USAID and NI Collaborate to Enable Youth in Lower Mekong with Industry-Ready Engineering Skills and Tools

Ambassador Nina Hachigian at the launching of USAID – National Instrument cooperation

JAKARTA – The United States Agency for International Development (USAID) today announced a new partnership with U.S.-based corporation, National Instruments (NI), to provide hands-on training to aspiring young scientists and engineers in the Lower Mekong sub-region and to empower them with technical skills to help grow the region’s workforce.

“The United States is committed to developing essential skills in youth and creating an environment for youth – including women – to thrive in school and in the workplace.  This includes training in hard skills, but just as importantly work readiness skills, including team work, entrepreneurship, adaptability, and critical thinking,” said U.S. Ambassador to the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) Nina Hachigian during the launch of the partnership at the ASEAN Secretariat in Jakarta. She added that the partnership gives future leaders the opportunity to learn the necessary skills to become innovative leaders and entrepreneurs.

Over the next five years, USAID and NI will work together to create learning centers 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. They can also acquire practical science and technology skills and use them to build solutions and, potentially, new companies. This 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 in-kind to the partnership, NI commits to provide access to its software and hardware technology platforms, product training materials, virtual and in-country support for multiple regional projects, including the USAID Connecting the Mekong Through Education and Training (USAID COMET) project and the USAID ASEAN Connectivity Through Trade and Investment (USAID ACTI) project.

NI and USAID previously collaborated through the USAID’s Partnerships for Enhanced Engagement in Research science program to support scientists in developing countries. Since announcing the partnership in 2013, both organizations have worked together to bring scientific equipment, training and support to several research projects, which have also translated into knowledge transfer, patents and establishing new start-ups.

“We are excited to announce this new alliance with USAID and contribute our technical expertise and products to accelerate the productivity and innovation in the Lower Mekong sub region.  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. This partnership has been made possible through the Planet NI , a program with a mission of empowering engineers and scientists in emerging countries to achieve sustainable prosperity by providing increased access to NI technology,” said Victor Mieres, NI vice president of sales and marketing, emerging markets.

Two U.S. 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 Burma in November 2014, USAID COMET plans to help 100 universities and vocational centers 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

The ASEAN Economic Community promotes a strong mobile and vibrant work force to help businesses become innovative and grow across the region. This is particularly important for the Lower Mekong countries as there is a high demand for scientists and engineers in the food processing, automotive manufacturing, electronics, construction and even tourism industries. Empowering young women in the workforce is also essential in the Lower Mekong sub-region. Currently, over 40 percent of employers report that the sex of an applicant affects their hiring decisions for skilled labor positions. As a result across this region, women participate in the labor force at rates much lower than men, despite high rates of women working in assembly and low-skilled manufacturing plants.