The government should offer incentives to private companies to provide in-house or external training to their employees to sharpen their skills, analysts said yesterday.
Currently, most organisations shy away from providing any training -- despite an acute shortage of skilled workforce -- due to high costs and employees' tendency to defect to another job after the training period, they said.
“Most employers have been operating their businesses with a short-term vision,” said Parveen Sultana Huda, deputy policy adviser for Skills Employment Programme --Bangladesh.
She said that should be a regulatory requirement that compels private companies to arrange training to their employees. “It is an urgent need.”
Alternatively, the government can provide tax benefits, said Ahmedullah Mia, professor and dean of the faculty of social sciences of the University of Development Alternative.
They spoke at a conference organised by the SkillFUL project team at The Daily Star Centre yesterday.
Skills for Unemployed and Underemployed Labour (SkillFUL) is a project of Swisscontact currently being implemented in six districts of the country in collaboration with Centre for Mass Education in Science.
The project, which took off in March 2011, targets the poor unemployed and underemployed men, women and differently-abled people (DAP) of 15 years of age and above from Dhaka, Kurigram, Nilphamari, Bogra, Sunamganj and Jessore.
The conference was organised to discuss the challenges faced, lessons learned and results achieved as SkillFUL completes its three-year phase this month.
Bangladesh has a great potential on vocational and technical education due to its large young population, said Manish Pandey, director of Swisscontact's South Asia Regional Office.
He particularly stressed changing the mindset of people about vocational and technical education. “Vocational education is still considered a last resort here -- this mindset has to be changed.”
Pandey also called upon the private companies in the country to consider skill development programmes as investments rather than sunk costs.
“Bangladesh is a dynamic country, as a lot of skill development programmes are happening here,” said Libuse Soukupova, head of the human and social development section of the European Union's Dhaka office.
EU is focusing on education and vocational training in Bangladesh due to its huge shortage of skilled workforce, she added.
The market-led approach of the SkillFUL initiative engages training service providers (TSPs), enterprises, government organisations, community leaders and other relevant stakeholders.
Over the last three years, 19,015 graduates, the majority of whom are women, have completed training facilitated by SkillFUL, with 60 percent of them now successfully employed, said Devi Prasad Dahal, project manager of SkillFUL.
The project has also assisted in capacity building of 255 instructors and 40 master trainers, development of 21 curriculum guides, establishment of four occupational standards that have been approved by the Bangladesh Technical Education Board as well as facilitation of the Industry Skills Council in the Furniture sector, he said.
Through the three awareness campaigns facilitated by SkillFUL, almost 10 million people have been informed about the importance of quality skills training in the six target districts. SkillFUL has also aided in creating linkages whereby four banks and four micro-finance institutes have begun offering loans to TSPs, graduates and trainees.
So far, some 101 trainees have received loans to fund their enrolment in TSPs and 30 graduates got loans for business start-ups. The project is funded by the EU and the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation.