ActionAid Bangladesh and national daily Dhaka Tribune jointly organized a roundtable titled ‘Skill Development for Young People: Modalities of Training and Standards of Certification’, at the conference hall in the latter’s office in Dhaka on October 14. The discussants, whom included government and NGO officials, experts and stakeholders, mostly stressed updating the country’s educational system, training modules and the overall skill development process in order to create a skilled workforce. They also called on the relevant authorities to address the concerns of the jobseekers when it comes to having all the necessary skills to meet the job sector demands
Md. Faruque Hossain
National Skill Development Authority
The government feels the most important driving force for development is skilled youths, without which the private sector will not be productive enough and we will not be able to ensure sustainable growth or be termed as a developing country. The government has set up different organizations to facilitate the private sector’s growth. Whether it’s environmental, industrial or private sector development through government initiatives, all of them focus on development of skills. These programs need to be modelled and upscaled the right way, which is what we are working on. Without proper skill assurance or certification of skills, it’s hard for companies to understand the capabilities of potential employees. We are mainly focusing on the tools of coordination, quality assurance and providing a curriculum based on collective demand.
Statistics suggest that at present, there are about 2.1 million unemployed people in this country. Also, there are about 12.9 million people aged between 15 and 29. People in this country are either uneducated or going through the formative years of education, but the basic similarity among all of them is the distress of not knowing which path to take and how to build a better future for themselves. Through this roundtable, we want to look for solutions for that. If we talk about SDGs, we are a flourishing nation in terms of financial growth. But in order to have a better future, we need to be able to sustain that growth in the coming years, which will only happen by creating and ensuring the right process of grooming the youth.
Ismat Jerin Khan
From the perspective of a business owner, when I am recruiting workers, there are some major things that I have to keep in mind. The students complain about not being able to find proper jobs, while the recruiters complain about not finding enough qualified or skilled candidates. That means, there is a gap that needs to be reduced actively. The biggest difficulty students’ face, after they’re done with their training, is struggling to build themselves as entrepreneurs — due to certain limitations such as bank loans, financial disabilities and limiting resources, etc. — and achieve sustainability. We need to be able to convince banks to trust education as collaterals, while providing help along with governing bodies to support young enterprises.
There are also a few questions that need to be addressed. Are the various institutions equipped enough to take in about two million of the population? Are the youths preparing themselves enough in a way to work towards the future? Is the job sector future ready? A future job survey suggests that many countries have made jobs redundant after automation took a leap in relevant sectors. The scene in the job market is rapidly changing and will change further in the coming years because of technology. The focus now in terms of recruitment is given in the subsectors. At least 8.5% employees work for neat jobs and 8.6% for decent jobs, and it is hard to differentiate between the two. That’s why we have tried to come up with an app that will hopefully help in the recruitment process in the near future.
The aim of this joint project of Dhaka Tribune and ActionAid Bangladesh is to mainly focus on the potential of the country’s young force. It is an important discussion because we are in a particular time when the demographic dividend is very crucial. We have a majority of young population and the number of aged people is slowly but definitely increasing with time, and by 2040 there will be a significant growth in the number of aged people. At the moment, there is a large constitute for young people in Bangladesh and we have to see where these people are lacking, and how we can facilitate them to contribute further in the economy and building the nation. We want them to graduate to a level where they will be seen as a sector of skilled workforce with knowledgeable human resources.
If we look at the statistics of Bangladesh, we can see that one third of our population is the youth, which also means they are one third of the national labour force. At least 30% of the youth consists of young adults who are not in education, not employment or not in training (NEET). Every year around two million young adults join the workforce. The rate of unemployed youth is more than 10%. People with primary level education who remain unemployed are 2.7% of the population and it is 11% for university graduates. It is also alarming that among the unemployed youth, 46% are graduates. The signs indicate that the more educated ones are more likely to remain unemployed. We are trying to implement the SDGs by 2030 and Seventh Five Year Plan by 2020 which will try to achieve a skilful workforce, reduce the rate of youth unemployment and include 1.9 million youth in job sectors and among them at least 30% in self-employment. We are also looking at the National Skills Development Policy 2011 which should be revised to make the education and skill development system aligned with the market demand and workforce requirements.
Kazi Mahir Tajwar
I think the main reason behind university graduates remaining unemployed is the lack of soft skill development, which is very crucial when being recruited in the workforce. Even though the government is working towards providing more training modules, in my opinion they need to be modified and maintained in terms of the quality. This is the age of globalization. More focus is needed on quality for our contribution in the international market, so that we can reach a good global standard by ourselves.
Dr. Md. Shah Alam Majumder
Bangladesh Technical Education Board
The Seventh Five Year Plan addresses the most daunting challenge that is low skill and low productivity. Some of the reasons for that is the haphazard system of development in Bangladesh. There is a huge mismatch and shortage in both skill and educational fronts, apart from a lack of the use of better technology. The country can get better by setting up a classified workforce. However, institutional, instrumental and organizational capacity building need to be adapted. Even though we are equipped with the strategic direction, we are still not doing analysis of supply, demand and gap issues. The solution, formulation, determination and intervention areas are being done aimlessly without any background research.
Employee (Female), RPL completed
During the initial stages of applying for work, it was very tough for me as a woman to convince the companies to recruit me. I had to put in a lot of effort to make them see that I was qualified to get the job. These rejections usually happen because of the gender difference. This is why soft skill training is very important for people to have a backup option. If someone is found not qualified or rejected, they can use their soft skills to become entrepreneurs or at least do something for a living. The government should also come up with a minimum salary rate for the beginners.
