USAID MekongSkills2Work Leadership Summit Brings Together Vocational Colleges and Universities from the Mekong


BANGKOK, January 16-17, 2018 - USAID’s MekongSkills2Work Leadership Summit brought together 60 educators, private sector representatives, government officials and other partners from the Lower Mekong region for two days to share experiences in implementing the USAID

Connecting the Mekong Through Education and Training (USAID COMET) model. USAID COMET, a project in support of the Lower Mekong Initiative, aims to strengthen youth employment through innovative classroom instruction combined with increased exposure to the working world through internships and the use of technology.


"All sectors need to invest in experimentation - fail fast, learn fast. Things change every six months [in the technology industry]. School, college, work - that pathway is gone. Now it's learn, fail, unlearn, relearn," said Anshul Sonak, Intel Asia’s Regional Director for Innovation & Education Programs.


The Summit provided an opportunity for the USAID COMET academic leadership institutions – the Mekong Learning Centers – to showcase successes and lessons learned in their particular areas of expertise: innovation challenges, industry partnerships, work-based learning, innovative instruction, professional development, and institutionalization – making change stick. Project partners, Intel and Cisco, shared their experience in building learning communities and in inspiring young women to turn their passion for technology into rewarding STEM careers.


“Women are incredibly valuable assets to the STEM industry. It’s in our best interest to connect young women to inspiring professionals to help them navigate the world of work and build a supportive network of women leaders,” said Suthinee Leelahemaratana, program manager of Cisco Systems Social Innovation Group.


Roundtable discussions on day two provided an opportunity for country-level discussions between the Mekong Learning Centers, their government representatives and industry partners on strategies to sustain and grow the MekongSkills2Work Network. Participants left with new ideas and new connections to maximize impact in their efforts to equip youth with the skills they need in the 21st century workplace.


“There are more than 44,000 students out there who now have the technology and the tools that they need to be successful in the future, to drive economic growth in your respective countries,” said Richard Goughnour, acting director of the USAID Regional Development Mission for Asia. “I understand there are 600 educators who also have their professional skills enhanced to embrace the technology that is in the world today. Those are great results and something to be proud of.”


Instructors highlighted the increasing interest shown throughout the region for the network’s approach to learning. “What’s unique about being a part of this network is that we tackle the issue of skills gap from all angles,” said Lan Anh, instructor from Hanoi University of Science and Technology, Vietnam. “In the MekongSkills2Work Network, I see high level officials engaging in policies which aids pathway of education to employment. I see private sector partners collaborating in hands-on intervention in classrooms. I see instructors working tirelessly to improve education from the ground up. I’m proud to be a part of the Network.”


To see more photos, visit our MekongSkills2Work Flickr.