Skills development crucial to cope with Covid-19 | The Daily Star
12:00 AM, November 22, 2020 / LAST MODIFIED: 11:59 PM, November 21, 2020

Skills development crucial to cope with Covid-19

Experts say at DCCI’s virtual meeting

Bangladesh's youth needs to be turned into skilled workers to cope with the changes brought on by the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, according to experts.

Nearly 20 per cent of the country's population is aged between 16 and 24.

The Covid-19 has changed both the global economic and employment scenarios as a potential employee now needs to be adaptable with advancements in technology and have efficient digital literacy, innovative and modern skills, they said.

With about 62.7 per cent of the population being of working age, Bangladesh has the demographic dividend to leverage accelerated economic growth, Shams Mahmud, president of the Dhaka Chamber of Commerce and Industry (DCCI), said in a statement.

As per World Bank estimates, around 40 per cent of the country's university graduates are unemployed due to a mismatch in skills.

Despite the favourable demographic dividend, Bangladesh has a skilled workforce shortage both locally and internationally while 12.3 per cent of the youth are unemployed, Mahmud said.

The DCCI chief made these comments during a virtual meeting on 'new jobs and skills for future business', organised by the DCCI.

Most employers believe that critical thinking and problem-solving skills will soon gain prominence while 50 per cent of all employees could need reskilling by 2025, he said.

M Masrur Reaz, chairman of the Policy Exchange, presented the keynote paper.

Improving the quality of jobs available should be given more importance, considering Bangladesh's aim to reach upper-middle-income status in the near future, he said.

Due to the ongoing pandemic, global economic growth fell by about 4.4 per cent this year while 50 per cent of all small and medium enterprises are struggling to survive.

Lower-middle-income countries were hit hard by the Covid-19, resulting in the loss of roughly 240 million jobs worldwide in the second quarter of 2020, Reaz said.

Md Ashadul Islam, senior secretary of the Financial Institutions Division at the Ministry of Finance, said the government tried to sustain normal economic activities amid the coronavirus outbreak.

"Still, we are going through the pandemic. Growth without employment generation will not be sustainable. Therefore, the government is prioritising skill training with an enabling environment," he said.

Dulal Krishna Saha, executive chairman of the National Skills Development Authority, said the country needs hard, soft and human skills.

Non-governmental organisations and other private sector entities should come forward with skill development programmes, he added.

Sudipto Mukerjee, the resident representative of the UNDP Bangladesh, called for inclusive and equal growth in Bangladesh.

"Soft skills need to be adopted," he said, adding that ensuring vocational and technical training alongside improved education and job quality is important.

Terming Bangladesh's youth to be very creative, he stressed on the need for greater digital literacy. 

Tuomo Poutiainen, country director for the International Labour Organisation, underscored the need for a framed job strategy.

Bold actions need to be taken to generate a skilled workforce and grab hold of the future job market. The private sector needs to work horizontally with the government and other stakeholders, he said.

Poutiainen also stressed on the need for innovation and entrepreneurship development as well as business management training courses.

Yasir Azman, chief executive officer of Grameenphone, said the country's youth has potential.

"We need to ignite and encourage the youth to face the challenges of future robotics," he added.


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