Strengthen skill development activity to succeed in a post-coronavirus world

Md Abul Kalam Azad

From December 30 of 2019 till first half of May more than 3 lakh Expatriates have come back from different parts of the world specially from Middle east. A good number are in the pipeline and we do not know how long the line is. 

Will it be only from Middle East or from other parts of the globe too?  Can we enjoy the demographic dividend following the corona crisis? What would be workforce demand in New Normal after the coronavirus pandemic. How do we need to prepare?

 We have about 13 million expatriate in 174 countries of which lion's share live in the Middle East. We know, now the whole globe is trembling with corona, only USA is about to cross 1,00,000 with a global toll of more than 315K. When it will stop, where it will take us none knows. 

Sometimes fact is more unbelievable than fiction. Who in this world would imagine that USA would loss more its citizen in home then the Vietnam War? Will there be a second wave? Third wave?

This is sure, unimaginable number of jobless will emerge, which already started; along with corona lock down many production process stopped; only in USA 36m People filed application for unemployment claim. 

Except USA and few others, a good number of countries developed a mechanism that the companies will pay salary to the workers up to August or September and government will reimburse them. USA government gave financial support direct to the jobless citizens. 

Bangladesh government worked in both the way direct cash support of 2500 taka each for 5 million jobless informal sector, food support for 12.5 million poor families and 5000 crore taka financial package for the industries of RMG sector to pay the wages at a nominal rate of interest. Only food and direct financial support covers about half of its 160 million people.

If we consider our expatriate worker, first hit of joblessness is for unskilled and semi-skilled workers. Take the case of Middle East, oil price is going minus, Dubai market is almost close, Emirates suspended all its passenger flights, uncertainty of Hajj this year brings a special and challenging situation. For all these reason, present demand of manpower is decreased in the Middle East. 

For closer of almost all economic activities except agriculture, a huge number of industry and production process will close Sine die, they will fight with bankruptcy. Some scientists predict that Corona will continue to be devastating at least 2-3 years and with this view economists estimate that impact of corona will be long lasting.

After corona in New Normal situation so many industries will come out of China; Japan and Korea already started to find new destination for investment, many new gazette and equipment will be required for health and wellbeing. After 2007-2008 recession in general carbon emission dropped sharply but in some area production was boost up at a higher rate.  

So far we understand in New Normal Situation global demand will not be the same, more Artificial Intelligence will be introduced in repeated production process, capital market will be restructured, new production culture will be there. It is predicted that future job opportunity is for more health profession and care giver, IT and AI based Management, Accounting and also in big Data, Internet of things (IoT) block chain etc. 

Along with others, Pharmaceuticals and health profession will be on prime focus. How much we are preparing for the above mentioned New Normal? How to stop the wave of return of expatriates? What we need to do with the returned expatriates? Answer is very difficult and preparation would be equally robust and challenging.

We have in last few years structured our organisational arrangements to boost up our skill development activities. National skill Development Authority (NSDA), Skill for Employment Investment Program (SEIP) project in Finance Ministry, National Human Resource Development Fund (NHRDF), Skill Training by different Ministry, formation of a GO-NGO-DP backed platform on skill 'Generation Unlimited' (GenU); some are in place and ongoing.

NSDA organized as many as 13 Industrial Skill Council (ISC) led by private sector namely Agro food, Ceramics, Construction, Furniture, Informal sector, ICT, Leather and leather goods, Light Engineering, Pharmaceuticals, Ready Made Garments & Textile, Tourism and Hospitality, Creative Media, and Jute sector. 

In the meantime ISCs have formulated 19 professional standard basing on the needs of the market and prepared training materials.  Skill Development Authority formulated guide line and standard for the training institutes. They have formulated accreditation Guidelines, standard for Technical Training Institute and standard Curricula. In the meantime NSDA gave registration to 16 Institute to run Skill Course and 43 Institutes will get registration soon. 

To popularize different skills among the youths, NSDA took initiative for National Skill Competition which is now stopped for Corona. Last year Bangladesh participated for the first time World Skill Competition held in Kazan, Russia and performed well in fashion and Patisserie & Confectionary. We received ‘Best of Nation Award’ for better participation and performance. 

Bureau of Manpower, Employment and Training (BMET) have 70 Technical Training Centre (TTC) all over the country and 40 TTC are under construction with a target to establish another 60 for skill training for the migrant workers. They run 55 category of training courses including Ship Fabrication, Auto Mechanic, Graphic Design, Civil Construction, Consumer Electronics, RMG related skill, Welding, Plastic skill, Food and Food Processing. 

They have partnership with UK, Australia, China, Korea, Singapore, Japan and so many to maintain quality training and placement. Only in 2017-2018 they trained about 15 Lakh People in short and long course. In 2019 BMET conducted pre departure training for expatriate workers including House Aid for about 6 lakh person. In their own training centers (TTC) they can train 4.54 lakh persons every year which needs to be enhanced with participation of private sector. 

For self-employment and catering the local needs, Youth Development Department, Social Welfare Department,Technical Training Institute both private and public, different NGO including BRAC, UCEP train a huge number of people.

On the other hand Skill for Employment Investment Program (SEIP) a project under Finance Ministry started its Journey in 2014 and now working with nine priority sector with a target to train 8,41,680 person by 2024. Skill Gap analysis was done by Bangladesh Institute of Development Studies (BIDS) and they identified these nine sectors. 

Priority sectors are ICT, Garments and Textile, Leather and Footwear, Construction, Light Engineering, Ship building, Agro processing, Tourism and hospitality and Nursing, Care giver and health technology. Along with these nine, later on Motor driving with basic maintenance and Renewable Energy are added. In the mean time they trained 46,320 drivers. Under SEIP project trainee are selected from disadvantaged group. 

Comprehensive SEIP project has been working with an object of market responsive training with quality. Mid and higher level managerial training for migrant workers and re skilling in host country is also important part of SEIP. One of the bright examples of SEIP training is that they trained international standard Welder, certified by International renowned Certified Organization and almost all of them now working out of the country with high salary. 

So far SEIP project trained about 3,80,000 person in different trade and 72% of them have been employed. They have a target to develop 130 Competency Standards (CS), Competency Based Learning Materials (CBLM) and assessment tool. 

Through British Council and others, so far SEIP developed 87 CS, 60 CBLM and 85 assessment tools and Assessment guide. SEIP is closely working with ISCs, BGMEA, BKMEA, Women Chamber, PKSF and other organization to develop PPP in skill development. For quality training they developed 376 Master Trainer and 2573 trainer in different trade.

 Government created ‘National Human Resource Development Fund’ (NHRDF) participated by government, private sector and Development Partners (DPs) under Ministry of Finance. To be more dynamic this fund will function as ‘Not for profit’ company under respective law of the country.  

 This is premature to forecast and comment on future needs of manpower globally after Covid-19 but we can understand huge opportunity in investment in 100 Economic Zone and about two and half dozen Hi-Tech Park, new sector like Research and development in Pharmaceuticals, Healthy housing, Health City, Nursing, Caregiver, health related other industry, IT, Robotics, Block Chain, Internet of Things (IoT) etc would be area of importance. 

Our huge Economic Zones and Hi-Tech parks have started their journey to establish different category of heavy and Hi-Tech industries and projected to employ about 10 Million people by 2030. All above diverse skill including managerial skills would attract both FDI and local investment.

(To be continued) 

Md Abul Kalam Azad is Former Principal Coordinator (SDG) and Former Principal Secretary