3. Fostering greater participation in adult learning in Tlaxcala, Mexico

Adult learning strengthens people's skills and education, and increases their chances of better employability, higher earnings and occupational mobility (Midtsundstad, 2019[1]). Adult learning can also generate substantial social benefits: in comparison to low-skilled adults, higher-skilled adults are more likely to report better health, contribute to political processes and participate in community (OECD, 2016[2]), and are better able to adapt to change. Therefore, supporting adults to upskill or reskill is an economic and social imperative for a more inclusive and productive future.

Promoting both individual and societally shared skills is crucial to fostering equal opportunities and outcomes, and ultimately stabilising communities. Large disparities in skills outcomes across demographic groups, for example, can cause social instability (OECD, 2019[3]). Moreover, the lack of upskilling or reskilling opportunities hinders low-skilled adults' employability by putting them at risk of job loss. Inadequate opportunities for acquiring skills, therefore, can lead to lower incomes and well-being. Low participation in adult learning is associated with high probability of working in the informal sector with fewer protections, (OECD, 2020[4]). A dearth of retraining for adults has consequences that also ripple through the economy as a whole. Lower tax revenues, decreased productivity, slower technology adoption and, consequently, lower competitiveness are all outcomes of individuals lacking the skills needed to be productive workers and having insufficient opportunities to upskill or reskill (Woessmann, 2016[5]).

In Tlaxcala, the participation rate in adult learning is one of the lowest among Mexican states. This is compounded by the fact that the majority of adults (64%) in Tlaxcala have attained less than upper secondary education (a share greater than the national average). This is of concern as the employment opportunities in the formal sector for adults with a low level of education is very limited. For example, according to the National Institute of Statistics and Geography (Instituto National de Estadística y Geografía, INEGI), two-thirds of informal sector workers have completed less than upper secondary education, compared to one-third in the formal sector.

Despite the free or low-cost provision of adult learning in Tlaxcala, several barriers continue to impede adult participation in learning. Lack of motivation, stigma and negative perceptions of remedial education seem to explain low adult engagement. Limited career guidance and a weak connection between training providers and firms also drives a misalignment between skills supply and demand. A key challenge for Tlaxcala is to identify how to engage adults with a low level of skills in learning opportunities relevant to labour market needs.

In Tlaxcala, adult learning is crucial for addressing three main cross-cutting challenges that the state is currently facing. First, remedial adult education can provide upskilling opportunities to reduce the proportion of adults with less than upper secondary education, which is significantly higher than other states in Mexico. Second, adult learning can help individuals and firms respond to the challenges and opportunities arising from the recently signed United States-Mexico Canada Agreement (USMCA) and global megatrends. Third, the provision of relevant training combined with other measures can contribute to economic recovery in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic and its impacts.

This chapter examines the importance of fostering greater participation in adult learning for Tlaxcala and provides an overview of current practices and performance. It is structured as follows: the next section provides an overview of the adult education system in Tlaxcala, and is followed by a section that describes how it is organised, identifies the key actor and their responsibilities, and assesses the main trends in adult education (remedial education and training courses). The final section provides a detailed assessment of the identified opportunities and makes tailor-made policy recommendations in two key areas: 1) increasing adults’ motivation to participate in remedial education; and 2) providing incentives for adults to participate in training that responds to labour market needs.

Adult education covers formal, non-formal and informal learning opportunities. It can take many forms, such as remedial education and training courses (see definition in Box 3.1). For this report, this chapter mainly focuses on formal education (remedial education and literacy programmes) and non-formal education (employability training) taught in institutions and workplaces.

At the state level, several institutions play a central role in overseeing educational programmes for adults with incomplete formal education by offering training courses to increase adult employability. The Institute for Adult Learning (Instituto Tlaxcalteca para Educación de Los Adultos, ITEA) and the state-level Secretariat of Public Education (Secretaría de Educación Pública, SEP) are the institutions responsible for the provision of literacy programmes and remedial education for adults. Several other centres are in charge of further education and training programmes to increase employability, such as the Training Centre for Industrial Work (Centro de Capacitación para el Trabajo Industrial, CECATI), the Institute of Job Training (Instituto de Capacitación para el Trabajo del Estado, ICATLAX) and the National Employment Service of Tlaxcala (Servicio Nacional de Empleo de Tlaxcala, SNET). CECATI is part of the General Directorate of Work Training Centres (Dirección General de Centros de Formación para el Trabajo, DGCFT), co-ordinated by SEP Tlaxcala. ICATLAX and SNET are co-ordinated by the Co-ordination of the State System of Employment Promotion and Community Development (Coordinación del Sistema Estatal de Promoción de empleo y desarrollo comunitario, SEPUEDE).

ITEA provides two types of remedial education: literacy programmes and remedial education for adults with low levels of education (see Table 3.1). These programmes aim to provide basic skills such as literacy and numeracy, and certify primary and secondary education for adults who have not already completed these levels. The literacy programme is oriented towards the population aged 15+ who do not know how to write and read. Adults follow the programme in modules, with each module tailored to the learner's specific needs. Courses are offered in basic literacy, reading, mathematics, Spanish, languages, arts and even targeted instruction in a dozen native languages for indigenous communities. The instructors are mainly upper secondary student volunteers.

