‘Hunarmand Jawan Programme’: Right Step, but will it be sufficient?

The ‘Hunermand Jawan' programme will be the country's largest skill development programme aimed at the economic emancipation of youth by providing them quality professional training. The programme costing Rs30 billion will facilitate youth through easy loans, professional capacity-building, start-ups and internships.

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Prime Minister Imran Khan launched the ‘Hunarmand Jawan’ Programme in Islamabad on Thursday. The programme costing Rs30 billion will facilitate youth through easy loans, professional capacity-building, start-ups and internships.

The ‘Hunermand Jawan’ programme will be the country’s largest skill development programme aimed at the economic emancipation of youth by providing them quality professional training.

The programme will be executed by National Vocational & Technical Training Commission (NAVTTC), under which more than 170,000 Pakistan youth will directly benefit from skill training and certification.

The prime minister also said that more money will be allocated for this programme in the future and it will be ensured that Pakistan’s youth has the skills required to work hard and secure their better future.

NAVTTC’s plan is overarching and ambitious – perhaps too ambitious given the country’s past track record of performance. Along with traditional trades, training in high-tech technologies (artificial intelligence, robotics, automation, etc.) is being offered for the first time in the history of the country.

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Describing the Hunarmand Programme, the prime minister said that his government is actively working to revive dormant industries and to provide youth with modern skills.

“I believe barkat has not come to this country because a small number of people kept becoming richer while everyone else suffered. This is not how enlightened societies work. In such societies equal opportunities are given to everyone. What is the American dream model? It ensures that anyone who works hard will be able to lift themselves up and create a better future for themselves.”

The program includes development & standardization of 200 technical & vocational education & training (TVET) qualifications (through certification) and international accreditation of 50 Pakistani TVET institutes.

Read more: PTI launches Pakistan’s largest ever skill development program

Initiation of Joint Degree Programs with reputed international TVET Institutes is also being envisaged. Under the “Hunarmand Jawan” (Skilled Youth) program, smart classrooms will be established for distance learning, and technical and vocational training facilities will be created in Madrassas.

“Under this programme, we initially aim to train 500,000 youth. One thing that I am very proud of is that the first 70 skill centres we create will be in madarssahs, so that the children who have always been neglected are able to acquire skills that will help them step up in the real world. I am proud of my government for being the first to work for these youth, no one has ever done that before..” said the Prime Minister.

A much-needed initiative is being planned to enhance the expertise of the Pakistani workforce heading to international markets – primarily GCC countries, where around 5 million Pakistanis already work. So “Country Specific Facilitation Centers” (For example, Saudi Arabia, UAE, Qatar) are being planned.

In the initial phase, 10 such “Destination Specific” facilitation centers are being established to impart country-specific skills to maximize the export of skilled workforce.

Business Incubation Centres (BICs) will also be established to develop entrepreneurial skills in youth, and National Youth Exchange will be established to facilitate youth in accessing latest job opportunities and skills acquired in the informal (Ustaad-Shaagird – Teacher-Pupil) mode will be certified for 50,000 applicants through “Recognition of Prior Learning (RPL)” to enhance their employability.

The Prime Minister detailed the RS7 billion for the Utility Store Network  that will ensure people are given quality rations in affordable prices. Furthermore, the programme is developing a group of langars (soup kitchens) to ensure that no one in the country goes hungry, as he said.

Read more: PM Khan approves RS 100bn towards Pakistani Youth

NAVTTC, under its Chairman Syed Javed Hassan and Executive Director, Dr. Nasir Khan are making all-out efforts to enhance the capacity, quality, and relevance of Pakistani technical and vocational training system.

The country in the past has seen more emphasis on university degrees and less on skill development – and in areas of technical training, the focus remained on quantity rather than quality.

Now at least the goal is to produce quality training – at par with the international standards. The government’s plan makes perfect sense; multi-dimensional skill development on the scale as being envisaged can be a game-changer for Pakistan.

The programme, given its ambitious nature, may experience a range of challenges as the country has had limited success in this area and it will require a lot of resources in terms of finances and management, both.

Apparently, less than Rs10 billion have been earmarked for NAVTTC, which will be clearly insufficient – and parallel funding from different national and international sources will be required.

Also, reaching out to small and medium businesses, media, and the public at large with exact communication will be a challenge. But then it is said: Journey of a thousand miles begins with one single step.

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