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9 November, 2018 00:00 00 AM / LAST MODIFIED: 8 November, 2018 11:43:51 PM

Future-proofing skill development in Bangladesh

Though we have the advantage of cheap labour but the productivity of our workforce is much lower than our major economic competitors
Sabbir Rahman Khan
Future-proofing skill development 
in Bangladesh

If we quote from Zig Ziglar, one of the world’s most famous salesmen and author that “You don’t build a business. You build people. And then the people build business.” For attaining sustainable and high growth rate of an economy and improving the living standard of its people, the role of skill development is of utter importance. It is needless to reiterate the way skill development enhances and expands an individual’s capacity of earning. It has the potential of transforming the nation’s workforce into a more productive one and thereby contributing immensely towards the growth momentum of an economy.

Among the total population of Bangladesh, one third is aged less than 24 years. Of the 30 million youth between the ages of 18 and 25 in Bangladesh, roughly 3 million go on to pursue higher education. According to ILO, Bangladesh’s labor force is growing at a rate of 2.2 per cent which means there are roughly 1.8 - 2 million new entrants in the labor forces each year and 1 million get job opportunity in organized and informal sectors. Only 1.4 million of them are being trained by government operated skills development agencies leaving an unmet need for skilled human resources by both local industries and international markets. The rates of youth unemployment and underemployment are 10.9 per cent and 18.7 per cent respectively in Bangladesh. By 2025, the workforce of Bangladesh will surpass 76 million. We expect that there will be a share of Bangladesh about 16 per cent of world’s skilled manpower. In Seventh Five-Year Plan concerning to skills development, a Tk100-crore fund has been allocated for human resource development. Bangladesh is earning about US$ 5 billion by exporting 8 million plus semi-skilled or unskilled workers mainly to the Middle East and Southeast Asian countries. On the contrary, Bangladesh is paying about USD 5 billion plus by recruiting less than 0.2 million foreign professionals here in Bangladesh. According to a recent study conducted by BIDS titled “Labour Market and Skill Gap in Bangladesh” labor demand has been projected to increase from 63.5 million in 2016 to 88.7 million in 2025. BIDS showed in another study i.e. Skill Gap Analysis for Selected Sectors that, existing skill gap is the highest in the agro-food sector followed by the RMG Sector. Skill gap for “skilled workers” is also high (40 per cent) in the IT and leather sectors. The same study projected that demand for skilled workers would be in agro food sector will increased to 261 per cent, in construction sector it would be 54 per cent, in healthcare sector 54.95 per cent, in hospitality and tourism sector 35 per cent, in IT sector 100 per cent, leather goods sector 107 per cent, light engineering sector 76.95 per cent, in RMG sector 122.6 per cent, and in shipbuilding sector 677 per cent in 2025-26 fiscal year.

Though we have huge cheap worker but the productivity of our workforces is 77 per cent (Considering Chinese workers 100 per cent), which is lower than our major competitors India (92 per cent), Vietnam (90 per cent) and Pakistan (88 per cent). A report, prepared by the Directorate of Textiles (DoT), said Bangladesh had a shortage of about 110,000 people in RMG in 2014 and this gap is set to increase to about 180,000 by the year 2021. The RMG sector employs some 20,000 foreign nationals in various positions in the sector and they are mostly from India and Sri Lanka. Our country needs around 38,000 technically-skilled and 33,000 manpower in marketing to strengthen the RMG sector. International ratio for engineering team in a company is 1: 5: 25, that’s mean 01 degree engineer: 05 diploma engineers: 25 technicians (unskilled workforce or day labor is not a part of engineering team). But BSC engineer is more available than diploma engineer in Bangladesh textile and RMG industry as vocational and diploma institution is not growing rather declining.

The TVET system in Bangladesh is large and complex, comprising of different providers and training modalities. Two types of formal TVET is mainly offered through two sets of providers: (i) a four-year diploma level training through polytechnics, and (ii) a 360-hour training through short-course institutes. The eligibility for entrance into the diploma level training requires Grade 10 completion, whereas short-course training requires Grade 8 completion. Under the purview of SEIP (Skills for Employment Enhancement Program), GoB recognised 6 priority sectors for skills and vocational development: Ready-made garment (RMG) & textile; Leather; Information technology (IT); Construction; Light engineering and Shipbuilding. There are 28 departments under 23 ministries of Government directly involved in skills development or TVET. The National Skills Development Council (NSDC), led by the Honorable Prime Minister, has been founded to coordinate and accelerate the skills development initiatives to make a bridge between different organizations engaged in skills development and employment generation.