Remedial education programmes combine intensive and compressed courses that accelerate students' readiness to engage with further education (upper secondary education) or training courses. Participants can obtain a primary or secondary certificate once they complete the required modules for each level of education. Primary education for adults includes 12 modules, of which three are focused on literacy skills, seven on basic knowledge and two on diversified knowledge. Secondary education includes eight modules split into two parts: four modules about basic knowledge and four diversified modules available from a catalogue of 20 courses. The list of diversified courses covers a limited set of topics from civic education to personal finances, and provides basic skills and knowledge. The courses aim to fulfil learner interest in a variety of topics about general culture to ease students’ development in society.

Those aged 18 and over who have completed secondary education can apply for an upper secondary degree following three modalities. In the first modality, SEP Tlaxcala provides adults with accelerated high school programmes operated by the Open Upper Secondary School (Preparatoria Abierta) (see Table 3.1). In these programmes, participants attend in-person classes compressed into 12 modules. In the second modality, the federal government, through the Distance Learning and Open Teaching System (SEAD), offers online platforms to study independently. In the third modality, as defined by agreement 286 from the national SEP - i.e. Procedure for the accreditation of knowledge acquired informally, for a fee adults can have their skills assessed and receive certification that they have the knowledge and skills equivalent to those completing a high school degree.

The tuition fees to participate in a literacy programme, as well as in primary and lower secondary remedial education, are fully covered by ITEA. Moreover, ITEA has developed an application where all books, guides and workshop materials necessary to primary and lower secondary remedial education are openly accessible. For upper secondary remedial education, however, tuition needs to be covered by participants. ITEA provides books and related materials to adult learners across all levels of education. It has mobile units that take remedial education materials to municipalities across the state. However, in Tlaxcala, there is no public institution that provides financial support or subsidies to cover additional costs such as materials and transportation.

Although the main aim of the literacy programme and remedial education offered by ITEA is to develop basic skills, the supply of digital literacy programmes for adults is minimal. The Digital Inclusion Center (Centro de Inclusión Digital, CID) is the only public institution providing courses on information and communication technology (ICT). These workshops are mainly virtual.

Several policies designed to increase participation in remedial education for low-skilled adults have been put in place in Tlaxcala, and the vast majority of them have been co-ordinated by the Federal Government (see Table 3.2). The current Government of Tlaxcala recognises that the high percentage of adults with low levels of education is a problem that needs to be addressed, even though the illiteracy rate in the state has dropped substantially between 2013-2017 (Government of Tlaxcala, 2017[8]). Despite the recognition of insufficient opportunities to participate in adult education, no specific objectives or strategies have been codified in the State Development Plan to boost participation in adult learning.

Adults in Tlaxcala can participate in formal and non-formal learning to increase their employability by supplementing, updating or extending adult’s qualification and skills required in the labour market. In addition to pursuing formal education degrees such as technical and vocational, and bachelor and graduate degrees, adults can acquire labour market relevant skills by engaging in further education and specific training programmes.

In Tlaxcala, further education and training programmes are offered by public and private providers. On the public side, multiple institutions are involved in the provision of adult learning education (see Table 3.3). ICATLAX is the main institution supplying training programmes and qualifications to respond to immediate local labour requirements. Adults can engage in any of the 181 training programmes offered across ten centres in different municipalities. These programmes aim to upskill and reskill adult workers, jobseekers or inactive adults. Most programmes last about 60 hours, and their content is flexible and can be adjusted to meet employers’ labour needs. CECATI also offers a wide range of training courses throughout the state, mainly targeting jobseekers and inactive adults. The catalogue of programmes is determined at the federal level based on the background report provided by the employment service for each state, which compiles information on employment trends, job openings and sectorial dynamics. Compared to the courses from ICATLAX, the courses offered by CECATI are longer (up to 600 hours), and most follow the structure of the regular academic year (August to June).

Two other public institutions provide adult learning in Tlaxcala. SNET offers training programmes mainly for jobseekers through the Training Support Initiative for Employability (Apoyo a la Capacitación para la Empleabilidad, ACE). This initiative financially supports jobseekers to enrol in one to three months of on-the-job training programmes provided by companies with open vacancies. These programmes aim to provide the specific skills required to fill an open position (Periodico Oficial, 2015[10]). ACE, previously known as Bécate, is part of a bigger national strategy, the Employability Support Programme (Programa de Apoyo al Empleo), which aims to promote employment, self-employment and entrepreneurship; reskill workers; and enhance labour mobility. Initially, the Employability Support Programme was fully funded by the federal government and operated by different employment offices in each state (secretarias estatales de empleo). However, when the new government came into power in 2018, funding responsibility for the Employability Support Programme was transferred to the state level. Since 2020, only one component of the ACE programme has continued to operate.

