The 10-week exercise, the largest such operation the UN High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) has ever been involved in, began on Sunday and runs until the end of the year.The UN is both supporting and monitoring the process, which will collect bio-data, fingerprints and digital photographs. “This is the largest-ever registration by any host country of a mixed population in a protracted situation,” said Indrika Ratwatte, UNHCR’s Assistant Representative in Pakistan. “UNHCR has been assisting the Government in the planning and execution of this undertaking for over two years, and we hope it will further strengthen the asylum space for those Afghans in need of international protection.”The registration is a follow-up to a Government census last year that counted 3.04 million Afghans who arrived in Pakistan after the 1979 Soviet invasion and are still living in the country.More than 580,000 have repatriated since then, leaving an estimated 2.5 million Afghans in Pakistan. Only those counted in the 2005 census are eligible for registration, which will grant them a proof of registration card, valid for three years, which recognises them as Afghan citizens living in Pakistan.UNHCR is helping the Government to raise the 6 million needed for the exercise. Afghans are the largest group of concern to UNHCR, and the majority of them are hosted in Pakistan.Besides the sheer scale of the exercise, its first challenge is convincing eligible Afghans, many of whom apparently fear the photographs would be sent to the United States, to register.To register, entire Afghan families must approach designated centres in the same area where they took the census and then the names of heads of household have to be checked against the census database – a particular challenge because of the almost countless ways Afghan names can be spelled in English.The UNHCR hopes that the information collected – including areas of origin, education and skill levels, special needs and intention to return – will help it find “durable solutions to this protracted situation,” an agency spokesperson Ron Redmond said last week.
by Jordan Press, The Canadian Press Posted Aug 29, 2017 2:00 am MDT Last Updated Aug 29, 2017 at 12:20 pm MDT AddThis Sharing ButtonsShare to TwitterTwitterShare to FacebookFacebookShare to RedditRedditShare to 電子郵件Email Liberals target students’ skills gap with roll out of educational placement cash OTTAWA – The federal government is making its biggest push yet into the country’s classrooms, hoping that millions in new spending will help students heading on to campuses to leave there better prepared to join the workforce.The government has been told by its economic advisory council that it needs to put more resources into what’s known as work-integrated learning, because existing efforts aren’t big enough to tackle the “real gap” that exists in worker readiness, as companies believe a “majority of graduates are unprepared for the workforce.”The details outlined in federal documents obtained by The Canadian Press under the Access to Information Act provide a look at the government’s thinking on the spending and how the money could influence post-secondary education.The Liberals had promised to spend $73 million over four years to subsidize educational work placements, with funds to start flowing last year. The spending was delayed until this academic year to finalize funding deals with the employer groups.The 2016 budget predicted the money would create up to 8,700 placements over four years, but Labour Minister Patty Hajdu announced this week the funding will create up to 10,000 positions. A further $221 million over five years should create 50,000 total placements for graduate researchers.“Oftentimes, they (students) are academically astute, but they’re not necessarily truly understanding how to apply that learning that they’ve gained through their studies to the work setting,” Hajdu said in a recent interview.“The idea behind work integrated learning is that it addresses that concern that employers have that there is this gap in terms of the applicability of what they’re learning.”Tom Murad, head of Siemens Canada’s Engineering and Technology Academy, a forerunner to the Liberal’s work-integrated learning program, said there will be delays in closing the skills gap without deep funding from the government. He suggested many companies could cut corners on programs that “are not going to give the same results and they may be self-defeating.”One of the largest programs in the country that has caught the attention of government officials comes out of Toronto where a group of 14 financial services companies have teamed with seven schools to provide educational work opportunities. None want federal cash for wages; instead, the Toronto Financial Services Alliance, which is overseeing the program, is looking for federal cash to scale up.The value for each company is attracting and recruiting students from “STEM” disciplines: science, technology, engineering and mathematics fields.“We never had a challenge attracting business students to our sector, but now, more and more, we need to attract more STEM students, we need to attract more students with agile project management skills,” said Sashya D’Souza, senior vice-president of talent initiatives at the Toronto Financial Services Alliance.“There’s a different skill set that’s needed in our workforce.”Eventually, the program will create a feedback loop where schools can tell companies how to tweak placement experiences, and businesses can tell educators what is needed to make curricula relevant to their needs, D’Souza said.The economic advisory council’s sub-committee on education and training envisioned that in an October 2016 presentation, saying companies need to have a hand in shaping curriculum, without mentioning that the process is usually long and can get bogged down in debates.Over half of undergraduates already have the opportunity to work as part of their studies by the time they graduate, but the hope from universities is to have 100 per cent coverage in the future, because schools see it as such a critical way for students to transition into the workforce, said Pari Johnston, vice-president, policy and public affairs at Universities Canada.“Students are asking for it,” she said. “The demand is very high and we’ve seen a real increase in the number of co-ops being offered, which have more than doubled in recent years.”The Canadian Alliance of Student Associations said this week it was happy to see the government provide opportunities to STEM and business students, but hoped the Liberals would expand the program to all academic disciplines.Minutes from a Dec. 8, 2016 meeting of federal and provincial education officials showed interest in doing just that, but also creating similar opportunities at the high school level.— Follow @jpress on Twitter.