Empowering Communities: (1) Vocational Training in Developing Countries

Yogesh Prasad, Founder, SSG-CIC.ORG | yogesh.prasad@ssg-cic.org 

Vocational training transforms lives and drives economic growth in developing countries. It equips individuals with the practical skills and knowledge needed to secure employment, start businesses, and contribute to their community’s development. In this infographic blog, we explore the significance of vocational training in developing countries and its positive impact on individuals, communities, and overall socio-economic progress.

Emerging countries project high double-digit growth of the Gen Z population[1], and these countries’ business strategies are fuelled by innovation and digital transformation[2]. This growth opens a window of opportunity to prepare both Gen Z and the forthcoming Gen Alpha to become adept with more practical, application-oriented skills. AI and AI-enabled products and services are already commonplace, and the brainpower now asks more questions about “So What?” and “Then What?)  – both being strategic and probative. 

The future of work is already here. Therefore, countries have no choice but to model their talent pool accordingly. Vocational training (VT) is part of the educational took-kit, but its goals are fundamentally different. VT helps bring discipline in the workplace, and school/college education guides you towards academic excellence. A combination of the two is revolutionary indeed.

Figure 1: A 2×2 Matrix showing evolving business strategy vs. skills needed to secure jobs across different generations. Whilst the Boomer generation relied on knowledge (fact-based), over the last 50 years, the world has been moving towards application-oriented, practical skills. Gen Z and Gen Alpha will be the most prolific and abundant generations of humankind, with almost half in Asia and Africa. We already witness the digital maturity of businesses as well as day to day activity of this demographic. Future business models will further extend the skills, some of which we are aware of, and there are several that we must uncover as time passes. Bubble size represents population size. © Science for Social Good CIC, 2023.

The Need for Vocational Training

In 2000, while working for a multinational company (MNC), I had a conversation with the then-CEO that left me thinking deeply. I questioned the high cost of genetic analysers and how it acted as a barrier for developing countries to invest in genetic analysis. My proposal was simple: we could significantly expand our user base by selling instruments with limited functionalities but enough to provide valuable insights to scientists, all at a fraction of the average unit price (AUP). To drive my point home, I presented a few examples to demonstrate my confidence and thorough research. However, the CEO’s response caught me off guard. He said, “It’s not necessarily the price of the equipment, but more about the government’s commitment to broader technology investment.” This perspective was a prevailing notion in the tech world at the time. It was an oversimplification of the complex factors influencing the adoption of technology.

In reality, both arguments had their merits. Emerging countries were indeed investing (and continue to invest) in infrastructure, but they needed help to achieve high utilisation rates, generally staying below 20%. However, there are exceptional centres of excellence that are at par with their counterparts in developed economies. Tools manufacturers also get an altered view of the emerging markets business potential, so product requirements are prioritized less.

A lower utilisation rate is a problem worth solving. 

As I delved deeper into the low utilisation rates during my field-based application support role in India, I discovered areas of improving utilisation. Post sales support involves instrument training that typically focuses on operator training, with little emphasis on Applications training and a more advanced “train the trainer” approach that allows more autonomy to the laboratories to experiment independently and advance science the way they intended. Building local technical expertise proved challenging and demanded substantial investments within the country. Both principals, Applied Biosystems and Labindia’s founders, recognized the need, and through their Genetic Analysis and Training Laboratory (GA Lab), thousands of trainees could return to their Organisations (academic, public and private labs) and confidently implement high-end technologies. This initial seed of experts built during 1997 – 2006 is the foundation of India’s thriving automated genetic and genomics analysis community. But more is needed as application areas have evolved, technology has matured to the level that routine testing is ubiquitous, and the genetic testing market is ready to explode.

By fostering a community-driven ecosystem, we can contribute to the growth of the genetic testing industry and address the pressing need for vocational training.

Benefits of Vocational Training

Vocational training can help countries make sound decisions on technology choices and have a pool of local talent utilising equipment, troubleshooting them if broken and being more productive (e.g., 100x more return on investment, ROI) than before — no more instruments collecting dust or classified as “white elephant” in the lab. Furthermore, emerging countries face significant challenges in creating employment opportunities and reducing poverty rates. Restricted access to quality education and formal job opportunities creates a demand for practical skills training.

Bridging skill gaps will provide individuals with employable and transferrable skills relevant to local industries.

The vocational training concept has been introduced previously; in many emerging countries, such opportunities exist in government-owned companies like the Railways, Electric Power Houses, Road works, etc. However, as the governments introduced privatisation, such programs soon disappeared or were less prioritised. With Information technology, biotechnology and medical technology fields emerging as future industries, there is a resurgence of demand for vocational training to support sector-specific growth. Some immediate benefits are below.

