Bangladesh urgently needs to overhaul its education system with a focus on technology and incorporating robotics into curricula to tackle the challenges to be posed by the ‘Fourth Industrial Revolution (4IR)’ by reskilling and up-skilling manpower, say experts.
As there is a serious apprehension that huge jobs will be lost within the next two decades because of automation caused by the 4IR, they also said the existing workforce should be provided with skill-development trainings so that they can cope with the emerging situation and meet the demand of future employers.
According to a recent study, around 53.8 lakh jobs in different specialised industries, including garment, food and agriculture and leather, will be at risk within the next two decades due to the adoption of technologies.
The study, conducted by Access to Information (a2i) programme under the ICT Division together with some local and international experts between May and October last year, also feared that around 27 lakh jobs will be lost in the garment sector alone by 2041.
Talking to UNB, Dr Khondakar Golam Moazzem, research director of Centre for Policy Dialogue (CPD), said technology and skill development need a fresh outlook alongside increase budgetary allocations to face the 4IR challenges.
“We need quality technical education and develop the skills of our labour forces based on market demand. The country should also now reform policy, and give focus on robotics, webpage market, e-commerce, and infrastructure improvement to prepare our labour force and entrepreneurs for the 4IR,” he said.
Mentioning that around 33 percent graduate youths are now jobless in the country, he said it will increase significantly further in the future if proper initiatives are not taken now to cope with the automation.
“Our current education system should be overhauled by upgrading the curricula at the school, college and higher levels. We need to focus on technology-based education, and the students should be encouraged to have vocational education to make them ready for the automation of industries,” the CPD expert said.
Echoing Moazzem, M Rokonuzzaman, a professor of North South University’s Electrical and Computer Engineering department, said the current education system has to be changed and 50 million students who are there in the job market should be prepared for industries with technology-based education to reap benefits from the 4IR.
He feared that if the government fails to take pragmatic plans and policies immediately to tackle the impact of 4IR on the labour market, it will be very difficult for it to achieve Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) by 2030.
Rokonuzzaman said around 50 percent workers may be laid off by 2025 due to the use of technology and modern machinery in the RMG sector if skilled workers are not produced and the current ones not trained up.
“Similarly, advanced technology will help Bangladesh become a higher income country and the youth will get jobs if we can build them as skilled human resources for the future job market,” he added.
Dr Nazneen Ahmed, a senior research fellow of Bangladesh Institute of Development Studies (BIDS), said the nature of jobs will change due to the 4IR and the country’s labour forces must be skilled and innovative to adjust with it.
Stating that the RMG sector will be hit hardest in terms of shrinking jobs due to automation, she said the garment workers, especially women, should be trained up about modern machinery and new technology so that they can use those.
FBCCI President Sheikh Fazle Fahim said the country’s large and some medium industries have started witnessing the transition caused by the 4IR. “Therefore, reskilling or continuous skilling of our human resources should yield different sets of employments while replacing others.”
Keeping the country’s transitioning economy in mind, he said they have initiated FBCCI institute with a plan to partner up with leading institutes and universities of the world.
“We recently started working with a leading institute and a leading university in Canada as our knowledge partner. They’ll assess HR requirements, transfer curricula, design required curricula, transfer ecosystem, train us to operate, provide master trainers for modules, professional programs, 2-year program, 4-year honours and masters,” Fahim added.
BGMEA president Rubana Huq said, “As much as 4IR has emerged as a challenge for us, it indeed has opened many new opportunities for us to make ourselves more competitive, innovative and diversified.”
She said the challenges of 4IR are situational that can be turned into opportunities. “Newer technologies are shaping fabrics manufacturing process to design, cutting, dyeing, washing; encouraging end-to-end digital workflow. The challenge for us is to reconfigure ourselves and switch off to a compatible mode to acquire and use technologies to the extent possible.”
Getting the right skills in right quality and quantity is a major precondition, Rubana said, adding that, reskilling and up-skilling should be on top of the agenda of the government and the private sector.