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Skills development for inclusive and sustainable growth – M Zafar Khan Safdar


M Zafar Khan Safdar |

Akin to democracy, free markets, freedom of the press and universal human rights, education is one of those subjects whose virtue is considered self-evident. In industrially advanced states, education has become an extension of the capitalist system. In other words, the purpose of education is to provide for the economic prosperity of a country.

Similarly on a personal level today the purpose of education is to be able to earn a respectable living. All plans for improving our education will totally be futile unless they are based on a full understanding of this key reality. This requires revamping our curricula, re-writing our textbooks, re-training our teachers, and realizing that we do all these things ourselves.

The estimates from the Bureau of Labor Statistics Multifactor Productivity Program (USA) suggest that educational attainment may not be as important for economic growth as a focus on education and skills implies.

The youth of Pakistan today face serious challenges regarding skills and jobs, challenges fundamentally different from those their parents faced. In the globalized economy, competition has become intensified among offices, firms and industries in developing and developed states alike, requiring their workers to have higher levels of skills to enable them to engage in innovation, improve the quality of services, and increase efficiency in their production processes or even to the point of improving the whole value chain process.

Rapid technological change demands a greater intensity of knowledge and skills in producing, applying and diffusing technologies. In turn, all these have changed the nature, contents, and types of skills that industry demands. As a result, most states recently moved to reform their education systems, to upgrade the skills of their workforces.

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The challenges are greater for developing countries like Pakistan, which have long suffered from a shortage of skilled labor. The world today needs more skilled workers to compete in attracting foreign direct investment, as it is a viable strategy for bringing advanced technologies to their domestic industries, expanding their foreign trade, and thereby boosting industrial and economic development.

Whereas on the other hand, Pakistan is still lagging behind in sustainable growth through skill development. Skill development includes apprenticeship training, vocational education, industrial arts, technical education, technological-vocational education, occupational education, vocational education and training, and career and technical education. Skills development is key in stimulating a sustainable development process and can make a contribution to facilitating the transition from the informal to the formal economy.

Greater access to credit, exemptions on import duty on training equipment by certified institutions and agencies could be offered as incentives.

Skills development is also essential to address the opportunities and challenges to meet new demands of changing economies and new technologies. The principles and values of decent work provide guidance for the design and delivery of skills development and are an effective way of efficiently managing socially just transitions.

Weighing skill development and education as important and comparing for the functioning and growth of the economy with other factors that influence the growth of GDP gives surprising results. The estimates from the Bureau of Labor Statistics Multifactor Productivity Program (USA) suggest that educational attainment may not be as important for economic growth as a focus on education and skills implies.

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According to AR Kemal (PIDE) “there has been a general neglect of the human resource development, Pakistan manifested in low Human Development Index, the skill development has been most neglected. Pakistan has neither been able to improve vocational and job skills nor could inculcate the creative and cognitive skills and the personal and social skills resulting in loss of output, exports and employment and slow growth of living standards”.

Various factors have contributed towards the neglect which includes among others inward-looking policies with little emphasis on quality products, focus on primitive technologies and choice of economic activities and the limited supply of skilled workers. If Pakistan is to survive and prosper under the competitive conditions of the global economy then it must move into more technology and knowledge-based products where global growth is concentrated.

Adequate institutional arrangements should be made for maintaining the quality and standardization of various formal and non-formal skill development programmes in Pakistan.

The Medium Term Development Framework calls for diversification of GDP towards high value-added manufacturing and sophisticated services and the need for skilled, therefore, workers are imminent. In the absence of trained manpower, the producers would make stop-gap arrangements leading to sub-optimal decisions and low levels of productivity.

The government must boost skills development at the workplace and along value chains, help manage global drivers of change, allow early identification of current and future skills needs to feed national and sectoral development strategies, link education, skills development, labor market entry and lifelong learning, and promote social inclusion by extending access to education and training for those who are disadvantaged in society.

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In the 21st century as science progresses towards a better understanding of the minuscule, that is, genes, nano-particles, bits and bytes and neurons, knowledge domains and skill domains also multiply and become more and more complex. To cope with this level of complexity the government must give high priority to higher technical education by launching a National Skill Development Mission dispensed to bring a paradigm change in the handling of skill development programmes and initiatives.

The private sector should be encouraged to expand its involvement in the field of vocational and technical training. Greater access to credit, exemptions on import duty on training equipment by certified institutions and agencies could be offered as incentives.

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It is important however to ensure proper regulation through the determination of appropriate levels of fees, conduct of proper examinations and establishment of proper certification procedures. Adequate institutional arrangements should be made for maintaining the quality and standardization of various formal and non-formal skill development programmes in Pakistan.

M Zafar Khan Safdar is Ph.D. in Political Science. His area of specialization is political development and social change. He can be reached at zafarkhansafdar@yahoo.com and tweet@zafarkhansafdar.The Views expressed in this article are author’s own and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Global Village Space.

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