Wednesday, February 27, 2008

On the importance of education in employability programs | Lessons from EdukON online

Many of the organizations working on e-skills programs, offer different types of training: official certified programs such as ECDL, NGO certified programs such as Digital Literacy or the UP Curriculum, to name a few. However, few of them have training programs for professional development that reengage target populations with education and those who provide this link often simply connect beneficiaries with some classes in Community Colleges or Vocational Institutes. In the United States, some NGOs offer this type link.

What is missing, are programs that re-engage individuals not marginally but fully in the educational path for vocational degree for example, or even for a University degree. Although not an expert here, the reasons seem obvious. On the one hand, it is expensive and difficult for NGOs to co-create programs that have the stamped of academic institutions, but offer "specialized" training or are adequate for groups such disabled or senior citizens. On the other hand, people feel intimidated by the idea of attending for the first time or returning to a brick and mortar institution. One must remember that in many countries, this is definitely the case in Poland, these institutions failed to offer this "specialized" educational opportunity for disabled people in the first place.

It is difficult, but not impossible! The experience of the Foundation Supporting Physically Disabled Matemathicians and IT Specialists may have some relevant lessons that other NGOs interested in providing this link can use for their own programs.

As part of the program funded by the European Structural Funds (EFS), the Foundation is developing together with four partners an e-learning platform: EdukON online. Through this project, 10 educational packages were created using ICT as the platform to deliver the training and integrating some face to face training as well (blended method). As part of this educational package, the Foundation will offer vocational training for disabled people, and the opportunity to earn a two-year University degree in Graphic Design.

Patrycja ┼╗ytkowska, the program coordinator, explained that this program is very important for disabled people because graphic design is a career you can pursuit regardless of the physical limitations one may have. Embedded within this program is the constant motivation for disabled people to be active, to increase their self-esteem. It is a form of "critical pedagogy". The program will be implemented soon and I look forward to see what lessons we can learn from it. It is definitely very innovative.

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