Supérate is a cash transfer programme aimed at reducing extreme poverty. The programme also promotes training among beneficiaries through its productive training component (componente de entrenamiento productive). The objective of this component is to improve the productive skills of the labour force and the potential of individuals to obtain a higher income in the medium term (Periodico Oficial, 2019[11]). The training provided is mainly operated by ICATLAX and targeted at all members of Supérate beneficiary households, as long as they are aged between 15 and 64 and belong to the labour force. Participants in the programme can take courses from a specific list that has been defined based on Tlaxcala’s priority sectors, which themselves are defined based on the regional and labour prospect analysis developed by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) (see Box 3.7).

Most of the training programmes are certified to demonstrate the acquisition of relevant competencies. After completing a course, participants obtain a certificate that validates the acquired skill. Depending on the training centre and the characteristic of the programme, these certificates have curricular validity and allow adults to obtain a technical post-secondary degree (equivalent to ISCED level 4). Only certificates granted by accredited public institutions such as ICATLAX and CECATI are recognised nationwide. Adults with working experience or knowledge can be assessed for validation of skills and competences through CONOCER. Because private certifications have no validity in the state, adults with such certification need to be assessed by an accredited public institution. ICATLAX, the National Upper Secondary School for Technical Professional Education (Colegio Nacional de Educación Profesional Técnica, CONALEP) and the School of Tlaxcala (El Colegio de Tlaxcala, COLTLAX) are centres accredited by CONOCER to assess competences.

The literacy and numeracy skill of adults in Mexico are low compared to other OECD countries. The Survey of Adults Skills, a product of the Programme for the International Assessment of Adult Competencies (PIAAC), finds that 51% of Mexican adults attain only level 1 or below in literacy proficiency (compared with the OECD average 19.7%) (Figure 3.1), which means they can understand only brief texts on familiar topics. In addition, 60% of adults attain only level 1 or below in numeracy (compared with the OECD average of 23.5%), which means that they are able to perform only simple mathematical processing, such as one-step calculations or simple percentages (OECD, 2019[12]). These proportions are among the highest across OECD countries, but fall below the averages of other Latin American countries participating in PIAAC (Ecuador, Chile, Peru) (63.4% for literacy and 70.2% for numeracy).

Low levels of basic skills do not necessarily imply weak occupational skills or low qualifications. Although low-skilled and low-qualified can go together, some adults with higher qualifications can still have low levels of basic skills because of skills depreciation or the poor quality of their initial education, and some adults with low qualifications may have good levels of basic skills because of their experience in the workplace (see Box 3.2).

Many adults in Mexico do not have the skills to succeed in an interconnected digital world. According to data from the Survey of Adults Skills (PIAAC), approximately 40% of Mexicans lack very basic computer skills or have insufficient computer experience to participate in the "assessment of problem-solving skills in technology-rich environments". This proportion is the largest among OECD countries. When comparing the percentage of adults lacking basic computer skills or computer experience between less and more educated adults, Mexico has the widest gap among all OECD members: around 67% of adults with lower than upper secondary education lack digital skills, compared to 6% of adults with tertiary education.

Although PIAAC data are not available for Tlaxcala, the educational attainment of adults suggests that the overall level of skills in the state follows a similar pattern to the rest of the country. According to the National Survey of Occupation and Employment (Encuesta Nacional de Ocupación y Empleo, ENOE), almost 64% of adults in Tlaxcala have only attained an upper secondary education (ISECD 3 or below), equivalent to educación media superior or bachillerato in the Mexican system. This figure is slightly higher than the national average (63%), and almost three times the OECD average (23%) (see Figure 3.2). Among adults with less than upper secondary education, 35% had attained lower secondary education, 20% primary education and 9% had never attended school.

Despite the high proportion of adults with less than upper secondary education, participation in remedial programmes is very low in Tlaxcala, with around 4 387 adults enrolled in a literacy programme in 2018. Out the total number of adults who lack literacy skills (29 229 in 2018) (INEGI, 2018[7]), 13% participate in literacy programmes. According to the most recent National Survey of Household Income and Expenses (Encuesta de Ingresos y Gastos de Los Hogares, ENIGH), only 3% of adults with less than upper secondary education were engaged in remedial education in 2018. This proportion is slightly lower than the national average (4%). Among those who attended remedial education, 24% obtained a primary certificate, 29% a secondary certificate and 37% an upper secondary certificate. Participation in remedial education is higher among adults aged 25-29 (9%) than those aged 40-64 (1%), which is consistent with the pattern of participation found across the OECD. The proportion of adults participating in remedial education in Tlaxcala is one of the lowest among Mexican states. For example, in 2019 only 2.7% of adults participated in remedial education, which is slightly above the enrolment rate of Sonora (2.6%) and Puebla (2.7%), which are at the bottom of the national ranking (see Figure 3.3) (INEGI, 2018[7]).

