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Interview with DB Tech ASEAN coordinator, Fr Dindo Vitung

By Our Own Correspondent

Makati, the Philippines, 20 June 2019 -- What does 'TVET' mean? And how many Don Bosco TVETs are in our Region?

TVET stands for Technical Vocational Education and Training. As a Congregation, it is one of the most visible educational apostolates the SDBs are engaged in. It refers to our educational and skills training intervention to the poor and marginalised sector of our society. Through TVET, the poor young person gains employable skills which allows him/her to find suitable employment thus ending the cycle of poverty in the family. In ASEAN countries there are 41 Don Bosco TVETs and 15 in other EAO countries – 9 in the Pacific (Oceania), 2 in South Asia (Pakistan) and 2 in East Asia.

How long have you been involved in the field of Don Bosco Technical Education?

My first exposure in the TVET apostolate goes back to June 2010 when I was appointed as Technical Director of Don Bosco Technical Institute – Makati, Manila. It was a rare privilege and a big challenge because I was placed in the largest (800-900 students) and premier TVET center in the Philippines, due to its strategic location in Makati and the partnerships with renowned companies also abroad.

As Executive Director of Don Bosco - ONE TVET PHILIPPINES how do you look back on the past 3 years?

As Executive Director, I had the opportunity to see the great work of the Salesians and lay mission partners in the work for the poor and underprivileged youth. My engagement with the Technical Directors and their staff allowed me to have a bigger perspective of our apostolate in skills training for gainful employment of the marginalised youth. Through the establishment of the DB - One TVET Philippines, we became more united and collaborative among each other. We were able to share talents, resources and even partners with a common intention of upgrading each and every TVET center to provide quality training and become empowered in their TVET delivery. This would have not been realised without the support and assistance of the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation (BMZ) and Don Bosco Mondo (Bonn). The funding support allowed us to train the trainers, upgrade our programs and equipment and most of all, create opportunities for networking, collaborating, and exchanges for a better TVET delivery in our settings. These new developments and improvements open a lot of partnerships with companies and awareness of how extensive Don Bosco’s mission is to the Philippines and to the other ASEAN countries.

What are the main goals and strategies of the DB TECH ASEAN?

Our goal is to align ourselves with the Congregation’s Youth Ministry Frame work especially in the educational apostolate for the poor and underprivileged youth through our TVET. As a network of TVET institutions in the ASEAN region, we want to educate and evangelise the young through skills training and value formation. That would make them ready as industry workers imbued with the right attitude and work ethic thus ending the cycle of poverty and powerlessness.

This main goal is actualised through various strategies such as: (1) Upgrading the quality of our Technical Training Programs with continuous professional training to our teachers and improvement of equipment. (2) Increase cooperation and exchanges between the Don Bosco TVET centers in ASEAN region. (3) Strengthen linkages with related ASEAN and national government and NGOs. (4) Strong Advocacy in presenting TVET education as a viable alternative to a university degree. (5) Become an active influencer in the national and international TVET policies.

So far the main intuitions along the way?

The Salesians in the ASEAN region have been running TVET centers for past 60 years and have gained invaluable expertise in skills training for the poor and marginalised youth. However, each TVET Center is “independently” run based. With the establishment of Don Bosco TECH ASEAN, there is an explicit awareness and motivation to:

  • Collaboration and networking between Don Bosco TVET Centers in the ASEAN region.
  • Sharing of expertise and contact information to various TVET stakeholders like government institutions, industry partners, chambers, foundations among others.
  • Establishment of a “support system” to assist training for new and “struggling” TVET centers.

What has been done in the DB TECH ASEAN up to now?

  • Sharing of best practices through the face-to-face meetings (Nov 2018 in Bangkok and Feb 2019 in Ho Chi Minh City), monthly Skype conference and WhatsApp communication.
  • A Cloud based repository of various documents like manuals and files has been set-up.
  • A combined Training of Teachers between INA and TLS vice-provinces has just concluded.
  • A series of professional upgrading of teachers in various fields has been done in the region.
  • Linkages have been established in SEAMEO (South East Asia Ministry of Education Organization), government institutions, chambers of commerce, and other TVET stakeholders.
  • Some countries benefitted with the purchase of equipment. The other countries would soon purchase their equipment.
  • A Labor Market Information seminar was organised in SEAMEO VOCTECH Brunei to allow participants to understand and prepare their courses amidst the volatile Labor market conditions.
  • A review of various course and curricular offerings have also been initiated.

And what are the main challenges for DB TECH ASEAN?

The challenges are specific for each different country context. However, we can name a few which may or may not be experienced by other countries.

  • Some Salesians have not been immersed in the TVET centers. Thus, they have little information or perceived bias against TVET education as compared to a formal school (K-12, University degree).
  • Running TVET centers pose greater demand for supervision, technical expertise, networking and collaboration, huge financial and capital investment. The stakes are high in relation to other settings. So some Salesians prefer to open - operate schools or prefer to be assigned in other roles.
  • Certain TVET centers still operate in isolation. These do not recognise the importance and benefits of collaborating with various entities with the same objectives and vision for TVET education.

What kind of help do you seek from the EAO provincials to move forward?

We appreciate the approval of the different EAO provincials to form the DB TECH ASEAN network. To achieve the aims and objectives of the said network, we seek the following:

  • A pro-active mindset: The way TVET is being run nowadays is totally different as compared to the past. The demand of the Labor market is driven by the continuous changes in technology and skills requirements of partner industries and the nature of the learners. We have to adapt in order to remain relevant in our mission to provide opportunities to the marginalised youth. This change of mindset need to start from the leadership of the different provinces.
  • Empower the country representatives to organise and engage various stakeholders to achieve the objectives of the DB TECH ASEAN. There is no “one-size-fits-all” strategy due to the multiple and varied requirements of stakeholders. The continuous training of technical trainers is essential. Government, accrediting agencies and industry partners have varying and sometimes “conflicting” demands. Networking and collaboration within the ASEAN context is almost a “must” to remain updated. The list of concerns for the coordinator may be compelling thus we really need a strong moral and financial support from each province to realise these aims.
  • Involve and consult the country representatives in certain planning and discussion that would involve directions and decisions of the province in matters related to TVET. This would allow a seamless communication and right exchange of ideas and information between the Provincial and his council as well as the other confreres who need to be informed and aware regarding the initiatives and developments in the apostolate for the underprivileged youth.
  • Prepare Salesians and Lay Mission Partners professionally. The mission of educating the poor through our TVET centers has become a major component in our apostolate. To sustain this ministry, we request a continuous pool of SDBs and Lay Mission Partners to be prepared professionally in various competencies such as: leadership and management, various technical know-how, financial administration, Salesian pedagogy among others.

What are your dreams for DB TECH ASEAN?

First dream - To be a functioning and empowered “ONE ASEAN Network”. In fact, there is a great advantage of working interdependently due to the variety and richness of each 35 TVET Center across the ASEAN network. The latent power of 35 TVET centers has strong potentials for growth, strong advocacy to policy makers, sharing of expertise and positive influence among TVET stakeholders.

Second dream - To become Benchmark in Technical education. In certain areas, this “good standing” has become a reason for complacency and stagnation in our works. With the establishment of DB TECH ASEAN, the Salesians are again placed at the forefront of revitalising our TVET centers as one of the means to bring about transformation to poor young people.

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