A cohort of students with firsthand knowledge and experience in climate change adaptation and disaster risk management are currently enrolled at The University of the South Pacific’s (USP) Pacific Technical and Further Education (Pacific TAFE) for a formal qualification.
According to Dr. Helene Jacot Des Combes from the Pacific Centre for Environment & Sustainable Development (PaCE-SD), this has been enabled through the support of the EU-PacTVET project, funded by the European Union (EU) and implemented in conjunction with The Pacific Community.
The $6.2m-Euro project covers 15 countries in the Pacific – African, Caribbean & Pacific countries with the aim of developing technical and vocational qualifications on resilience (climate change adaptation and disaster risk reduction) and sustainable energy at the regional level. In fact, the Pacific is leading the way globally in the development of Resilience qualifications at the regional level.
Dr. Helene Jacot Des Combes emphasised the importance of moving beyond the workshops and trainings given to Pacific Islanders.
“If you look at the situation in the Pacific at the moment, everything that is linked to vocational and education training level or practical and technical, for climate change adaptation or disaster risk management, it is done in informal ways through workshops linked to projects,” she said.
“We realised from our own experience and by talking to the people, that while it is good that people get the skills, they do not have anything to continue to build their capacity after that.”
“They have a very nice Certificate of Participation but they cannot really use that to enroll in more formal education so that is the gap,” she commented.
The project targets school drop-outs and community members with practical experience but with less to no academic qualification.
“We really wanted this project to develop formal qualifications without a very high entry level,” she added.
“And so we are targeting school dropouts, people from the communities who have practical experience but no education degree so that they can use it for employment and then progress their education if they want to,” she added.
Dr. Jacot Des Combes added that this will give Pacific Islanders a sense of ownership in taking the lead in climate change adaptation without being heavily reliant on outside expertise.
“It will give the people self-confidence to tell donors that they are qualified enough to be employed,” she stated.
“At the moment some of the work is done by people from outside the region because donors usually consider they do not have enough qualified people in the region.”
“So we are really trying to bridge that gap and to move from this informal education to something that is more organised that people can really build on in a systematic way,” she said.
The project is expected to be completed next year.