In this competitive global economy, a highly skilled workforce can give us a competitive edge locally and globally.
If our workforce is not skilled enough, then our manufacturing costs will be higher than in others countries. The quality products with reasonable prices will reach and compete anywhere in the world.
For instance, in the early 90s, products from China and other countries started to pour in to the US market, particularly because of lower costs. American consumers cared about quality products with lower prices, and because the prices were low, their buying power went up.
Our labour abroad
There is a huge Bangladeshi workforce in the Middle East, but they are not aptly skilled. Because of that, they earn less money than the workers from India, Pakistan, Philippines, Nepal, and other countries.
The Ministry of Labour is trying to fix this problem, and they need to be more proactive and find out where the overseas labour market is heading, and what our workforce is lacking for the international labour market.
Our foreign missions should keep close contacts and open communication with the Bangladeshi labour force. They need to be more updated with current trends and demands of the workers, and workforce training programs.
A big chunk of our foreign currency is coming from our workforce in the Middle East, and they can earn more and compete better with training and guidance.
We need to improve the demand of our workforce with the current skill-sets so that the demand for Bangladeshi labour increases. Our goal should aim towards our workforce being their first choice due to more productive, efficient, and effective workers.
In this day and age, a workforce has to not only work harder, but also work smarter.
The current curriculum needs to be revamped in such a way that students are equipped with the knowledge that fulfills the current and future demands of most employers, both local and global.
Education for the future should be more hands-on.
Educational institutions need to discuss and work with local and international companies, and find out how they can improve the academic curriculum so that students can contribute more in the future
Educational institutions need to discuss and work with local and international companies, and find out how they can improve the academic curriculum so that current students can contribute more as a skilled workforce in the future.
The government, educational institutions, and private sectors have important roles to play in this critical issue. Employers should be able to utilise fresh university graduates with little training and make them productive.
Every year, public and private universities produce about 425,000 graduates, but there are only 400,000 jobs created for them nationwide.
A good number of students are going to study abroad, and a big number of graduates are staying back attending graduate school, looking for jobs, and sometimes getting frustrated.
A small number of them are becoming entrepreneurs, and they are getting very little training or support from policy-makers, banks, and the society. Furthermore, there is a social taboo in our county about entrepreneurs. Parents traditionally are proud to say that their child is a doctor, engineer, or lawyer, but not an entrepreneur.
Entrepreneurs are our strength
It’s about time to get out of that mindset. Currently, entrepreneurs are contributing massively to our economy; they are exporting products and services, bringing in foreign currency, creating new jobs, attracting foreign investments, and so on.
It’s time to provide continuous training, financial, and moral support to all entrepreneurs. The current government has taken many initiatives for them by providing training, funding, and rewards. These should, hopefully, encourage others towards entrepreneurship.
With proper training, skills, and a slightly open mindset, anyone should be able to contribute to themselves, their family, society, and the country. They shouldn’t feel like deadweight.
Responsibility lies on us
Every individual has the responsibility to work on and build their skill-sets; they cannot just wait for the government, academic institutions, or employers to provide the training.
In this technological age, anyone can gain skills or knowledge for self-development from online training institutions, YouTube, or social media outlets in a very cost-effective way. They just need strong incentives and initiatives on their own for their self-development.
Achieving success means more time and energy spent on growing oneself. And this success is not only for themselves, but for the society and the nation as well.
The more skilled you are, the more demand you will have in the job market. These skills could be knowing a second language, computer programming, application development, commercial vehicle driving, communication, presentation, organisation, selling, the list goes on.
These skills are not very difficult to acquire, but it will increase one’s value as an applicant when searching for jobs.
The demand for skills is changing, so everyone needs to be up to date with the job market. If an affiliated academic institution or employer does not provide knowledge or training, then the individual needs to acquire these skills on their own.
We tend to blame academic institutions, or employers, or a lack of time for not being able to acquire these self-development skills. Let’s stop the blame game and take actions to improve ourselves, which will improve our marketability for ourselves and the country.
That will be what that gives us a competitive edge, increase our productivity, and overall GDP of the nation.
Abdul Baten is an Assistant Professor at School of Business, ULAB.