Monday, 18 September, Port Vila, Vanuatu: During the Vanuatu Skills Partnership Steering Committee meeting, the VSP has renewed their longstanding partnership with the Vanuatu Tourism Office, including signing a new partnership with the Department of Cooperatives.
In his opening remarks last week, the Director of the Department of Cooperatives, Mr Joe Iauko, said, “The importance of the Department of Cooperatives engaging in this partnership with the Vanuatu Skills Partnership through the Cooperative network is to address firstly the financial literacy specifically in the rural areas of the country. Now that many businesses are diversifying their operations and products, huge skill gaps must be addressed, making the partnership agreement timely to enhance and improve our services.”
According to the Director, through the Ministry of Trade & Commerce, their partnership agreement has gone through the State Law Office for a legal review and received the endorsement for the signing. The Director thanked the DG of the Ministry of Trade and Commerce, Mr. Jimmy Rantes, for his role and leadership that made the progress possible.
The Director General (DG) of the Ministry of Trade & Commerce was also present during the signing and made his address to the room of Provincial Secretaries General, senior officers from the Vanuatu Public Service Commission, Ministry of the Prime Minister and the Department of Labour, along with various government partners across the tourism, agriculture, creative industries, and infrastructure sectors.
In his address, he stated the importance of implementing the partnership. Also, he said, “In the past, we worked closely with VSP in the areas of tourism, and now we are expanding the scope of the work to include cooperatives as this is a massive sector of the rural economy; however, we have yet to renew partnerships for the Department of Industry and Department of Tourism also very soon.”
The DG also mentioned many discussions centred around skills gaps in the country. “One of the key ‘tingting’ (ideas) is to enhance capacity building for various departments as Departments can’t do it in isolation alone. They need partnerships with other organisations, and VSP is one of these key partners that departments can engage with to carry out big policy concepts and implementation.”
“At the level of the Ministry, we are giving grant support through the cooperative development and the industry development fund to our clients who registered with cooperatives, industry and tourism through the support program. Many businesses in rural areas are still part of the informal sector and need to be supported so that they can become sustainable and operational over time. Under its institutional reform, the Ministry of Trade & Commerce is emphasising the relevance of sustainable and inclusive trade, so partnerships for skills development to support business growth is key for our coordination,” says DG Jimmy Rantes.
According to the DG, this is reinforced by the Ministry of Trade & Commerce’s reformation plan to open an Office in each Local Government Province for all businesses to receive government service under one building, whether for cooperatives, industry or tourism.
In her closing remarks, Stephanie Kimber, First Secretary to the Australian High Commission, stated that “Skill’s Partnerships open connections and integration into the local structures of the government of Vanuatu through the provincial skills centres, ensuring that the priorities of the government at the provincial and national levels outlined in the NSDP plan are at the centre of all its actions.”
“We’ve (Australia) been supporting the skills partnership for well over a decade now, and it’s one of our most successful development investments and a shining star, I think, of locally-led development in Vanuatu and across the region – a result of which all of you here today as key partners in this joint-initiative should feel justifiably proud,” stated the First Secretary in her closing remarks.
According to the VTO CEO, it’s not the first for the Vanuatu Tourism Office to partner with VSP, with the first agreement having commenced in 2018 with a focus on the market readiness of Vanuatu’s local operators in the Provinces.
It is noted that the Vanuatu Skills Partnership commenced its partnership in the sector of Tourism through the Department of Tourism in 2012, and over time, as highlighted by the Director of VSP during the steering committee meeting, reflected on the performance changes in this particular sector overtime with operators improving in their quality of product offering.
“As we progressed on and focused on skills development of our operators, we came to identify that one particular area was access to Market – to ensure that these businesses know how to be financially profitable as a business, they need to understand and learn how to operate in the market so that they were no longer dependent on the government and Department of Tourism to continue to support them,” says the VTO CEO.
In 2018, the focus of VTO’s partnership with VSP changed to commence the market readiness journey and prepare businesses by understanding the market and how to invest and operate within the industry. This is because it is the business of the VTO to promote the brand awareness of Vanuatu as a tourist destination.
“We want to see awareness and market readiness for all tourism businesses, whether you are in Torba, Malampa or Sanma or throughout the country. One area that must be strengthened is how you can meet the market, whether it’s international or domestic – but to be market ready,” says Adela Issachar Aru, CEO of the VTO.
Thank you to the Vanuatu Skills Partnership Program and Team, the Government of Australia, the Government of Vanuatu and the business sectors covering cooperatives, creative industries, the manufacturing sector and tourism that will continue to use skills development as part of its programs for developing a sustainable and inclusive pathway for trade in Vanuatu.