Since Bangladesh is a densely populated country, talking about numbers in my opinion is useless. Because it is high time we talk about quality assurance. We can definitely benefit if we imply proper targeting, because any implementation or output will be irrelevant without that. The mindsets of the training centres are also questionable nowadays. We are at a stage where the training centre is mainly focused on the donors, clients and the sponsors, instead of the employees and the students. Hence, the training centres need to be more demand centric. Moreover, centre-based training for rapidly changing technical industries is not fruitful, since such mechanism is growing on a daily basis and need to be updated. We need to focus on dual base training which teaches centre-based programs as well as apprenticeships.
SK. Al Ferubi
Akhtar Furniture Academy and Akhtar Technical Institute
Firstly, I think we need to set a smart and visible goal. The technology training that is provided in the institutions is very different from what is required in the industry. I would like to propose a placement training strategy. It would be better for us if we remodelled the placement of the students in the industry first and then provide the training. There also needs to be a co-ownership module and more cooperation between the government and the industry for better awareness in the recruitment process.
In our organization, we try to have a very holistic approach towards youth development. We try and focus on skills, values and livelihood. The 21st century skills are very important for the young people in order to enter the job market whether it is communication, work ethic, knowing how to use the computer, time management, discipline or efficiency. We need to be able to talk to the employers to find out where the gap lies, what is needed and what is being provided to the youths. We are trying to provide skills to the marginalized students in livelihood training. I think we need to have a more coordinated effort to go forward with youth development.
Md. Feroj Alom Mollah
Bangladesh Technical Education Board
We have about 7,000 technical training centres that can take about 10.67 lac enrolments every year. There are also about 2,500 to 2,600 training courses for three to six months which take up to 2.80 lac enrolments at present. I don’t think we are there yet where the industry considers the recruitment process as a primary focus yet. We’re still not able to hold the value of the certificates, because we don’t know where they will be of use. Students are still not aware about the forms of access and the doors that open up with the trainings. They need to know where to go and be aware of the opportunities through proper platforms to utilize the certificates.
Munsur Hasan Khandaker
Informal Sector Industry Skills Council
At least 78% of the economic contribution comes from the informal sector, but unfortunately it is not yet properly regulated. Lack of bargaining power, little or no help from the government and non-aligned work plan — all these need to be taken into consideration. As a professor, I also see a lot of visible lacking in quality training provided in many training centres, whether it’s the teaching faculty or the tools and equipment. Even the teachers face a lot of job insecurity. We need to focus on the intentions of the students to understand if they will visibly reflect the outcome of the education. We need to work on the quality of education.
S M Shahjahan
Bangladesh Technical Education Board
There are National Skills Development Policy, industry skill policy, and policies for media and creative industries. Now we urge the government to focus on the agricultural sector and its policies. The 13,000 technical training sectors need to be put in a uniform standard. A survey suggests that 46% of international companies recommend enhancing soft skill development of the potential Bangladeshi employees, because the required hard skills can be taught even after joining.
Mahenaw Ummul Wara
Most of our work is for the grassroots development. We have a curriculum-based training and apprenticeship-based training. Along with the training, we also help students get recruited for jobs and provide entrepreneurship training for students who want to build their own businesses after completing their studies. We also provide micro finance for specialized candidates or help them in managing loans for their business ventures.
Bangladesh Korea Technical Training Centre
In my opinion, the entire education curriculum should be under CBT&A (Competency Based Training & Assessment). IT knowledge must be made mandatory. The teachers should be aware and equipped with four to six skills. Communication with the government is important and a fixed minimum salary should be set to motivate employees to maintain their jobs or be interested in joining the workforce.
Bangladesh Technical Education Board
Apart from non-formal education program for adults, we work with underprivileged children to provide non-formal primary education to those aged between eight and 14 who have either dropped out from school, finished up to primary education or have never been to school. We have been working to literate the young adults to give them a chance to do big things. After helping them with the education, we try to look for jobs and include them in the recruitment process. We are also venturing into providing education in the rural areas. Education system should be remodelled to help children adapt quickly.
Since Bangladesh majorly economizes from the informal sector, which is based in rural areas, women are usually sceptical to move away for work. Even though there are about 1,365 institutions, women hesitate to participate since these programs are based in urban areas and they don’t have the flexibility to move. Sometimes women are even forced into some training processes they don’t want or aren’t passionate about. Along with women, 10% of Bangladesh’s population are people with disabilities who also need to be taken into consideration and be included in the sectors whether through online training or other courses.
Bangladesh Technical Education Board
In order to curb the increased unemployment rate, we have courses and training and are creating employment opportunities. But the candidates need to take initiative and come forth to attend exams or trials to be able to utilize these opportunities. Through this process, we can evaluate the potential of the candidates and help during the recruitment process.
I feel privileged because the university and its department where I’m a student currently are guiding me to be able to stand out and build myself in a way to meet the current job sector requirements. However, there are still a lot of public and private institutions that do not provide such aligned means of education. In my opinion, we need better training options for all kinds of departments and not just some specific ones. The spectrum needs to be broader for candidates to fall back on whether it is in the form of digital or technical skills.
The government is providing a number of training opportunities, but after coming out of the training it is questionable as to how much these people needed that and how to implement its module. Most people who consider these trainings are from needy families; hence, they also should be taught how to utilize the training in the major aspects of life. By giving them guidelines or showing the channel where they can use their training will majorly boost improvement. There is also a huge discrimination in providing certain training opportunities to men and women. The options are usually set up by the government, and when the job sectors are full, the candidates fail to find other places to contribute and are left unemployed. The process needs to be equalized and not gender biased.