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Skills for All – A National Imperative for Pakistan where Youth is mainly Ignored

Chairman National Vocational & Technical Training Commission explicates on the urgent need to expand the existing technical and vocational education and training infrastructure. Crucially he argues that Pakistan’s private sector can play a catalytic role in ensuring the correct design and delivery of such programs to enhance workplace productivity in the industry as well as creating employment opportunities.


More than 60% of Pakistan’s population of 210 million is below the age of 35. If trained and skilled to participate in domestic and international skilled labor markets, this youth bulge can enhance the nation’s industrial productivity, competitiveness, domestic production, and exports, as well as significantly boost inflows of foreign remittances.

However, the population dividend will not last forever, and if left unskilled and not economically engaged, they are likely to add to the depressing statistics of growing numbers of those engulfed in poverty. Even more ominously some of them could turn to anti-social activities. The country must take advantage of the window of opportunity provided by its greatest asset that is its youth.

Numerous examples across the globe, including both developed and emerging markets economies, have demonstrated that Technical and Vocational Education and Training (TVET) offers the shortest and swiftest path to productive youth engagement. It is estimated that less 52 percent of the workforce in the USA, 68 percent in the UK, 75 percent in Germany, 80 percent in Japan and 96 percent in South Korea has undergone formal skill training.

In comparison, less than 5 percent have undergone similar training in Pakistan. This reflects the fact that in Pakistan the TVET sector has until recently largely been ignored, with paltry investment coming from both the public and private sectors. It suffers from limited training capacity, outdated workshops and laboratories, obsolete training equipment, archaic teaching methods, and antiquated curricula, and therefore has been unable to meet the skill training needs of domestic and international markets, both in terms of quantity and quality.

A partnership between industry and institution is beneficial in terms of employability, enhanced workplace productivity, and enterprise competitiveness, and therefore translate into overall socio-economic development.

There are an estimated 1.8 million new labor market entrants each year. Add to that approximately 3 million youths who are not captured in the formal schooling, but nevertheless need to be trained if the nation is to fully take advantage of the demographic dividend. Therefore, skills development capacity for approximately 3 million trainees is required even if we preclude youth entering into other avenues of tertiary education.

Against this urgent requirement, there are only an estimated 400,000 training places available in 3,740 training institutes with 18,000 trained teachers in the formal TVET sector. If the entire cohort of 3 million youth were to be provided skills training based on traditional training methodology, it would require at least 45,000 further training institutes and 200,000 more TVET teachers to be inducted into the system.

The urgency of the requirement of revamping the TVET sector and financial constraints calls for innovative methodologies of delivering skills training as well as multiple sources of funding. Some of the urgent measures that could significantly enhance TVET training capacity in a relatively short period could be achieved without requiring expanding the existing infrastructure.

This is already envisaged in the “Skills for All” strategy that is the government’s policy framework to skill the youth of Pakistan such that they are able to get gainful employment and actively participate in society.

These initiatives include optimizing the utilization of existing facilities, for example, Double Shift Training Programmes; enhancing Role of Private Schooling Systems in TVET sector; engaging universities into TVET System for high-end technologies; implementation of Apprenticeship Laws across the country; implementing the System of Recognition of Prior Learning (RPL); introducing distance/online Learning Systems for Freelancing etc.

Exploring public-private Partnerships for training opportunities as well as setting-up vocational workshops /institutes in Madaris would also play a critical role in the capacity enhancement and ensure participation of youth from all segments of society.

Read more: Mahira Khan becomes a part of Pakistan’s National Youth Council

While the above proposals will help alleviate the capacity constraint in the short-term, given the scale of the challenge, there is a need to invest in expanding the existing TVET infrastructure. The current training capacity is not only insufficient in terms of capacity but also limited in terms of providing the quality of training that national and international job markets require.

Several hundred billion rupees of investment is envisaged to be the required investment over a number of years. While the government must play a critical catalytic role in providing enabling impetus, there is also an urgent need for the productive and meaningful involvement of the private sector in meeting the challenge.

Youth

Active involvement of industry in design, delivery and placement of graduates benefits not only in provision of employable skills to the youth, but it also boosts industry to be more productive, competitive and efficient. In countries like Germany, the United Kingdom and Australia, the entire TVET system is owned, managed and propelled by their industry.

