Saturday December 03, 2022

Untapped garments potential needs skills spark

September 30, 2017

LAHORE: Pakistan’s garments manufacturing industry is working far below its potential, but it can become an engine of growth for the country’s economy if the government takes timely measures and supportive policies. 

The country, which is the world’s third largest producer of high quality cotton, exports garments worth around only $4.5 billion a year, which is both for woven and knitted garments. On the other hand, Bangladesh, which does not grow cotton at all, is the second biggest exporter of readymade garments in the world after China.

Why Pakistan that also enjoys trade incentives under generalised scheme of preferences plus status in the European Union cannot capture a sizeable share for its readymade garments in global markets?

It also needs to be probed whether Pakistan is still going for volumes or trying hands at value-addition to increase unit prices. “There is a couple of reasons for this situation and the foremost are lack of skilled workforce, country’s negative image abroad in terms of security situation, weak quality standards and lack of incentives from the government,” Muhammad Ayub, a representative of Pakistan Hosiery Manufacturers and Exporters Association (PHMA) told The News.

Ayub said government announced Rs180 billion worth of relief package for the textile sector over a period of 18 months, but it has partially been delivered. The terms required to qualify for this relief are quite tough as well, he added.  PHMA official said quality training is the key to reverse the situation though other interventions are also required.

Workforce can be educated about the latest skills and technology through quality trainings. They can be prepared to effectively market the products/brands and build positive image of the country.

Ayub said Pakistan Knitwear Training Institute (PKTI) in Lahore is working in collaboration with the federal textile ministry and the garments industry. A large number of students are trained at the institute.

Multiple courses are offered at PKTI and some of them with the support of international partners. Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) provides trainers who stay in Pakistan. JICA also gives training equipment. 

Japan is an importer of high-end garments and such imports amount to $40 billion a year, but unfortunately Pakistan has failed to make inroads into its market.  The analyst said a reason is that Japanese importers look for average quality level - 0 (AQL-0), whereas Pakistani garments industry stands at AQL-4 at the moment. 

AQL-0 is the highest standard and means there is zero tolerance when it comes to quality of products. Japanese trainers are trying to help Pakistan’s garments industry attain higher AQL levels step by step, Ayub said. The Punjab is also promoting collaboration and reforms implementation in technical and vocational education and training (TVET) sector.

The provincial government’s Industries, Commerce and Investment Department is working as the secretariat to reform TVET sector and create better employment opportunities for the youth.

TVET Sector Support Programme, funded by the European Union, Germany and Norway is supporting the government of Pakistan in achieving its objectives of reforming this sector. Its special focus is on improving governance and private sector participation in TVET sector to increase quality skill development that meets the existing demand of the labour market.

Tayyab Mir, principal of PKI said TVET SSP has helped a lot in revising the curriculum according to modern day’s demands and the requirements of both local and international markets. 

Previously, there was hardly any concept of computer designing of garments in the curriculum of technical and vocational institutes, but now designing software, such as Photoshop, Corel Draw and computer-aided design and manufacturing are integral part of the study programmes.

Marketing, pattern-making, fibre-cutting stitching syllabuses have also undergone a complete makeover under the TVET SSP. PKI principal said the curriculum has been revised after taking input of all the stakeholders, including students, workforce, trainers and other and that is why the students have better chances of getting employed after graduation.

Skilled workforce is a basic need of the industry – a proof of which is that a leading garments factory in Kot Lakhpat has 150 machines lying idle because it has not yet found people capable enough to operate them, Mir said.