Although participation rates in adult learning in Tlaxcala are very low, as in all of Mexico, there are noticeable differences between adults with high and low levels of education, with high-educated adults much more likely to participate in adult learning than low-educated adults (see Figure 3.4). In Tlaxcala, this participation gap is one of the smallest among all Mexican states (2.1 percentage points). Over 3.5% of adults with a high level of education engage with adult learning, compared to under 1% of adults with a low level of education. One of the key reasons identified for this participation gap is that adults with low skill levels find it more difficult to recognise their learning needs and are therefore less likely to seek out learning opportunities (Windsch, 2015[15])

Despite the need to upskill the adult population in Tlaxcala, the participation rate in training programmes is lower than the national average. According to INEGI, only 4% of adults in Tlaxcala participated in training programmes in 2019, compared with the national average of 5% (see Figure 3.5). Comparing Tlaxcala’s adult participation in training programmes with specific states and the OECD average reveals even greater disparities, for example the participation rate in Chihuahua is 21% and in Sinaloa is 10%, and the average across OECD countries is 42%, which means that adults in Tlaxcala participate in training programmes ten times less than the average for adults across OECD countries. Increasing the participation rate in Tlaxcala to match the national average would imply an extra 5 500 adults participating in training programmes every year (INEGI, 2018[7]).

Adults engage mostly in training opportunities provided by the public sector. Based on the National Survey of Occupations and Employment (INEGI, 2019[14]), almost 94% of training participants attend a public institution. The share of adult participants is higher for public institutions operated by the state (72%) than for federal public schools (21%). ICATLAX, as the main provider of training programmes in Tlaxcala, provided training for around 20 766 adults during 2019, which is equivalent to 88% of the total enrolment in training programmes. The participants in ICATLAX courses were mostly women (65%) and jobseekers (82%). Most (63%) were also beneficiaries of the Supérate cash-transfer programme through the productivity training component, which covers the full tuition fee. Since 2020, all ICATLAX courses have been offered online and at no cost due to COVID-19.

A lack of motivation can hamper participation in adult learning. Although there are no state-level data regarding motivation, the trends seen nationally in Mexico are reflected in Tlaxcala. According to data from the Survey of Adult Skills (PIAAC), the proportion of adults in Mexico who did not want to participate in adult learning in 2018 was 75% (see Figure 3.6). This percentage includes both individuals who did not participate and did not want to participate (58%), as well as individuals who participated but did not want to (16%). This rate is below OECD average (77%), but higher than the average of Latin American countries (72%).

In Mexico, financial and time-related barriers are among the main reasons for not participating in learning opportunities. Around 25% of Mexicans who want to participate in training do not do so because of the perceived high costs (see Figure 3.7). This proportion is one of the highest among OECD countries. Regarding time constraints, 27% of adults state that they are not able to participate in adult learning because of work responsibilities, and 17% because of family responsibilities (OECD, 2021[13]). Under these circumstances, subsidies have been shown to play an important role, especially for low-income households. In Tlaxcala, the Supérate programme gives subsidies to cover training fees for adults located in municipalities with a high poverty index (CONEVAL, 2020[16]). Adults from these municipalities are more likely to participate in training courses (8%) than adults in municipalities with a low level of poverty (2%).

The vast majority of firms do not offer job-related training in Mexico. According to the National Survey on Productivity and Competitiveness of Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises (Encuesta Nacional sobre productividad y Competitividad de las Micro, Pequeñas y Medianas Empresas, ENAPROCE), almost 15% of all firms, including large firms and small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), offer training programmes to employees (INEGI, 2018[17]). In Tlaxcala, this proportion is equivalent to 13%. For firms in strategic sectors, such as the textile industry and food production, Tlaxcala has one of the lowest proportions of job-related training across Mexican states (see Figure 3.8): almost 52% of these firms offer training programmes to employees, which is noticeably lower than the Mexico average (59%). At the same time, SMEs nationally are more likely to provide job-related learning than micro-enterprises: around 29% of SMEs offer training programmes compared to 3% of micro-enterprises. Some 59% of large enterprises provide job-related training (INEGI, 2018[17]).

There are several reasons for firms not providing job-related training programmes in Tlaxcala. Based on ENAPROCE data, around 74% of firms in strategic sectors consider that employees already have adequate knowledge and skills for the job (see Figure 3.9.). This proportion is similar to the national average (75%). Among firms that do not offer job-related training, almost 50% state that this is because they consider that new employees have been already trained or have the skills/qualifications required for the job. This finding is consistent with the fact that Mexico has high levels of over-qualification compared to other OECD countries (OECD, 2020[4]), which means that many employers can readily find adults with the skills they need and who would not require job-related training. Other firms report that training costs being too high (18%) or a lack of available training (9.9%) affect the provision of job-related training.

Based on the desk research of the OECD team, consultations with the Government of Tlaxcala and stakeholder interviews, the following opportunities for fostering greater participation in adult learning in Tlaxcala have been identified:

  1. 1. Increasing adults’ motivation to participate in remedial education.

  2. 2. Providing incentives for adults to participate in training that responds to labour market needs.

Remedial education plays an important role in providing basic skills (e.g. literacy and numeracy) to adults who were not able to attend formal education at an earlier stage of their life. Low literacy proficiency and the lack of learning skills constitute barriers to learning (OECD, 2019[12]). Many low-skilled adults may need to boost their basic skills first to take advantage of upskilling and reskilling opportunities. The low participation in remedial education of low-qualified adults can be detrimental for their professional and personal development, as such participation provides adults with basic skills to help them integrate into social life and employment, and enable them to acquire new specific skills and professional competences.

