Scope, market, facilities

April 5, 2015

Students should be trained keeping in mind the job market

Scope, market, facilities

Every year about 100,000 people graduate from 3,100 technical training institutes and vocational centres across Pakistan -- both from the public and private sectors -- out of about 2.0 million people who enter the job market.

National Science Technology and Innovation (ST&I) policy 2012 says that in Pakistan we have 64 technicians per one million population, while the figure for technically-advanced countries is in the range of 1500 to 2500 technicians per one million population.

Experts say that out of about 4 million unemployed people, over 90 per cent consists of unskilled people and most of the rest -- 10 per cent -- are those who are educated but without any skill. "Despite the establishment of TEVTA in Punjab and NAVTEC at the centre, the national requirement of technically trained personnel cannot be adequately met," reads the policy.

Different estimates suggest there is huge scope for skilled labour in the country which needs around one million of them. "It is true that there is huge job market for skilled labour in Pakistan but standard of technical education and vocational training leaves much to be desired," says Sarfraz Bhatti, an industrialist from Sialkot who makes and exports leather goods and garments. "Majority of trained people have low technical vocational competence. They are not aware of the latest techniques and gadgets."

The current Technical Vocational Education and Training (TVET) system has poor linkages with the industrial sector and has no standardisation and uniformity. "Most of these institutions have been teaching 50 years old syllabus. Majority of them are inefficient. Once employed, we have to train them again in our factories. In several factories in Sialkot, we have started importing technical staff from abroad," says Bhatti.

Bhatti says during the peak season, he finds it difficult to get stitch masters. "The situation is the same for almost every factory owner in Sialkot. Technical institutions should focus on producing skilled labour which is needed in the industry, instead of producing plumbers and masons, etc. You will not find a skilled person unemployed in cities like Sialkot and Faisalabad."

Around eight million Pakistanis are working overseas out of which over 3.5 million are unskilled, with almost 90 per cent of recent emigrants going to the Middle East.

The international market is one place to explore. "There is a lot of demand for skilled workers from Pakistan in the international market," says Akhtar Hussain Khan, Vice Chairman Pakistan Overseas Employment Promoters Association.

"Some technical and vocational institutions do contact us to know the demand from different countries in different sectors but the government hardly ever contacts us to understand the dynamics of job opportunity for skilled workers in the international market," he says.

Most of the people who go outside are unskilled or semi-skilled. "The wages for skilled labour are almost double. We sometimes do receive complaints on the standard of skilled labour of Pakistan as majority of them take 4-5 months to understand the job and machinery," says Khan.

Around eight million Pakistanis are working overseas out of which over 3.5 million are unskilled, with almost 90 per cent of recent immigrants going to the Middle East, according to the Bureau of Emigration and Overseas Employment.

Data shows that drivers are at the top in the category of highly-skilled Pakistani workers overseas with around 0.8 million, followed by masons with 0.6 million. Some 3,23,750 unskilled people moved abroad for work in 2014 with only 2,87,649 highly skilled people.

Experts say there are issues from both sides -- academia and industry. "The industry needs to take ownership of the sector. It should not treat it as part of its corporate social responsibility but instead as part of its human resource," says Faheem Bokhari, head of Institute for Advancing Careers and Talents (iACT), a Karachi-based private institute.

"Things are changing so fast in this field that we revise curriculum in our institute at least once a year. We always introduce new courses as we have close linkages with the industry," he adds.

The first batch of 20 students in the field of Supply Chain Management has graduated from his institute only a few months ago. "18 people in that batch have got jobs in the industry with a salary of around Rs 20,000 per month," he says. "The industry should tell us it requirements."

"The job ratio in skill-based courses of students of our institution is at least 70 per cent. Trainers in my institute are mostly visiting faculty from the industry," he informs. "Most interventions from the government have failed to give results because governments believe in quantity and not quality."

Officials at the National Vocational and Technical Training Commission (NAVTTC) admit that the training in a majority of technical and vocational institutes in the country is supply-driven rather than demand-driven. "Many institutes still teach the syllabus developed 50 years ago with the help of Germans. It needs a lot of resources to update the curricula as it will also need to update the equipment," they say.

Officials, who do not ant to be identified, say many public sector institutes still train their students on old model cars and TVs. A majority of the 100,000 students, they say, that attend technical training and vocational institutes are not diploma holders but take 3-4 months of vocational training.

"In Pakistan, we offer technical and vocational training in about 40 disciplines. Our focus has always been on theory and less on practical work," says the official.

The public sector vocational training institutes in some cities that have created close linkages with the industry are giving good results. "In Faisalabad, a few centres are training people keeping in view the demand from the industry."

Industry Advisory Groups will also be established which will help identification of priority demand and the development of skills competency-standards, qualifications and curricula. "We are in the process of developing new curricula with support of provincial authorities," the official says.

The government is planning to enhance training volume to 500,000 people annually from the present figure of around 100,000. It will need a lot of resources and political will. Malaysia, for instance, took 10 years to replace its old system of training in the sector to one that is acceptable all over the world.

At present, certificates of many Pakistani institutes in this sector are not internationally accepted. "Once we have the NVQF in place, we will be at par with international standards. Short-term programmes like PM’s Hunermand are not serving the purpose. All stakeholders, including the government, need to strengthen the reform programme," says an official of a donor agency helping the government implement the reform programme.

Scope, market, facilities