POST TIME: 6 September, 2018 00:00 00 AM
LEDP: Blessing for Unemployed Youths
Khalid Hasan

LEDP: Blessing for Unemployed Youths

 Every year, thousands of youths, most of them from lower middle-class families, come to Dhaka to pursue higher education or careers, but find it difficult to keep pace with the high cost of living in the city.

While they are much interested to earn some money for their day to day survival, the dearth of part-time jobs, especially for students, makes things worse, creating   distress among the youths.

After getting admitted to Dhaka University, Shariful Islam had to go through a rough period. His father, the only earning member of his family, could not come up with Tk 5,000 every month, the minimum amount needed for him to live in Dhaka.  So, Islam decided to look for a part-time job. He asked all his relatives and friends in the city for help, but none could get him a job.

 In 2014, Islam learned that the ICT Division, under its Learning and Earning Development Project (LEDP), is going to provide free training in freelancing skills, such as graphic design, web designing and development and digital marketing, to unemployed new graduates across the country. The news thrilled him. After filling up a digital registration form and participating in an online examination on a friend’s laptop, he finally got the chance to attend a 200-hour training course on search engine optimisation (SEO) earlier this year.

At the end of the 50-day training, Islam bought an old desktop computer from a senior student of his department with the allowance he received for participating in the programme. He then went on to register his profile on online marketplaces, like Fiverr and Upwork.

 Within a month of joining, Islam got a successful bid on Fiverr and received quite a number of good reviews on his profile. He saw tremendous success and became a level-1 seller over the next three months. His first income was US$400 (about Tk33,000) with which he bought a new laptop for his work. Now, he is a top-rated seller on Fiverr and his earnings amount to US$1,000 (about Tk83,000) every month on average, which enables him to support himself as well as assist his family back home.

“LEDP has completely changed my life. Now, I offer training and job opportunities to my fellow students on my campus,” said Islam.

 Like Shariful Islam, LEDP has churned out thousands of skilled freelancers throughout the country.

Tamanna Sultana, a student of Government Rajbari College and a trainee, said: “I already had an interest in freelancing, but there was no institution at Rajbari to train and support freelancers. LEDP was a blessing for me. After successfully completing training on graphic designing, I made a profile on Fiverr with the help of my trainers and mentors. I got my first order in March this year. Since then, I have been working successfully with a number of buyers from different countries. Now, I am a level-2 seller on Fiverr, with five-star ratings.”

 According to a recent survey by LEDP, 485 students _ out of 1,560 who attended training programmes in different districts of Dhaka division _ have been working successfully for foreign clients, competing with workers worldwide in online marketplaces. Their collective income averages US$41,539 (about Tk3.3 million). The survey also found that youths in other districts of the country have been able to improve their skills and increase their incomes through the training programmes.

 Sadat Mahmud, a graphic designer and a trainer of LEPD, said: “Most students of public universities try to find jobs as private tutors, as there are few other part-time jobs available for them. On the other hand, their talents are better suited for visual communications, like graphic designing, web development and design, animation and other digital skills. If we can utilise their potentials, they can support themselves during their student life, as well as contribute to the country’s economy.”

 Mirza Ali Ashraf, project director, LEDP, said: "The journey of learning and earning project started in 2014. The goal of earning five million (US) dollars through the project has been set. About 13,000 people have been trained in 650 batches in 64 districts. Of them, 5,680 people have so far earned $430,474 from freelancing on different online marketplaces.”

 Experts emphasise that an increasing focus on ‘quality work’ is crucial to sustaining the growth rate of Bangladeshi freelancers. Although short-term training programmes are not enough to create skilled freelancers, LEDP has already proved to be a successful employment generation project in the country by helping thousands of youths to become self-sufficient. n

The writer is a graduate student at the Department of Educational Administration, Institute of Education and Research, Dhaka University.