There is a strong need to increase adults’ participation in remedial education in Tlaxcala, as well as in Mexico in general. However, low-skilled adults often lack the motivation to engage in learning programmes. As shown above (see Figure 3.6), 75% of adults in Mexico did not want to participate in adult learning in 2018. Mexico has one of the highest proportions of disengaged adults among Latin American countries: around 58% of adults did not participate and did not want to participate in adult learning, which is noticeably higher than the OECD average (46%) (OECD, 2021[13]) Stakeholders consulted for this project agree that this low motivation can be explained by the stigma and misperception of remedial education.

Unlike compulsory schooling, adult learning, including remedial education, is voluntary. Low-skilled adults must make an active decision to improve their skills, and if they are not motivated enough, they do not engage. Partly as a result of low motivation, only 4% of adults enrol in remedial education programmes in Mexico, and for Tlaxcala this proportion is even lower (3%). Low participation in remedial education is problematic, especially in the context of a high percentage of adults lacking basic skills and education.

Tlaxcala should take advantage of the benefit of increasing motivation and providing incentives to engage with remedial education by:

  • Raising awareness of the importance of remedial education.

  • Making remedial education more relevant for low-qualified adults.

In order to increase participation in adult learning, raising motivation to learn is essential. Whether adults decide to learn for the sake of learning (intrinsic motivation) or because they perceive certain benefits or need to meet requirements (extrinsic motivation), motivation is considered to be key for successful learning engagement, and is even more a determinant in the decision to learn than socio-economic background (Carr and Claxton, 2002[18]; White, 2012[19]).

Adults’ motivation to engage with learning opportunities can increase by providing information about available training and its benefits. Raising awareness about the potential returns of adult learning, including remedial education, is critical for fostering adult learning participation. This is particularly important among low-qualified adults, especially if they are older, as they tend to overlook the advantages of participating in remedial education, including improving their employment prospects and personal development (OECD, 2018[20]).

Presenting factual information to counteract the stigma associated with participation in remedial education may help to overcome negative attitudes and beliefs about learning basic skills. For many low-skilled adults, low levels of skills are a source of embarrassment and even shame, and a weakness to hide from others, including close friends and family. This can also be a major barrier to participation in adult learning opportunities.

There is evidence that media campaigns can reduce the taboo surrounding illiteracy, while at the same time informing the general population about the true extent of the problem and increasing attendance in adult remedial education courses (Carpentieri, 2014[21]). Mexico has already implemented a number of awareness-raising initiatives via online platforms (see Table 3.4). These initiatives provide individuals with information about different adult learning opportunities led by the federal and state government. Some websites are tailored to specific target groups or areas of knowledge, such as Join MEVyT Online (Únete al MEVYT Online), which is aimed at employed or unemployed adults looking for basic specific workshops under the framework of the Education for Life and Work Model (Modelo Educación para la Vida y el Trabajo, MEVyT). MEVyT is ran by SEP at the national level through INEA. There are also websites aimed at developing basic digital skills, such as Digital Club (Club Digital). In addition to offering video guides on particular digital skills, this website provides educational content to increase awareness of the value of acquiring digital skills.

Tlaxcala has made limited use of awareness-raising campaigns to effectively disseminate information about the benefits of remedial education. Most campaigns are led by ITEA using television, radio and any other local broadcaster, but they are limited to informing the public about the availability of remedial education programmes and registration processes. Recently, ITEA has developed a mobile application, TLX ITEA, to make information on the modules and materials needed more accessible to potential students. The federal government, through INEA and in co-ordination with ITEA, have led the National Campaign for Literacy and Remedial Education. However, the scope of the campaign has been limited to inviting potential tutors and literacy teachers to participate in the provision of remedial education and literacy programmes.

Tlaxcalan stakeholders agree that there is a need to re-evaluate the aims and strategies of awareness-raising campaigns to promote remedial education. Most campaigns in the state are targeted at specific groups, particularly adults aged 65+. However, adults of all ages with low qualifications could benefit from remedial education given that over 26% of low-qualified adults are aged 45-54 and 20% are aged 55-64 (see Figure 3.10). Looking at different socio-demographic characteristics, there is a correlation between income and qualification level, with low-income adults more likely to be low qualified (23%) than high qualified (12%). Women are also slightly more likely to be low qualified (56%) than high qualified (53%). Similarly, adults in rural areas are more likely to be low qualified (38%) than high qualified (23%).

Tlaxcala should target awareness-raising campaigns about remedial education at all individuals with low qualification levels, rather than selected age groups. Such efforts can contribute to increasing engagement in remedial education among women and adults from disadvantaged socio-economic backgrounds, as long as the messages to the respective groups are well targeted.Table 3.5 shows the content of targeted adult learning awareness-raising campaigns in eight OECD countries.

To reduce the stigma surrounding illiteracy and low levels of education, Tlaxcala should disseminate factual information about remedial education in more creative ways. For example, Ireland has had success with television and radio-based campaigns and provision (Box 3.3). In the United Kingdom, the "Gremlins" campaign has contributed to large increases in uptake of provision (NAO, 2008[23]). In Tlaxcala, campaigns have been undertaken; however, the content of the media messages are limited to information about the supply of programmes.

