Tuesday, 28 September, 2021

Skill Development in Bangladesh: Readiness and Roads Ahead

  • Md. Nurunnabi
  • 29th August, 2021 06:15:20 PM
  • Print news
Skill Development in Bangladesh: Readiness and Roads Ahead

Skill Development is interconnected with identifying the skill gaps and mending them by developing these skills. Skills are essential for defining one’s ability because it executes our plans with success. In one hand, skill development is a kind of tool in terms of social and national economic development on the other hand it is generally measured as the key for productive employment. However, skill development is a central window of increased productivity followed by inclusive economic growth and poverty reduction. Besides, indirectly it encompasses the ultimate term ‘employability’ which can be achieved through different form of skills development training. The multi-faceted term ‘skill development’ has wide range of connectivity from the inception of human steps to the raising of the present civilization. Let’s dig deeper in order to trace the implication of skill development.

Skill development ensures personal growth, enhances job opportunities, equips skilled workforces and nurtures talents. These are core components to take forward any country under the developed limelight. Unskilled workforce is a burden for any country in the globe. This unskilled workforce can be turned into skilled workforce, which extends the opportunity of being employed.  If we can ensure skills among the youth workforces it will turn into assets and the development of the country is indispensable. Employability rate in job market can be higher if unskilled people can go under market oriented Technical Vocational Education and Training (TVET) skills development training. Skills enhancement training works as a key element of getting job. The industries or employers are much more interested to employ the skilled workforces in their own institution. As skilled workforces ensure more productivity in the workplaces, their demand is higher in the job market than the unskilled ones. Demographic dividend is one of the best opportunities in Bangladesh. The country can deploy the youth in different market responsive TVET skill development training to build their skills. If the youths are trained, they could easily manage suitable job in the national and international job market. Thus, the advantages of demographic dividend could best be explored to establish the country as developed one in the globe. Hence, more skills training would be the best way to ensure employment for the unskilled workforces. This could be a leading path to resolve the unemployment problems in more relevant way. In addition, industries, institutions and organisations prefer to employ the skilled workforces to get the best productivity. Several skill development projects align with government’s skill development agenda work in this sector to ensure skills and up-skilling capacity of the workforces. National Skills Development Authority (NSDA) is working as an apex body to ensure the skills training in the country so that the economic condition of the country and the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) get higher. Based on the evidence of the study National Technical and Vocational Qualification Framework (NTVQF) level certification could be introduced significantly to the employers so that they can easily identify and engage skilled workforces. Thus, by doing this employer would be more benefited and the recognitions of skills training would get more preferable to the unskilled ones. In addition, in Bangladesh, the mismatch between skills supply and skills demand create an adverse impact over employability. Skilled manpower here gets priority in the job sectors.

The TVET Reform Project, initiated by the Government of Bangladesh (GoB) aimed to ensure the country’s competitiveness in the global market and reduce poverty by improving the quality of vocational education and training. Subsequently, the structured organisational progression and policy formation boost up our skills development efforts. In 2018, the GoB enacted the National Skills Development Authority Act for transforming the National Skills Development Council (NSDC) to NSDA, an autonomous body. Several hundreds of scholars and experts contributed to take forward our skill development sector align to the world recognised standard. Then, the skill development chapter gets the proper hand when it comes in contact with a visionary leader. He dreams to extend the government’s skill development agenda by formulating and implementing the largest skill development project namely Skills for Employment Investment Program (SEIP) in South Asia. His relentless efforts to get strengthen TVET institutions including NSDA and National Human Resource Development Fund (NHRDF) will be reflected as a milestone in the skill development sector in Bangladesh. The man is the Senior Secretary, Finance Division, Ministry of Finance (MoF), Abdur Rauf Talukder, who loves to remain behind the scene. In addition, the guidance and involvement of the former Principal Coordinator, Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) and former Principal Secretary, Md. Abul Kalam Azad is considered as a new window opener in skills development sector. The journey of skills development sector in Bangladesh gets more reinforced in the hand of some prominent leaders e.g. Md. Kamal Hossain, Secretary, Coordination and Reform, Cabinet Division, Md. Salim Reza, the former Director General and Secretary, BMET, Jalal Ahmed, former Additional Secretary, MoF and Mr. Faruque Hossain, former Executive Chairman, NSDA.

There are several projects that facilitate market responsive skills development training in Bangladesh to enhance the employability of the unemployed youths. SEIP, Skills and Training Enhancement Project (STEP), B-SkillFUL, the Bangladesh Skills for Employment and Productivity (B-SEP) and ‘Sudokkho’ are the major skills development project in Bangladesh. All the cited projects aim at minimising the skills mismatch between skills supply and skills demand which impaired into the projects’ goals to achieving sustainable employability through skill development efforts. Among the projects, SEIP, a discrete project of Finance Division, aims to develop skills of 841,680 unskilled workforces by 2024. However, Bangladesh Institute of Development Studies (BIDS) analysed the skill gaps on behalf of SEIP project and identified nine priority sectors including Information Communication and Technology (ICT), garments and textile, leather and footwear, construction, light engineering, ship building, agro processing, tourism and hospitality and nursing, care giver and health technology. Motor driving with basic maintenance and renewable energy have been added later on with the previous ones. From the very beginning, SEIP determines to ensure four major outputs throughout the implementation process. Those include:

