What happens in a classroom doesn’t stay in the classroom

Patricia O'Donovan By Patricia O’ Donovan, Director, International Training Centre of the ILO, Turin

“When I went back to work, I gathered together officials from many Ministries, joined three working parties on law-making, helped draft a Maritime Labour Act and got promoted. Now I hope that the legislation I have worked on will finally be presented to Parliament with high-quality legal back-up and, most importantly, will conform to international labour standards.”

These words are from Suruswadee Jaimsuwan, Legal Officer at the Ministry of Labour of Thailand, recently promoted to assist the Deputy Director of her department. She was one of around 4,500 participants who come every year to the Training Centre of the International Labour Organization (ILO), located in Turin, Italy.

in addition, around 160 students come every year to complete a Masters or Postgraduate programme. Through these programmes, the Turin School of Development enables the Turin Centre to contribute to the preparation of future experts and leaders dealing with the economic and social challenges of the 21st century.

I have been managing the ILO’s Training Centre in Turin for the past two years and I have met project officers, ministers, entrepreneurs, parliamentarians, researchers, lawyers, activists, trade unionists and employees from all continents with diverse backgrounds, ages and work lives.

They all come here to learn and exchange experiences and – hopefully – they all go back with tools, resources, knowledge and ideas which will enable them to leave a footprint on, play a part in, or simply get things moving in their field.

Ultimately, some will set up local economic development projects, while others will assist in drafting national labour policies and legislation or get involved in organizing global campaigns promoting labour rights, safer workplaces or sustainable investments.

Trickling knowledge down… and up

I often ask myself: “we train these women and men to make a difference outside the classroom – but do we also make a difference out there?”

For most of our students, their time at the Turin campus is their first, and sometimes only, contact with the ILO.  I see this as a great opportunity to broaden the knowledge and understanding of the role of the ILO beyond our traditional target groups of labour ministries, employers’ and workers’ organizations.

Meeting and discussing with the participants about their work and life experiences, as well as their hopes for the future, present a unique channel to understanding how the policies and tools of the ILO can be improved and made more relevant to the working lives of men and women from so many different countries and backgrounds.

Learning, training and knowledge-sharing is not just for the classroom – it is meant to be at the heart of everything we do.

3 thoughts on “What happens in a classroom doesn’t stay in the classroom

  1. Hello Ms. O’Donovan, Thanks for bringing me up to date on the ILO’s ITC in Turin. My question that follows reflects my 40 year committment to ” do battle against UNEMPLOYMENT” (Quote from conversation with Juan Somavia) Also reflects a decade in and out of ILO headquarters, while directing the IIRA’s Study Group on Unemployment.

    My question – We both know that unemployment is a major issue in the U.S. and in the EU as well. In the U.S. the Dept. of Labor has just launched a major initiative to promote “Work Sharing” in place of mass layoffs, the largest source of unemployment in the U.S..

    In their marketing of W.S. to employers – the U.S. DOL often praises certain E.U. countries as leaders in employer use of W.S. Can I assume that educational courses for senior enterprise managers exist that teach the complicated strategy and practices that add up to – applying Work Sharing – not layoffs – to cope with problems of worker redundancy. If such special courses in corporate governance as applied to labour do exist in Europe, would they be found in Turin, at ILO-ITC?

    I would hope so, even expect so, since employment security is a major dimension of the DECENT WORK concept preached world-wide by the ILO. I aspire to introduce such a course into higher education in the U.S., starting at Cornell University. It would be tremendous if such a course could be imported from Turin and adjusted for use in the U.S.

    Thank you for a potentially valuable insight.

    Harold Oaklander, Ph.D.

    • Dear Dr Oaklander,

      Thank you very much for your comment and very interesting question. As you mention, work-sharing, or short-time work schemes, partly or fully subsidised by public authorities, exist in many European countries. Most of these countries have either introduced or modified the characteristics of their short-time work schemes, to try to mitigate the social consequences of the economic crisis. Not only are these important safety nets for workers but, in some countries, the impact of the economic crisis on labour markets has been cushioned through adjustments in working time, notably through some form of short-time work arrangements (e.g. in Germany, Belgium and Luxembourg).

      The Turin Centre provides a number of training courses for the private sector both for company representatives and employers’ organizations, including in the field of employment policies. However, the Centre does not offer so far courses for company representatives on Human Resources Management nor specifically on how/when to use short-time work.

      Your idea is certainly very interesting and I would like to invite you to contact my colleagues in charge of training activities in these fields Mr Valter Nebuloni (v.nebuloni@itcilo.org) and Mr Arnout de Koster (a.dekoster@itcilo.org).

      Patricia O’Donovan,
      Director,
      International Training Centre of the ILO

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