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September 17, 2017



Skilled workers: A force to be reckoned with

LAHORE: A large number of graduates or even masters’ degree holders remain jobless and yet the demand is still high for plumbers, mobile phone repair technicians, electricians, auto mechanics, beauticians and tailors.

So, obviously unemployment among college or university degree holders is high as compared to those possessing some skills. 

Numerous individuals from low income and poor families after completing courses at vocational and technical institutes have been able to get jobs that help their families to fight off poverty.

Skilled workers are supplementing incomes of their families and in a few cases are instrumental in moving them out of poverty. 

Muhammad Arshad, a skilled worker, lived for years in extreme poverty with his eight brothers and two sisters. His three elder brothers obtained higher secondary school certificates, but failed to get suitable jobs and one of them had to join a factory as unskilled worker while two work at the two-acre ancestral agricultural land of their father. 

Arshad obtained higher secondary school certificate and then obtained a certificate from a government vocational training centre.

The difference: Arshad, during the course, was sent for three months on-the-job-training at a local factory which also gave him Rs5,000 per month as stipend. After he finished his training stint as industrial electrician, he got employment for Rs18,000 a month. 

“Now, I also earn Rs4,000 per month as overtime in addition to my monthly salary,” the skilled worker beamed. 

“After the job timing, I also sit at my shop near my residence and earn Rs12,000 to 14,000 a month. I cannot accept all the repair orders at my shop because of my engagement at the job,” he said. 

Arshad added that there is need of a few more electricians to meet the demand in the neighbourhood.

Having seen poverty at home Arshad works hard. 

He comes to his factory that is 20 kilometrs from his home by bicycle to save the transportation cost. 

“Prospects of promotion as electricity technician at the factory are bright,” Arshad said. “All this became possible due to the skill training I acquired from the vocational institute.”

Many families with one of their lowly-educated sons earns much more than their college graduate sons question the wisdom of providing formal education to their children. 

“In reality the fault lies with our education system and not education itself,” an education expert said. Higher education is more suitable to get white collar jobs. 

Mohammad Adnan, an auto mechanic and having done higher secondary certificate, remained jobless before vocational training. Adnan did a course of auto mechanic from a vocational institute and after completion of his course he got a job at an auto part manufacturing firm. 

Now, after three years in service, he draws Rs24,000 a month as section in-charge at the auto part manufacturing factory.

A sole bread earner of family of eight comprising his parents, four younger brothers and two sisters he also works as instructor in the evening classes of his parent institute to earn additional income.

Unskilled jobs are drying out as the industries have upgraded their technology to save cost and improve efficiency. Unskilled jobs are available only in construction industries or as labourers in the wholesale market.

The job market all over the world is undergoing a radical change. It is now acknowledged that latest skills acquired today would be redundant within 10 years. 

Governments in the developed economies, observing the job market dynamics, are making efforts to upgrade the skills of workers every five years. They, in fact, are slashing the higher education budget and increasing the vocational training outlay. 

Pakistan is far behind in this transformation. The country is, however, imparting training in skills that are in demand in Pakistan as well as in developed economies. In fact, demand for plumbers, welders, drivers, electricians, hair dressers, gardeners is higher in developed economies than Pakistan. The state should make efforts to obtain jobs for these skills abroad to increase remittances.

There are several workers from poor families who put their carriers on track by acquiring skills.