ISSN: 1391 - 0531
Sunday March 02, 2008
Vol. 42 - No 40
Financial Times  


USAID Sri Lanka has launched the proposed curriculum for its Accelerated Skills Acquisition Programme (ASAP) with the syllabus being endorsed by the Ceylon Chamber of Commerce as study material that is suitable for potential employees in the private sector. The programme consists of five-day, 10-day and 20-day study programmes on IT, English proficiency, career guidance and entrepreneurial skills. The objective of the programme is to endow recipients with the essential skills required for competitive employment.

The main challenge faced by the project officers has been the training of suitable trainers to teach the curriculum, according to USAID’s Shevanthi Jayewardene, Chief of the party. For this, USAID has entered into strategic partnerships with a number of reputed private sector institutions with branches in various parts of the island, who have offered their existing trainers to be trained in the ASAP curriculum.

Their will also be a resource pool of trainers so that any institution that finds itself at a loss for a trainer is not left in the lurch. According to Devinda Jayasuriya, head of the Cargills Institute of Training, their establishment will act as a trainer as well as an employer.

The institute already has a number of students from the outer areas of Ampara and Hambantota, he says, where the skills are most needed. As for the demand for the course, “Everybody is happy, we already have a number of requests,” he says enthusiastically.

For D.L. Sarathchandra, Training manger at DIMO Institute of Automobile Training ASAP has been a windfall. The institute trains automobile technicians and the students are mostly from the maths stream. Sarathchandra says that although they are reasonably fluent in English, ASAP “is really good” as an added skill because DIMO re-employees large number of its graduates into its own business.

The curriculum is nothing new, but a amalgamation of former accelerated learning programmed that have been extremely successful in countries like the US and India. All the course material has been adapted to Sri Lanka and much thought and time has gone into the process of constructing the curriculum. The course is to be taught by the trainers in the institutions alongside the usual courses, or after graduations. “Those decisions are in the hand of the institute,” says USAID’ s Gayani Silva, Local Programme Specialist, who adds that even the fee structure will not be determined by USAID. “Some of them don’t want to tax the students extra,” she says adding that thus, USAID is trying to propagate a grants programme for deserving students.

To queries of how successful ‘cramming’ a sizeable load of information into such a short amount of time would be, the USAID officials are optimistic. “Some institutes want to have the course once a week or twice a week, that’s their decision,” says Dileka Fernando, the lead trainer. Institutes may even spread out the course over longer periods.

Also, the curriculum varies with the durations. For instance, while the shortest course consists mainly lessons on how to construct a CV and face an interview, the 10 day course has a combination of English speaking skills and an IT course. The longest course includes a segment in building entrepreneurial skills. Even the English speaking skills being taught are more about “learning how best to speak with what knowledge you have, rather that teaching elaborate grammar,” say Silva.

Various private sector giants have already expressed an interest in employing ASAP-qualified students through USAID, says Silva. The interest has been cemented by the endorsement of the Chamber of Commerce. “We are more than happy to join USAID in this challenge,” said Prema Cooray, Secretary-General of the Chamber.

The second tier of the TOT (training of trainers) is being carried out presently, and soon afterwards, spearheaded by them, ASAP will be off the ground.


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