REFORM OF VOCATIONAL TRAINING NEEDED TO IMPROVE WOMEN'S EMPLOYMENT PROSPECTS Both increased investment and reform in education and training programmes for women and girls are needed to close the gender gap in the employment sector, according to a group of experts who met from 2 to 6 December at the International Training Centre of the International Labour Organization (ILO) in Turin, Italy. The meeting was organized by the United Nations Division for the Advancement of Women in close cooperation with the International Labour Organization (ILO), the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), the UN Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO), and the International Training Centre of the ILO. In follow-up to the Fourth World Conference on Women, which was held in Beijing in September 1995, the experts in the fields of human resource development, vocational training and life-long learning examined the present labour force participation of women, their transition from school to the labour market and opportunities for continued education. They stressed that education was not a one-time event in life, but an on-going process that should enable women to play an active role in the labour market. They agreed that high-quality general education for girls, and remedial education and training for adult women, who form the majority of the world's illiterate population, were necessary to meet today's employment challenges. The experts also stressed the need to design training systems that respond to the complexities of the current labour market, taking into account the increased employment of women in export processing zones, and the informal sector. In addition, women should have equal access to training programmes that offer a high personal pay-off and increase social and economic power. While diversified types of training, including in non-traditional fields, were viewed as necessary, the experts also supported the establishment of paths for promotion and better wages in sectors of predominantly female employment. They underlined the importance of guidance, counselling and support services so that women could benefit from training opportunities. And they suggested that vocational training programmes be offered in close partnership between different sectors of society, including government, private business, employers' and workers' organizations, and non-governmental organizations. With regard to content, the experts stressed that any training package for women should include training in legal literacy, empowerment, and preparation for leadership and decision-making. Education and training will figure prominently on the agenda of the upcoming session of the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women in March 1997. The conclusions of the expert-group meeting will be made available to Commission members as they discuss the issue. The Commission is responsible for monitoring the implementation of the Platform for Action adopted at the Beijing Women's Conference, and formulating policy for the advancement of women. For further information, please contact Maria Hartl, in the UN Division for the Advancement of Women, at (212) 963-3140, or Ann Marie Erb-Leoncavallo in the UN Department of Public Information, (212) 963-0499. **********
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Date last updated: 06 December 1999 by DESA/DAW
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