Most awareness-raising activities in Tlaxcala are led by the public sector, and social partners do not seem highly involved. ITEA appears to be the only institution that promotes an awareness-raising campaign in partnership with other organisations and employers. In 2019, ITEA signed eight agreements with companies and workers organisations to promote the importance of remedial education among employers and employees. Social partners that ITEA has an agreement with include Victoria council and the APTIV Contract Service, local. Nevertheless, social partners in Tlaxcala could have a more active role in raising awareness of remedial education, as seen in other OECD countries, such as the UK’s Festival of Learning (Box 3.3).

Promoting awareness of the benefits of remedial education alone will be insufficient to encourage adults to engage in learning. The content of remedial education programmes must also respond to the needs of adults to advance their professional and personal development. This is particularly relevant for low-skilled adults, who are more likely to engage with learning when it is practical and problem-oriented (OECD, 2019[12]). International evidence confirms that low-skilled adults are more motivated to engage in learning by extrinsic motivators (e.g. career progression, better job opportunities) than by intrinsic motivators (e.g. desire of learning something new) (Dæhlen and Ure, 2009[27]; Merrifield, 2012[28]) .

Remedial education in Tlaxcala is offered at all levels of general education, from primary to upper secondary education. Primary and secondary remedial education is offered by ITEA, based on the modular structure of MEVyT. This modular structure allows learners to adapt the programme content to their skills needs and interests and includes two type of module: basic modules, which cover basic skills in the curricula; and diversified modules, which supplement basic modules with content more oriented to respond to adults’ personal and professional interests (see Table 3.6).

Remedial upper secondary education is offered by the Open Schooling for Upper Secondary Education subsystem, which aims to provide distance education. However, Open Schooling for Upper Secondary Education only offers general education strands that prepare learners for higher education, it does not include technical courses or offer specialties that can lead a vocational education and training (VET) degree, as can be done through vocational or combined strands offered by general upper secondary schools.

Interviewed stakeholders in Tlaxcala mentioned that primary and lower secondary remedial education lack content that is practical and relevant to the learner’s context, which may partially explain the low motivation of adults to engage in such programmes. For example, courses aim to develop basic and job-relevant skills (INEA, 2020[30]), but this objective, as reported by stakeholders, is not always fulfilled. In particular, diversified modules aim to provide courses with more practical content, but the current offer is highly concentrated in general topics and specific basic skills only, as shown in Table 3.6. These modules are less likely to cover topics relevant for adults. To help increase the attractiveness of remedial education, stakeholders also agree on the need to expand the course offer to provide market-relevant skills and competences, as well as basic skills.

The options are even more limited for remedial upper secondary education, which does not follow a modular structure (such as MEVyT), thus making adult learning time consuming and less flexible. Evidence suggests that low-skilled adults are less willing to participate in time-intensive training than high-skilled adults (Fouarge, Chils and De grip, 2013[31]). Aligned with the international evidence, stakeholders in Tlaxcala mentioned that unemployed young adults (aged approximately 18-22) were more willing to engage in remedial upper secondary education than older adults. Lower interest among older adults can be partially due to time constrains, as well as the lack of relevant programme content. In addition, the general strand in open schooling education only offers a fixed portfolio of general courses (e.g. sciences, mathematics), which may not be entirely of interest to adults, especially older adults. A vocational or combined strand may be more suited to adult learners, particularly those interested in obtaining a short-cycle degree (technical or technological degree) that can better support their integration into the labour market (as discussed in Chapter 2).

Although ITEA has developed partnerships with companies to facilitate the participation of low-qualified adults, the involvement of social partners in offering additional courses relevant for adults is limited. Stakeholders consulted mentioned that there are already multiple institutions and programmes in the state that could take part in such an effort. For example, ICATLAX and CECATI could offer training courses included as part of MEVyT’s diversified courses. ITEA could potentially take inspiration from Norway’s SkillsPlus programme (see Box 3.4).

Digitalisation, globalisation and population ageing are having a profound impact on the type and quality of jobs available, and the type of skills required to perform these jobs (OECD, 2019[12]). In order to take advantage of all these changes, adult learning, including training programmes, have a key role. The need for upskilling and reskilling is imperative to meet the needs of a rapidly changing labour market. According to OECD estimates, almost one in two workers may lose their jobs or see it change significantly because of automation in the coming decades (Nedelkoska and Quintini, 2018[33]). Adults will need more complex skillsets to do the jobs available in a context of transformation due to automation and offshoring.

Incentives are needed to encourage greater participation in adult learning generally, particularly in areas where there are skills imbalances. As mentioned in Chapter 2, skill imbalances are costly for both the individual and society as a whole, especially when they are persistent. Well-targeted financial incentives and support, including information and guidance, can encourage the greater participation of adults in labour market relevant training programmes.

