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NI, USAID Ink $4.5-m Deal to Provide Engineering Skills and Tools in Lower Mekong

The United States Agency for International Development (USAID) has entered into a partnership with US-based firm, National Instruments (NI), to provide hands-on training to young scientists and engineers in the Lower Mekong sub-region and to empower them with technical skills to help grow the region’s workforce.

According to the deal, over the next five years USAID and NI will work together to create learning centres at universities and vocational colleges to enable students and professionals to access NI’s embedded and measurement devices, including software, hardware, training and technical support.

This will also help them acquire practical science and technology skills and use them to build solutions and, potentially, new companies, NI said in a statement.

The partnership involves developing curricula, training instructors and supplying lab equipment to these schools, start-ups and small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs).

Contributing $4.5 million to the partnership, NI said it will provide access to its software and hardware technology platforms, product training materials, virtual and in-country support for multiple regional projects.

“Access to technical skills and flexible tools combined with the ideas of the young population in this region will enable them to leverage this talent and generate the local solutions needed to ensure the sustainable development of their countries,” said Victor Mieres, NI vice president of sales and marketing, emerging markets.

NI and USAID previously collaborated through the USAID’s Partnerships for Enhanced Engagement in Research (PEER) science program to support scientists in developing countries.

Two US government projects – USAID COMET and USAID ACTI – will coordinate this partnership. Launched as one of the programs affiliated with the Young Southeast Asia Leadership Initiative (YSEALI) by President Obama in Myanmar in November last year, USAID COMET plans to help 100 universities and vocational centres increase the number of skilled workers in ASEAN-targeted fields.

Under USAID ACTI, this partnership will focus on providing information and skills development training to SMEs. Emphasis will be on greater economic inclusion of women and young entrepreneurs to advance regional economic growth in the Mekong sub-region

As ASEAN Economic Community approaches later this year, Lower Mekong countries are in need for scientists and engineers in the food processing, automotive manufacturing, electronics, construction and tourism industries.

Young women is also ignored in the region’s workforce, with over 40 percent of employers reporting that the sex of an applicant affects their hiring decisions for skilled labour positions. As a result, across this region women participate in the labour force at rates much lower than men, despite high rates of women working in assembly and low-skilled manufacturing plants.

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