This happens due to a realization of skilled workers as the most important instruments of increased productivity, industrial efficiency and quality assurance of their products. In order to help develop a similar ecosystem in Pakistan the government at both the federal and provincial levels could explore possibilities for public-private partnerships in setting up industry-based TVET institutes that could be jointly operated/managed by industry and government.

In the South Asian context, countries such as India, Sri Lanka, and Nepal have made significant strides in terms of revamping their respective TVET systems with an enhanced focus on industry engagement and resultantly have moved from the old traditional supply-led system to a demand-oriented Competency-Based Training (CBT) mode. The demand-driven system ensures systematic and institutional engagement of industry in the overall TVET system through varied platforms.

Youth

Pakistan’s current government in consultation with industry is now rolling out CBT as part of recently introduced National Vocational Qualifications Framework (NVQF) and other industry-led initiatives. The focus is to shift training from an overwhelmingly supply-driven approach to being demand-driven with strong involvement of the formal private sector. It will in due course be for employers to identify and help design courses to provide skills and knowledge that they would readily employ.

A partnership between industry and institution is beneficial in terms of employability, enhanced workplace productivity, and enterprise competitiveness, and therefore translate into overall socio-economic development. Foreign Remittances have remained one of the main planks of Pakistan’s economy, and the steady flow of highly skilled Pakistani workforce is essential not only for the sustainability of remittances but also for optimizing the benefits of this precious stream of foreign exchange for the country.

The government is determined to make the aspiration of Kamyab Jawan a reality and therefore create an eco-system that leads to the provision of high-quality skills training as required by industries in the various sectors of the economy.

Accruing benefits to Pakistani youth from gainful employment in the international market is another pressing reason for focusing on imparting appropriate skills to youth for the international labor market. However, the majority of Pakistani youth work in the international markets as unskilled workers and earn less than a third of what a skilled worker earns.

Moreover, due to the increasing demand for a highly skilled workforce in the international market, we are rapidly trailing behind our international competitors. It is therefore essential to establish a robust TVET institutional mechanism which is not only capable of producing skilled workforce in accordance with international standards but is also adequately resilient and adept to constantly update itself in consonance with the demands of the international job market.

The country today has a government under the leadership of Prime Minister Imran Khan that is cognizant of these challenges as well as the opportunity that the youthful population offers and designing innovative strategies for its employability, entrepreneurship, and civic participation. To make policymaking representative and inclusive of youth’s voices, the Prime Minister has constituted a National Youth Council, comprising youth from all four provinces, federal regions and a wide cross-section of society.

The Council will serve as a ‘shadow cabinet’, advising the Government on pro-youth policymaking. The Prime Minister’s Office has also launched a first-ever National Youth Development Framework and the Prime Minister’s Kamyab Jawan: National Youth Development Programme as the Government’s youth-centered national vision and action plan.

Youth

The Programme envisions three critical investments that Pakistan can and must make for its progress:

1) Quality Education

2) Gainful Employment

3) Meaningful Engagement

With these three ‘Es’ are identified strategic investments in six thematic areas to be executed through collaborative action by the Federal and Provincial Governments under the Programme:

1) Mainstreaming of Marginalised Youth

2) Economic Empowerment

3) Civic Engagement

4) Social Protection

5) Health & Wellbeing. and

6) Youth-focused Institutional Reforms.

Read more: Kamyab Jawan: A New Stratagem towards entitling our Youth and Women

The government is determined to make the aspiration of Kamyab Jawan a reality and therefore create an eco-system that leads to the provision of high-quality skills training as required by industries in the various sectors of the economy. This will generate a virtuous cycle of investments, job opportunities, employment, tax collection/remittances, prosperity, and thereby more investment in skills training.

It is only through such a concerted effort that it will be possible to fulfill the youth’s enormous potential and contribute towards the development of Naya Pakistan.

Javed Hassan is Chairman National Vocational & Technical Training Commission (NAVTTC). He is a graduate of Imperial College London and an MBA from London Business School. He was earlier investment banker who has worked in London, Hong Kong, and Karachi. He tweets as @javedhassan. The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Global Village Space.

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