The need to boost participation in labour market relevant training is particularly important in the case of Tlaxcala, where a high proportion of adults are facing deteriorating labour market prospects, and where over 80% of adults work in a job with a high risk of automation. In addition, most of these workers (72%) have low levels of education, which is 6 percentage points higher than the national average (66%) (see Figure 3.11). A similar pattern is found with respect to informality: in Tlaxcala, 76% of adults work in the informal sector, and most workers in this sector have a low level of education (65%). Low-qualified workers with outdated skills have the greatest need for education and training, especially to upskill or reskill, both of which would improve employability prospects.

Tlaxcala can provide incentives for adults to participate in training that responds to labour market needs by:

  • Strengthening career guidance to increase adults’ participation in training that responds to labour market needs.

  • Strengthening support for informal workers to participate in training.

Career guidance, an umbrella term for career education, career information and career counselling (see Box 3.5), has three important functions. First, it provides individuals with information about education, training and employment opportunities, and makes this information more easily digestible by helping with its interpretation. Second, it helps individuals reflect on their interests, strengths and weaknesses, facilitating a more informed integration into the labour market. Third, it provides tailored advice, empowers individuals to make better decisions about their lifelong career development and learning, and encourages individuals to participate in training. The latter is particularly important in Mexico, where despite the elevated risk of job automation and rapidly changing skills needs, a high proportion of adults lack the motivation to engage in learning.

In Tlaxcala, the provision of career guidance for adults is very limited. Most career guidance and counselling activities are provided to students through formal education (upper secondary and higher education institutions), which is covered in detail in Chapter 2. Outside formal education there are few sources of career guidance for adults. The National Employment Service of Tlaxcala (SNET) provides career guidance from five offices: three regional offices in Apizaco, Tlaxcala and Zacatelco, a local unit in Calpulapan, and one central office. The focus of the guidance is jobseekers only and there are a total of 25 employment advisors (consejeros laborales). SNET’s career and guidance services aim to accompany adults in their job search efforts, which involves profiling individuals’ background, providing information on vacancies, teaching job search skills, giving referrals to other services, and supporting job search and interview preparation. ICATLAX and CECATI, the state’s main training providers, do not provide career guidance or any similar service, instead they have official agents in charge of providing detailed information on their programmes and supporting the enrolment of students on training courses.

Based on focus group discussions and meetings with relevant stakeholders, two challenges regarding career guidance were identified: 1) the limited provision of relevant career guidance services for all adults; and 2) the lack of training for employment advisors.

With respect to the limited provision of relevant career guidance services for all adults, Tlaxcalan adults can currently only access career guidance services through SNET, which mainly provides services to jobseekers. Other relevant vulnerable groups of adults, such as low-qualified adults or informal workers, have limited access to this career guidance service.

The career guidance services that SNET provides to unemployed adults are also limited in scope. Adults are informed about the job opportunities, requirements to apply for a job, and training that employers provide for the given job opening. They also receive support during the job application process (e.g. curriculum elaboration guidance, interviews tips). However, they receive limited information about generally available labour market relevant training options beyond the firm-specific training required to fill a position. Adults in Tlaxcala could particularly benefit from better information about what training they should participate in to boost their employability. In Tlaxcala, enrollment in training programmes is highly concentrated in areas that already face high skills surplus, such as manufacturing and production or engineering and technology (see Figure 3.12 and Figure 3.13). On the other hand, enrollment in areas that face high skills shortages is very low (e.g. education and training and health services).

The fact that career guidance in Tlaxcala merely supports adults to connect with immediate job opportunities means that not all of its potential benefits are being exploited. In Mexico, a comparatively high proportion of adults (82% versus an OECD average of 73%) acquire their skills informally (i.e. learning by doing or from colleagues) (see Figure 3.14). To have the abilities and skills developed throughout life outside of formal education formally recognised, adults must approach relevant state entities providing recognition, validation and certification of competences (RVCC) services. Career guidance can be instrumental in connecting individuals with entities providing RVCC processes, which can also encourage adults to engage in the relevant supplementary training required to earn a formal qualification. In Tlaxcala, career guidance services could actively inform adults about the RVCC processes administered by CONOCER, and encourage adults to get their skills formally recognised.

The second challenge for career guidance is related to the lack of training for employment advisors to help them increase the effectiveness of their work. “Career guidance advisor” is not a regulated profession, meaning that there is no legislation specifying which certificate, license or registration is required. However, to work as employment advisors in some countries, certain minimum training and qualifications are still needed (OECD, 2021[34]). In Mexico, employment advisors should hold a university degree in business administration or psychology, and must complete internal introductory training. According to SNET officials, employment advisors participate in the training, but only some have a university degree in the required field of study. Advisors who lack qualifications may not automatically negatively affect the quality of the career guidance provided, as long as regular training, certifications and information sessions are provided (OECD, 2021[34]). However, SNET does not provide any supplementary training for employment advisors, who only participate in short workshops such as stress management, leadership and Excel courses.

