the United States.
And how are you doing this?
Mainly the incorporation of these competences is one of our main objectives. We are doing an exchange of the experiences of how these competences are being implemented in the different works and we are sharing materials and incorporating and enriching each other in a level of Exchange of knowledge and experiences. In the case of JRS, we are implementing proposals that we make from Fe y Alegría. We are implementing them in Uganda and South Africa in urban refugee camps in Campala, Johannesburgo and Pretoria. We also implement our proposals with ECCA and the social sector of the company in Mexico. With those three actors we are implementing the model of employability that we have in Fe y Alegría. In the case of Cristo Rey in the United States, they are providing inputs in the topic of employability and labour insertion. They have a lot of experience when it comes to interacting with companies and employability. We are mainly learning from their experience and we are giving them the inputs we have in skills development as we have them in 5 different languages. That is a huge advantage when it comes to sharing with others.
How many people are you trying to reach? What is the scope of this proposal?
In 3 years time, speaking of employability we would like to reach around 80.000 people and of work placement around 57.000 people. There is no doubt that this is a huge challenge.
And all this you tell me about networking as a response to global challenges, how does it fit with the global objectives of development? How do the proposals of Fe y Alegría and the networking with the rest of the society fit in the global goals that the world has set from now until 2030 with the SDO?
In the SDO of 2030 they clearly mention the issue of strengthening of teacher training. All that I have said previously has behind it a lot of hard work, not only with the teachers but also with all the management staff teams of the centers. Therefore, the promotion of training is key. We have talked about the transformation of the classrooms, the centers and the teachers. That transformation will not be possible if we don’t transform the teachers, if we don’t transform the teachers we won’t transform the centers, therefore it is obvious that we have to do a lot of background work with the teachers. I think we also have to change in Fe y Alegría, we do a lot of teacher training and I think our methods are somewhat outdated. Nowadays, long training courses for teachers or students are complicated. We have to train in a short period of time and we have to make the most of that short time, they have to be meaningful even if they are short. Sometimes we want to give a lot of information, a lot of content or super long training courses when, nowadays, the information is there. We have to train in a different way and that is where we find a challenge, we have to make the training of teachers meaningful.
The SDO of 2030 also mentions another element that is to provide training on meaningful skills for today’s contexts, stressing on generating possibilities of access of vulnerable sectors and, within these vulnerable groups we can find: rural, indigenous, farmers or even women because there is still a gender equality gap between men and women in the world of work and that is a fact. Therefore I think that the network that is working inside the society with vulnerable groups… is clearly aiming towards those two objectives of 2030.
I believe you also work on global citizenship
Yes, in fact more global citizenship than what we are already promoting because we are also starting to work in center’s networks and student networks and this comes hand in hand with the task that Entreculturas (NGO of the Society of Jesus in Spain) is carrying out here with Entrescuelas. We foster the linking of Spanish centers with Latin-America, of the United States with Latin-America and. In fact, we want to use the platform of Educate Magis in order to promote the interaction between teachers but also between students so later, based on common themes, they will analyze and see how from everyone’s reality they face the problems. There really is a global citizenship working line that helps understand the world in a different way in order to see that, in the end, we are all very alike.
What is the relation between the right to education and the right to work?
I think that they are two inherent elements for every human being, together with our spiritual condition… We are working creatures, we are eager to learn, we have that quality and we have a quality to transcend. Therefore, talking about work, education or spirituality is to talk about the human beings. They are key elements because they are inherent to every human being, they are a necessity. Being able to keep on learning and knowing more about the world is a necessity and even more nowadays because human beings have generated inequalities between human beings, education and work. These, apart from being rights because of the fact of being humans, they have a demanding and equalizing character.