Technical training and skills development needs urgent support

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(By Qudrat Ullah) A new Pakistan through TVET

Industry must be duly involved

A new and prosperous Pakistan is the most conspicuous pledge of the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf government, which released its holistic 100-day plan as a five-year roadmap for achieving this goal. Youth empowerment is one of the main focusses, as it is the engine of national development. As it is difficult to arrange government jobs for all the educated youth, it is, therefore, imperative that government should strive to promote technical and vocational training programmes for the needy youth so that they could earn an honourable livelihood by setting up small-scale enterprises. A stable and market-based technical and vocational education and training (TVET) mechanism plays two critical roles in national development and growth. It arranges training and career-growth prospects besides providing skilled manpower to the trade and industrial sectors. The skilled workforce leads to national self-reliance in absence of salaried employment and also enhances the national industrialisation process. Its role is increasingly important in a typical Third World country like Pakistan for increasing youth employability and economic-growth.

It is an established fact that human resource constitutes the most precious strategic asset of all the countries of the world. This is true because both the peace and progress of a country pivot around this critical asset. For societal peace, productive engagement of youth and effective utilisation of their latent energies is unavoidable to prevent them from engaging in negative activities. This is where the importance of the TVET sector is the greatest for a country like Pakistan where more than 60 per cent of its 221 million people comprises youth in the 16-36 age bracket. In fact, the entire fabric of socio-economic prosperity revolves around the ability of the country’s TVET sector to respond, timely and effectively, to the challenge of positively engaging its youth population.

Unfortunately, the existing level of participation of the industrial sector in Pakistan’s TVET sector is lagging behind the requirements of this essential interrelationship

But in reality, this importance of the TVET sector goes much beyond simply enabling youth for gainful employment in Pakistan. Demographic dividends resulting from a huge bulge of more than 110 million youth offers a unique opportunity in the history of the country. In the presence of a pool of more than 110 million talented and hardworking youth, the realisation of the goal of increased industrial productivity becomes more and more likely only if the government wants to equip the youth with the latest technical and vocational skills. Productive efficiency of industry can enhance the international competitiveness of the industrial sector, which is also essential for boosting exports. In yet another arena, a robust TVET sector can export a highly skilled workforce to the international job market and the resulting foreign remittances could mitigate the trade and current account deficits.

It is in the realisation of this importance that the PTI government is giving increasing priority to the development of the TVET sector in the country. The government realises that bringing Pakistani TVET sector at par with international standards as an unavoidable policy choice, both for the productive engagement of youth and achievement of industrial growth. Towards this end, a number of initiatives have been taken. In Punjab, TEVTA has been formed which has initiated a number of training programmes for skilling youth in the most demanded trades, which are empowering youth with essential skills and enabling them to play a constructive role in national development. It is heartening that other provinces are also making such efforts, in their respective domains, to move forward.

In addition to creating more and more training opportunities for the youth, the government is also alive to the need for quality assurance in the TVET sector. A number of steps have been taken to enhance the quality of technical and vocational training in the country. A modern training regime with a special focus on practical, assignment-based training has been introduced where 80 per cent of the training is based on practical work. On-job training has been made necessary to enable the youth to gain insight into the actual work environment. The system of final assessments has been completely overhauled and now 90 per cent of the final assessment is based on the specially designed practical tasks which are demonstrated in the presence of three assessors from the industry. To create a competitive training environment and showcase the skills of youth to the industry, skill competitions are now held regularly which have brought very positive results in the TVET sector. It is expected that these measures and other similar initiatives would bring a paradigm shift in the TVET sector.

The role of industry in a country’s skill development is both pivotal and critical. In countries such as Germany, UK and Australia, the industrial sector remains at the forefront of skill development by taking lead in ascertaining skill demands, development of curricula, the setting of skill standards and placement of youth. This has happened in these countries because of the realisation that in today’s globally competitive economy; only those industries have a chance to survive which have optimised their productivity, both in terms of technological advancement and efficiency of their human resource. For increased human resource efficiency, a constant stream of highly skilled youth is indispensable which could only be made available by a vibrant, robust and responsive TVET sector. It is for this reason that industrial sectors in these countries take full ownership of their TVET. It will not be unfair to say that the industrial sector and TVET grow side by side in these counties, one complementing the other and in the end, both benefiting from this mutually reinforcing interrelationship.

Unfortunately, the existing level of participation of the industrial sector in Pakistan’s TVET sector is lagging behind the requirements of this essential interrelationship. The lukewarm response of industry towards the TVET sector’s development is not only compromising the government’s objective of productive engagement of its youth population but also preventing the industrial sector from exploiting this historic opportunity of existence of the demographic dividend and availing it for enhancing productivity and international competitiveness of Pakistani industry. In the context of the extreme significance of a strong TVET system for the industrial sector itself, the immediate and urgent need is felt for the industry to move toward the required level of ownership and commitment by ensuring their maximum participation at all levels.

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