(i) imparting market responsive, job focused and inclusive training for the male and female aged 15 and over. The public training institutes under Bureau of Manpower Employment and Training (BMET), Directorate of Technical Education (DTE), Bangladesh Industrial Technical Assistance Center (BITAC) and Bangladesh Road Transport Corporation (BRTC) have been fully engaged in delivering SEIP’s skill development and market responsive training. In addition to this, Palli Karma-Sahayak Foundation (PKSF) and Bangladesh Bank- Small and Medium Enterprises (BB-SME) are also engaged as SEIP partners in delivering skills training mainly to develop entrepreneurs. Inclusiveness is one of the most important considerations of SEIP trainee selection criteria. The project has set a target of including at least 30% women in total trainees. Private, Public and Non-Government Organizations (NGOs) sectors are involved in providing skills development training in partnership with the Industry Associations (IAs), PKSF and BB-SME.

(ii) Strengthening of quality assurance system by supporting the training providers with good quality trainers, equipment, furniture, training of the trainers’ arranged at home and abroad. Training is also provided to the managers and assessors so that overall improvement in training quality can be ensured. In order to support quality training, Competency Standards (CS), Competency Based Learning Materials (CBLMs) and assessment tools have been developed by SEIP by the fast track consultants and British Council in close consultation with the industry experts.

(iii) Strengthening institutions for skill development training that will make permanent contribution to the economic growth of the country.  Firstly, SEIP has helped establish NHRDF under Finance Division as envisioned in the National Skill Development Policy (NSDP) 2011 to ensure continuous flow of additional funding to the deserving private and public training institutes. SEIP has also helped establishing NSDA which will coordinate and improve skills development programs sporadically implemented by 23 ministries/divisions. This authority will address the entire skills eco-system administratively separated from the technical education, but technically integrated with it. It is a regulatory body that will approve CSs and recognise high quality training institutes. It will also develop a standardised assessment and certification framework. Industry Skill Council (ISC) is another institution that has been supported by SEIP to make it fully operational. This will work as a link between NSDA and industries to cater to the changing needs of the industries triggered by global innovation and competition. SEIP has already established 03 Executive Development Centers (EDCs) at three reputed universities namely Bangladesh University of Textiles (BUTEX), East-West University (EWU) and BRAC University (BRAC-U) to develop high class managers for the industries which, at present, we import from foreign countries. The development of another EDC at Institute of Business Administration (IBA), Dhaka University has added additional dimension in producing leaders in skills development sector in Bangladesh. Through the EDCs, mid and high level managers will be developed in textile, knitwear, garment, leather and footwear sectors.

(iv) Being a flagship project of Asian Development Bank (ADB), SEIP has established a real time online Training Management System (TMS) to capture all important information related to the training activities. It captures trainees’ information such as enrollment, dropout, assessment, certification, job placement, etc. in a sex disaggregated way.

As part of the reform, the Ministry of Education has implemented a six year long Skills and Training Enhancement Project (STEP). The project aimed to improve the quality, relevance and efficiency of TVET in view of increasing employability of the technical graduates at home and abroad with special focus to reduce poverty as well as improving the quality of life of the general masses, in particular. Besides, STEP ensures to enhance the quality and relevance of TVET as part of meeting the strategic options of the poverty reduction agenda of the government. It also strengthens the overall TVET system through ISC, NSDA and vocational schools. Again, B-SkillFUL, a project of Swiss Contact, also aimed to improve the well-being of poor and disadvantaged men and women by increasing their access to labour market and income, while safeguarding their fundamental rights at work. B-SkillFUL aims to train 40,000 poor and disadvantaged men and women in demand driven skills and places at least 70% of them in gainful employment broadly classified in sectors such as Ready Made Garments (RMG), construction, electrical and electronics, furniture, mechanical or automobile, etc. In addition, the Bangladesh Skills for Employment and Productivity (B-SEP) Project is an initiative of the GoB funded by the Government of Canada and executed by the International Labor Organization (ILO). The project aims to accelerate the current efforts being undertaken by other organisations, donors and government in skills development sector in Bangladesh. Sudokkho is a seven year private skills training and market development program in Bangladesh funded by United Kingdom aid and Swiss Agency for Cooperation and Development (SDC). DTE is the executing agency of the program. Sudokkho contributes to a stronger and more inclusive private sector training market creating better job opportunities for the poor people.

The unskilled workforce can be turned into skilled workforce by providing skills development training. We have all sets of resources along with organisational setups, standard curriculum, relevant training content, prominent professionals, international linkage and affiliations as well. It is high time to identify and hand over the responsibilities to the visionary leaders who are at present the pioneer of leading and developing new window in TVET skills development sector in Bangladesh. The government should continue every supports to those TVET leaders so that they can take forward the national skill development agenda in order to establish Bangladesh a developed country by 2041 and Golden Delta by 2100.

The writer is a Project Officer at SEIP, Finance Division, MoF and a former Senior Trainer (English), BRAC-PACE, Senior Coordinator-Teacher Development, English in Action (EIA), Cambridge Education