Tuesday September 28, 2021

Vocational training

June 24, 2021

In 1962, a landmark legislation laid the foundation of vocational training in Pakistan. The Apprenticeship Ordinance, 1962 was promulgated by the government of Gen Ayub Khan to feed the growing industries with skilled technicians and process operators.

This was followed by the Apprenticeship Rules in 1966, which quite comprehensively provided modalities of the training scheme, obligations of both the employers and apprentices and the latter’s terms and conditions of apprenticeship.

The Ordinance of 1962, has been made applicable to undertakings employing fifty or more persons, as are notified by the provincial government in the official gazette. The notified undertaking is obliged to introduce and operate an apprenticeship programme and get it registered with the Competent Authority defined in the Ordinance.

Such undertaking is required to train apprentices in the proportion of a minimum of twenty percent of the total number of persons employed in the ‘apprenticeable trade’. For instance, if an undertaking employs five electricians, it should have at least one apprentice in this trade. There are more than three hundred vocational professions to choose from, encompassing different areas.

The induction of the Ordinance met with immense success and all the notified undertakings established their apprenticeship centers in accordance with the law. The most notable among them was the remarkable apprenticeship training center established by the American corporate giant Exxon Chemical Pakistan Limited at its fertilizer plant in Daharki (Sindh).

In the late 1960s, the Exxon corporation was attracted to install a plant in Pakistan looking at its rapid pace of industrial development. The company not only imparted training to apprentices in mechanical and chemical trades for two to three years duration but also devised a competitive scheme for their career development in the post apprenticeship employment of the company. Exxon’s successor company Engro Fertilizer Limited continues to follow the scheme.

The federal government has promulgated the Apprenticeship Act, 2018 by repealing the Ordinance of 1962, which has become outdated. However, due to the 18th Amendment, provisions of the act of 2018 extend only to the Islamabad Capital Territory. The provinces should make and enforce their own apprenticeship acts, to revive the effectiveness of a most beneficial training scheme.

In order to supplement the apprenticeship scheme and boost vocational training in the country, the government promulgated the National Training Ordinance, 1980, which was amended through the Amendment Ordinance, 2002. The purpose of the ordinance was to constitute training boards in the respective provinces to regulate and promote vocational training facilities in various fields. By virtue of this ordinance, the scope of vocational training has widened beyond the confines of notified undertakings. While the apprenticeship training extends only to the apprentices enrolled with some undertaking, any person whether or not he/she is employed, can join the vocational training institutes established all over Pakistan, to learn the desired skill.

The National Board has 17 different functions relating to promotion of technical, vocational and in-plant training and skill development etc. The provincial boards have nine functions, which include: (a) registration and licensing of establishments, organizations or institutions, which are offering vocational training; and (b) conducting trade tests and certifying the skilled persons and trainers, who may have received vocational training through any source or acquired the skill through experience or informal system of Ustad-Shagird.

Most of Pakistan’s blue-collar workers learn their work informally and have little to no formal academic education. However, raw potential is not a substitute for proper industrial skills-based training.

Technical Vocational Education & Training (TVET) is governed through various legislations at national and provincial levels. TVET gets its policy direction from NAVTTC (National Vocational and Technical Training Commission), which is the country’s apex regulatory body for technical education and vocational training.

There are a number of organizations and institutions regulating TVET in the provinces. TEVTA (the Technical Education and Vocational Training Authority), in each province is a principal organization for TVET. TEVTAs in each province, have been established through provincial legislations to bring all TVET institutions under one umbrella.

The vocational training structure looks attractive, but in reality the country has a shabby, overlapping and fragmented vocational training system, which suffers from some of the following deficiencies. Around 3,800 TVET institutes in Pakistan have obsolete curriculum. Specialized and sophisticated skills are required for most jobs these days but there is a lack of linkage between the industry and TVET institutions.

The industry should play a pivotal role as a key stakeholder to strengthen its relationship with TVET institutes. The participation of women in technical education should also be encouraged as they constitute 52 percent of the population. Besides, there is a dire need to provide vocational training to the physically challenged and neglected segments of society.

There is no system to equip the already employed blue-collar workers with new emerging skills and competencies. This should be installed through better coordination between the TVET institutes and the industry.

Shortage of experienced and trained faculty/trainers can be overcome through better remuneration and building the public image of TVET institutes. Industry needs qualified healthcare staff, IT/electrical/mechanical technicians, process operators, construction and hospitality workers etc. By adopting a smarter strategy, the education ministry’s planners can fulfill this demand by using a locally trained workforce.

The writer is an industrial relations professional and teaches labour welfare laws at IBA.

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