The National Skills Development Policy (NSDP 2011) provides a scope for ensuring that the skills development agenda is operational and effective. This policy aims to: improve the quality and relevance of programmes, establish more flexible and responsive delivery mechanisms, improve access to skills development for various groups and involve organisations, employees, and workers in skills training.

The share of female enrolments in diploma programs remained steady, averaging around 12 per cent. The 7th Five-Year Plan of the government recognizes the significant contributions made by the increased female labor participation particularly in the RMG industry, and encourages female enrollment in TVET as well as in tertiary education. It aims at increasing the females’ ratio in the overall TVET from 27 per cent in 2015 to 40 per cent by 2020. If female participation can be raised to male participation rates, it is expected to add 1.8 per cent points to potential GDP growth each year, and help lift the country to middle-income status by 2021. Major strides taken for female students in Technical & Vocational Institutions are numerous and to name a few: establishment of 8 Women Technical School & Colleges in 8 Divisions; establishment of 4 Women Polytechnic Institution in remaining 4 Divisions; provided 100 per cent stipend to female students; increased female quota for admission from 10 per cent to 20 per cent; development of National Strategy for Gender Equality; introduced women friendly Trade/ Technology (Architecture, Interior Design, Electronics, Garments Design & Pattern making, Data telecommunication etc.) in TVET institutions; integration of Teachers & Staffs for Quality Assurance & Skills Development in 64 Technical School and Colleges; establishing Center of Excellence (COE) for RMG sector; training of 80,000 youths in garments and 30,000 in Construction Sector under SEP-B project etc.      

The key challenges of skill formation, specifically in relation to the stated national plans and United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), can primarily be fivefold: skill mismatch in domestic as well as in overseas market, in terms of both long-term development plans and short-term industrial needs; insufficient coverage and gender — and region- specific inequities in skill formation, particularly in the context of TVE and tertiary education; high repetition and dropouts, along with low rates of transition across different education stages (at primary, secondary, tertiary and TVE); Backdated quality of educational inputs (including curriculum, teaching materials/machinery, teaching stuffs and equipment) and ineffective examination system at different education stages (at primary, secondary, tertiary and TVE); and discrepancies across educational institutes in terms of quality of education.

To get the ball rolling, there are imperative stances required from the government and private sector to reinvent the wheel of existing policies in this domain to future-proof interventions to stimulate skills development momentum. Against this backdrop in combating skill mismatch, one of the most crucial solutions could be to align the existing curriculum with current market demand and future market trend. In this context, policies, such as: strengthening the collaboration between vocational institutes and industry (as practiced in Thailand and China); involving industry-sector representatives in designing curriculum (as practiced in India). Moreover, private sector can participate in the domain of validation and updating of Industry Qualification Packs [e.g., National Training and Vocational Qualifications Framework (NTVQF), National Qualification Framework (NQF) etc.] to help small companies and other employers of the informal sector verify and validate the job roles and performance metrics; linking secondary education with the TVE programmes, an effective collaboration between the Ministry of Labour and the Ministry of Commerce (as practiced in India); an Apprenticeship Promotion Council can be spearheaded by the Private Sector to promote the cause of earn while studying etc.; proper coordination and consistency across the modes of teaching, curricula, and textbooks across different streams of education, such as public, private, NGO-run school, and madrassa; ensuring “continuous” communication between employees and training providers so that training meets the needs and aspirations of workers and enterprises; orienting an Industry-Academia Partnership Forum to scope mechanism to register informal apprentices through a Recognition of Prior Learning (RPL) and many more to chalk down.

Moreover, given the constraint of household responsibilities of women/young mother in labour market participation, an important policy intervention could be to establish daycare centers at the workplaces/educational institutions. And, considering private sector’s spearheading role in the area of human capital management and employment generation, it is imperative for the government to supplement with policies the areas of capacity building and cost to minimize the skilled manpower-gap shock after graduation. Moreover, the private sector must be encouraged to establish technical institutes, design competitive course curriculum and facilitate industrial attachments to tap the much-articulated “demographic dividend” realistically. Furthermore, Bangladesh has to gear up to face the challenges of the Fourth Industrial Revolution.  So, there must be a clear pathway for the labour force displaced for technological upgrades to rehabilitate them in alternative employment through offering demand-driven skills development training.  

The  writer is Assistant Secretary (Research and Development),

the Dhaka Chamber of Commerce & Industry (DCCI)




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Editor : M. Shamsur Rahman
Published by the Editor on behalf of Independent Publications Limited at Media Printers, 446/H, Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1215.
Editorial, News & Commercial Offices : Beximco Media Complex, 149-150 Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1208, Bangladesh. GPO Box No. 934, Dhaka-1000.

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