  • Individual Empowerment: Every year, thousands of students with STEM education degrees find it hard to find a job in their chosen field. 
    • Enhanced Employability: Vocational training equips individuals with job-specific skills, increasing their chances of employment.
    • Income Generation: Practical skills enable individuals to start microenterprises or work independently, improving their livelihoods and financial independence. They not only create their wealth, but they also contribute towards broader societal good by creating new jobs and economic workstreams and improving lives as they act on solving immediate/local problems that require bespoke solutions.
    • Social Mobility: Access to vocational training breaks the cycle of poverty, empowering individuals to achieve upward social mobility.
  • Community Development:
    • Local Economic Growth: Vocational training programs foster entrepreneurship, establish small businesses, and stimulate local economies.
    • Reduced Unemployment: Skilled individuals contribute to lower unemployment rates, reducing dependency on social welfare programs and boosting community resilience.
    • Poverty Alleviation: By providing employable skills, vocational training helps lift individuals and their families out of poverty, creating a positive ripple effect in communities.
    • Countries can become self-reliant: By quickly conferring competence through skill development in cutting-edge technology, which spurs the industries in that sector, making countries more competitive. This bottom-up approach allows scale-up opportunities, furthering employment and progress in the healthcare sector. 

Specific Areas where one can see the impact:

    • Entrepreneurship Training: to empower individuals to start successful businesses, leading to economic growth. There are many avenues – from incubating ideas on the bench, wanting to take a discovery or insight into a product or service, or starting something new. All these require a support infrastructure, an open mind, and someone who believes in you. Many incubation hubs have popped up, some inspired by the thought and others by design and countries’ interest in developing a culture of disruptive innovation.
    • Skill-Specific Training: Illustrate how vocational training in agriculture, construction, healthcare, or hospitality has improved livelihoods and created employment opportunities.
    • Gender Inclusivity: Showcase vocational training programs that have empowered women, challenging gender disparities and promoting gender equality.

Overcoming Challenges

Common obstacles faced in implementing vocational training programs in emerging countries:

    • Funding: Limited financial resources hinder the expansion and sustainability of vocational training initiatives. Setting up vocational training cost-effectively and achieving scale requires funding and support from local governments, industry partners and universities. In most countries, on-the-job training programs support participants with subsistence and a small retainer or stipend to retain them throughout their prescribed 3–6-month programme.
    • Infrastructure: Inadequate facilities and equipment pose challenges in delivering practical training effectively. The best way to envision these programs is to set up a mock facility for a specified period that covers different unit processes within the application area. 
    • Relevance:  Aligning vocational training programs with industry needs and market demands to ensure graduates’ employability. For example, suppose one is training for Water Quality testing through metagenomics. In that case, the training program must constitute the entire workflow – from sample collection down to generating insights from metagenomics data and everything in between. Ideally, it would also cover aspects of developing business ideas, product engineering or product development and courses that explain the regulatory landscape and overcoming implementation challenges. These are industry-focused efforts, so one size may not fit all. 


Vocational training programs can transform lives, uplift communities, and drive sustainable development in developing countries. These initiatives contribute to poverty alleviation, economic growth, and social mobility by equipping individuals with practical skills. Governments, NGOs, and stakeholders must continue to invest in and support vocational training, paving the way for a brighter and more prosperous future for individuals and their communities. The key to success for such programs is to focus on specific verticals or industries where future jobs will reside, and a need exists to build local capacity.

In reality, it takes just one opportunity to change a life. Let vocational training catalyse positive change in graduates’ lives in developed and emerging countries.


Call-to-Action: How can you help?

For Vocational Training programs to reach their full potential, it is essential to build application-specific communities where students can develop their skills in a structured manner. Creating this infrastructure requires investments in vocational training hubs (VTHs) and collaboration with local and national governments, educational institutions and industries. We would love to hear your thoughts about this article and explore how Science for Social Good CIC (SSG-CIC.org) sets up global infrastructure to support vocational training programs through its hubs. This ambitious multi-year program covers developed and developing countries, but our focus remains on underserved demographics and low-income communities and nations.

We need your help through your generous grants, contributions, donations of unused, used, or new instruments, software and reagents, IT gear, Cloud infrastructure to support virtual hub activities and bioinformatics, and your volunteering or working with us. 

Contact us at info@ssg-cic.org or Subscribe to our newsletter.


[1] https://www.businessinsider.in/international/news/heres-a-look-at-countries-with-the-worlds-youngest-population/articleshow/77485084.cms

[2] https://www.mckinsey.com/featured-insights/mckinsey-explainers/what-is-gen-z

[3] Hooks, D., Davis, Z., Agrawal, V., & Li, Z. (2022). Exploring factors influencing technology adoption rate at the macro level: A predictive model. Technology in Society68, 101826. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.techsoc.2021.101826

About the author:

Yogesh Prasad has enjoyed a multifaceted career spanning academia and corporate leadership. He founded Science for Social Good CIC, dedicated to genetic analysis capacity building in low-income countries. Most recently, as Director of Global Market Development at Cepheid, he led strategic marketing and government programs towards growing their Molecular diagnostic business in high-growth markets. Before that, Yogesh excelled at Thermo Fisher Scientific, propelling rapid DNA solutions in emerging markets and cultivating professional services. His corporate career started in India as he helped set up the Applied Biosystems (ABI) Genetic Analysis business from the ground up in 1997 at Labindia. His educational foundation includes an MBA, an M.Sc in Biotechnology and a PhD in Bioscience and Biotechnology. He remains deeply engaged in the scientific community with memberships in prestigious societies.


Released on 2nd October 2023

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