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NLC Seminar: Pakistan urgently needs market driven skills

GVS News Desk |

Islamabad – The speakers, at an international seminar on Enabling Employment, have stressed the need for improved liaison between Pakistan’s industry and its colleges and universities. They stressed a revision of national curriculum on skill education placing a clear focus on job placement. Speakers, from Pakistan and abroad, suggested the creation of a platform to assist the government in policy formulation so that jobs can be created for the burgeoning youth of the country.

This Seminar was organized by National Logistics Cell (NLC), on April 4, in collaboration with the Ministry of Overseas Pakistanis and Human Development at Aiwan-e-Sadr (Presidency) in Islamabad on Thursday. Industry leaders & Associations, representatives of chambers of commerce, policy makers, national and international donors and experts on skill education, from several countries, attended the Seminar.

The participants, in the first two sessions of this day-long seminar, tried identifying the gaps in current professional education and vocational training and they discussed what markets and employers demand from colleges and universities. In the third session, they tried analyzing what kind of policy reforms may be needed in Pakistan for capacity building.

President Alvi Surprises the Participants

Dr. Arif Alvi, President of Pakistan, was the chief guest on the occasion. He surprised many in his audience, by his level of awareness and knowledge of the issue.

Addressing the participants he said that universities need to focus on conducting practical research in order to create job opportunities while they must also streamline their degree programs and courses in line with the requirements of the job market. “There is a critical need for research in universities. NAVTTC (National Vocational & Training Commission) and TEVTA (Technical Education & Vocational Training Authority) are performing their roles to meet the industrial needs of the country,” he said.

Noting that he was the chancellor of some 25 universities across the country, he said that he will call a meeting of universities and ask their administrations to ensure that graduates with their degrees are employable so that they can easily become a part of the job market. “The information technology industry has seen great development over the past two decades. We need to take our students towards innovation and teach them courses which will help them in employment,” he said, adding that the world is now moving towards artificial intelligence – according to a press release by NLC.

Pakistan Expecting Investments in the Technology Sector

Zulfi Bukhari PM’s Special Assistant for Overseas Pakistanis Syed Zulfiqar Bukhari said that Pakistan is a country with a critical problem of employment. “It is rare that a country continues to see unemployment with the passage of time but Pakistan has suffered this phase,” he said, as he went on to term unemployment a social problem which causes depression amongst the youth. Previous governments focused on infrastructure but unemployment could not be reduced, he noted, adding that the PTI was not against infrastructure development but believes that human development is a far better a choice than infrastructure development.

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“In the coming times, the government plans to bring unemployment to under 4.5%,” he said and warned that they will have to suffer more unemployment in the future if this issue is not addressed. Heads of several countries have visited our country and Pakistan is soon expected to get a large amount of investment in the technology sector, Bukhari said as he lamented a dearth of technical universities in Pakistan when compared to other countries. Pakistan is rich with resources for tourism and great employment opportunities can be generated from this sector, he suggested. “There are countries which make over 10% of their gross domestic product (GDP) from tourism alone.

We also need to promote the tourism sector of the country,” he said. Mr. Bukhari said “no one from outside Pakistan will develop Pakistan. Pakistan will have to be developed by Pakistani themselves”.

NLC has Trained 56,000 Young in Technical Skills

DG NLC Earlier, in his opening remarks, Director General NLC Maj Gen Muhammad Asim Iqbal highlighted the role of National Logistics Cell (NLC) in promoting skill and vocational education. He said that NLC was running five technical institutes in the country and has so far trained 56000 youth from across the country.

He pointed out that due to the disconnect between academia and industry, even skilled workers were finding it hard to get employment. On the other hand, the industry is faced with a severe shortfall of suitable tradesmen. “The lopsided issue of demand and supply at the industry level is primarily due to noncompatible curricula, limited training infrastructure, inadequate skills of teaching staff, lack of interface between industry and academia”, he said. DG NLC said that the challenge was both qualitative and quantitative adding that, technical and vocational education does not meet international standards.

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In order to make skill development responsive to the need of the market, the entire system of technical and vocational education requires urgent overhauling. “We can emulate or even customize successful models and international best practices being followed by developed countries and successful economies,” he added. Sayed Zulfiqar Abbas Bukhari, Special Assistant to PM on Overseas Pakistanis & Human Development, Lieutenant General Khalid Asghar (Retd) Rector National University for Technology (NuTech), Mr. Andrew Baird, President & CEO Education for Employment (EFE) USA, Prof  Dr. Murtaza Jafferi Head of NCA,  Dr. Nadeem ul Haque, former Executive VC PIDE, Romy Hawatt, CEO Founder RIANA Group UAE, Harvey John Bennett, Chief Strategic Officer & Founder Searchie and other renowned speakers addressed the seminar. Discussions were moderated by Dr. Moeed Pirzada, prominent TV anchor and Ms. Aniqa Nisar, also a TV anchor. President of Pakistan, Dr. Arif Alvi was the chief guest of the seminar.

The speakers discussed challenge and opportunities posed by the growing population of the country. They said that the youth bulge can be “youth dividend” and has the potential to turn the socio-economic conditions of Pakistan if provided relevant skills through training as required by employers and the market. The experts opined that new technologies are fast emerging and so are the modes of knowledge delivery. Low skill workers face the threat of irrelevance due to the emergence of new technologies and ideas which invariably changes the production techniques. At the same time, new technologies create new jobs in other industries which require skills of a different kind.

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They said that the shelf life of a particular skill in present-day age is less than five years. The existing education system is not responsive to the high-productivity demand due to the introduction of new technologies. They lamented that trainers in technical institutes teach what they know and not which the students require to learn. The inertia and complacency in the teaching system are responsible for skills mismatch and widening gulf between the world of learning and the world of work which needs to be bridged. The speakers highlighted the need for the development of a culture of vocational and technical training in Pakistan.

They were of the opinion that low social esteem and inadequate remuneration force people to opt for other formal education which in most cases has no relevance or demand in the job market. In their view, Pakistan has come out of a hard time with an improvement in law and order situation and it was necessary to make skill education a national agenda for arresting growing employment.  There was unanimity of views on the creation of policy formulation forum to assist the government in chalking out a strategy for human resource capital on a sustainable basis.