Tlaxcala needs to provide effective career guidance to support adult learning participation in market relevant training. Tlaxcala could expand the scope of the current career guidance offered by SNET by informing adults about the relevant training programmes required in the labour market beyond the firm-specific courses already offered by companies to fill a job position, which can actually hinder adults’ labour mobility (OECD, 2018[20]). In this regard, Tlaxcala could follow the example of the Qualifica centres in Portugal, which provide information, guidance and the referral of candidates for training options (see Box 3.6). SNET career guidance services can support adults in identifying their skills and abilities, and promote the certification of competences, especially those that are market relevant. To benefit other vulnerable groups, Tlaxcala could provide career guidance services in collaboration with training providers. This support could include the provision of information and guidance about training programmes that better respond to labour market needs. Career guidance services provided Qualifica centres in Portugal also support adults in the validation of non-formal and informal learning processes (see Box 3.6).

Tlaxcala could offer training to employment advisors to improve career guidance services. Given that most employment counsellors do not meet the qualifications required, such work-related training is necessary. Through this training, employment advisors could learn counselling techniques to help them reach different vulnerable groups. In this regard there are some good international examples, such as Germany’s counselling techniques module, which is generally offered to counsellors during their bachelor’s degree as independent training. Ireland’s public employment services also offer ongoing training focused on client interaction skills (see Box 3.6).

Financial constraints can prevent individuals from participating in training. These constraints are especially significant for Mexican workers from the informal sector who face limited opportunities for employer-sponsored training, or who alternate between work and periods of unemployment (OECD, 2020[4]). Most informal workers come from disadvantaged socio-economic backgrounds, have low disposable income to spend in other activities (such as training), and face high opportunity costs associated with not working (ILO, 2020[37]). As a consequence, informal workers might not participate in training without targeted government financial support (OECD, 2017[38]). Government financial support can also be essential to steer participation towards training opportunities that are relevant for the labour market and/or that contribute to the development of entrepreneurship projects (see Chapter 4).

Adult participation in training in Mexico is low compared to other Latin American countries, and is even lower for workers declaring to be employed without a formal contract (i.e. working informally) (see Figure 3.15). Only 16% of informal workers in Mexico participate in training, the lowest proportion among Latin American countries participating in PIAAC (OECD, 2020[4]). The challenge of low training participation rates of informal workers is particularly magnified in Tlaxcala, which has the highest share of informal workers (73% in 2019) across Mexican states.

Financial barriers to participating in training are arguably the most relevant for Tlaxcalan informal workers. According to data from the National Survey of Occupation and Employment (ENOE), around 38% of informal workers in Tlaxcala come from disadvantaged socio-economic backgrounds. Informal workers’ average salary per hour is MXN 18.2 (Mexican pesos), which is 58% lower than formal workers’ average hourly wage (MXN 43.2), and even lower than the minimum wage (MXN 21) in Tlaxcala.

Direct costs of training are not particularly high in Tlaxcala. For example, the tuition fees of training courses offered by ICATLAX is MXN 250, on average, which corresponds to 18% of the monthly minimum wage. However, as emphasised by stakeholders, there are significant indirect training costs, such as transportation and study materials, which can seriously discourage participation. Furthermore, informal workers face higher opportunity costs of training than formal workers. As most informal workers do not receive any type of support from their employers, foregone earnings may further discourage informal workers from participating in training. The opportunity cost associated with foregone earnings is even higher for those self-employed, who typically have only one source of income. Self-employed individuals account for 24% of Tlaxcalan informal workers, which is 4 percentage points higher than the national average (INEGI, 2019[14]).

Tlaxcala’s offer of state-sponsored training for informal workers is limited. The two main programmes sponsored by the state are the Training Support for Employability Programme (ACE), managed by SNET (Diario Oficial, 2017[39]), and the training supplied by ICATLAX through the Supérate programme.

Until 2018, SNET used to offer three types of support through the ACE programme; however, since 2021 only one mixed training programme (entrenamiento mixto) has remained due to limited funding coming from Federal government. The mixed training programme offers a scholarship to support jobseekers’ participation in mixed leaning (work and classroom based). Jobseekers enrol in a training course and are matched with employers, with whom they work for the duration of the programme. Participants receive a scholarship equivalent to one to three months’ salary at the monthly minimum wage to cover tuition fees, as well as a stipend for transport expenses when needed. Employers may provide additional support to cover materials and health insurance. However, the mixed training programme only targets jobseekers, who are a minority of the workforce (6% in 2020). Until 2018, SNET also offered training for self-employed individuals (entenamiento para el autoempleo) and training for the certification of competences (entrenamiento para la certificación de compentencia) (see Table 3.7). When these training courses ended, informal self-employed workers were left with significantly reduced training opportunities.

The state also provides training to informal workers through the productive training component of the Supérate programme – the state’s largest poverty alleviation programme (see Box 3.7). Supérate provides targeted support to adults living in extreme poverty, including job-related training. Beneficiaries of Supérate receive a fee waiver to enrol in selected training courses offered by ICATLAX (see Box 3.7). Only courses identified as developing skills in demand by local labour markets are eligible. Supérate also sponsors training for self-employed individuals and entrepreneurs (see Chapter 4), such as the “Transfer of assets to develop productive activity” initiative (see Box 3.7). However, since the Supérate programme only targets adults in extreme poverty, the majority of informal workers (77% according to ENIGH, 2018) are not eligible to participate in the sponsored training options.


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