Monday, October 24, 2005

Skill Development

Reducing gaps in skills development

By Muhammad Alamgir Chaudhary
THE twenty-first century witnesses a new global economy dominated by emerging technologies and skills. It is knowledge-based economy. Unfortunately, the importance of skill development has been ignored by our entrepreneurs, particularly the small and medium enterprises (SMEs) and the government. Many of the large enterprises including multinationals in our country have established their own training/skills development facilities.
The SMEs usually cannot afford and find it financially unviable to have such facilities. Their source of intake (skilled workers) is mainly dependent on traditional ‘ustad-shagird’ approach or public sector institutions. Unfortunately, skill development has not been recognized as a competitive tool.
The skill development programmes are mainly offered in the public sector and hardly any in the private sector. Public sector institutes merely offer market driven skills development programmes.
These institutes offer programmes mainly in the civil, electrical and mechanical fields. Now, when new technologies have emerged and new SME clusters established in different locations, there is a strong case for conducting a comprehensive skills development need identification survey.(SDI).
Curricula are not designed and prepared to meet the requirement of industry. The standardization and uniformity are the major issues. The language of the curricula is mainly the English and concept of curriculum for different levels i.e. certificate, diploma and degree does not prevail. The competency based - curriculum may be developed covering the need identification, design, development, implementation and follow-up (continuous improvement) phases.
The active involvement of stakeholders including Chambers of Commerce and Industry (CCI), trade associations (TAs), key industrial players and SMEs in conducting survey and curriculum development is very critical.
There is a severe shortage of skilled manpower and to fill the demand supply gap, sector specific SDIs are desperately needed. A few examples for such SDIs to be established are as follow:
Citrus Research and Training Institute (Sargodha); Sports Goods Training Institute (Sialkot); Light Engineering Training Institute (Gujranwala/Gujrat); Model Mining & Quarry Training Institute (Gaddani/Balochistan) and (Buner/NWFP); Composite Material Training Institute (Lahore); Mobile Phone Repair Training Institute (Lahore); Construction Industry Training Institute (Lahore, Karachi and other main cities); Wooden Furniture Training Institute (Chiniot); Marble Finishing and Processing Institute (Rawalpindi); Ginning Training Institute (Multan, R.Y.Khan, Khanewal and Ghotki); Sheep and Goat Farming, (D.G.Khan and Bahawalpur); Dates Research and Training Institute ( Muzaffar Garh).
The following skills development institutes have become either defunct or underutilized due to various reasons including management issues, obsolete technology, HR constraints, etc:* Institute of Ceramic Institute (Gujrat); Cutlery Institute (Sialkot Road, Wazirabad); Leather Service Center (Kasur); Light Engineering Service Centre (Gujranwala); Metal Industry Development Centre (MIDC) (Sialkot); Blue Pottery Institute (Multan); Mango Institute (Shujabad); National Institute of Leather Technology (Karachi); Leather Footwear Centre (Hyderabad); Automotive Testing & Testing Centre (Karachi); Gems & Jewelry Training Institute (Karachi); Pak-Holland Metal Project (Peshawar); Pak-German Wood Working Centre (Peshawar); Leather & Footwear Institute (Charsadah).
Earlier some institutes were established in different locations because of the presence of relevant clusters but now those clusters have been relocated. For example, at the time of Independence leather tanneries were located in Gujranwala but now these are relocated in Sialkot and Kasur. Similarly, cluster of citrus has shifted from Sahiwal to Sargodha.
The following training institutes may be relocated accordingly:* Institute of Leather Technology (ILT) from Gujranwala to Sialkot; Citrus Research Centre—- from Sahiwal to Sargodha; and the Centre for Agricultural Machinery Industry (CAMI)— from Mian Channu to Daska
The graduates of SDIs usually lack in practical skills. There is no linkage between SDIs and industry whereas in developed countries these institutes conduct R&D activities on behalf of industry and students complete their OJT in industry. SDIs must arrange OJT for their students and it should be part of their course work. This will help them in acquiring new skills as per industrial requirement and hence reducing skills gaps.
Skills development programmes in rural areas can help reducing poverty, employment generation and stop migration to urban areas. The vocational skills should be carefully selected so that these meet the regional markets and culture.
Initially those skills may be selected which need lesser marketing efforts for enterprise development. Based on experience, in some rural area development programmes by NGOs and international organizations, the following skills development initiatives can be started: artificial insemination (animal); honey beekeeping; electricians; auto mechanics; sheep and goat farming; fish farming; off-season vegetable production and, floriculture
Hardly any link exists between research institutions and SDIs, therefore, the research conducted fails to create the expected impact. Recently, the Federal Minister For Industries, Production and Special Initiatives, Mr Jahangir Tareen asked SMEDA to prepare sector development strategy for seven priority sectors including, sports goods, gems and jewellery, marble and granite, engineering, agro-food processing and dairy, furniture and fisheries.
During the study, skill development gap is being identified as a critical factor across these sectors. The outcome of these sectoral studies should be implemented by the SDIs to create positive impact.
Under WTO regime, SMEs are facing lot of challenges including free flow of raw materials, borderless trades, no protection to local industry, higher technology, zero subsidy etc.
The skilled and knowledge based workforce, which is the prerequisite for accelerated growth of economy, would only be the competitive tool for SMEs to survive. Not so many organizations / institutes have tried trained/skilled workforce as a competitive tool which is the source of higher quality and improved productivity.
In the budget 2004-2005, the government has announced lucrative incentives for private sector to establish vocational, technical or polytechnic institutions. It has announced a National Technical Education and Vocational Training Authority.
Punjab Vocational Training Council (PVTC) and Technical Education and Vocational Training Authority (TEVTA) were established by the Government of Punjab in 1998. PVTC is imparting employable skills to ‘mustahqeen’ with the prime objective of poverty alleviation. TEVTA is a nice concept of bringing more than 400 training institutes under one umbrella earlier working with seven different departments. TEVTA is still undergoing restructuring process which may take longer time before the original dream becomes true.
The Pakistan National Accreditation Council (PNAC) and National Productivity Organization (NPO) are also providing support to SDIs. They have the capacity to assume bigger role. To meet the need of local engineering industry training facilities of plastic moulds have been established at Pakistan Industrial Technical Centre (PITAC) with financial and technical support of JICA. National Training Bureau (NTB) Skills Development Councils (SDCs) can also help to meet WTO challenges by improving the standards of our existing skills levels.
Technical Up-gradation and Skills Development Company (TUSDEC) has been created by the Ministry of Industries, Production & Special Initiatives, as an implementing institution to fulfil the aim of upgrading technology and developing skills in industrial sectors. TUSDEC will promote technologies which would (i) increase competitiveness, (ii) enhance value addition, (iii) leverage existing skills, and (iv) employ locally available raw materials.
The government function should not be limited just to provide financial resources for the establishment of infrastructure. The support must be extended until organizations become stable and mature. In many cases the government initiatives collapsed just because of lack of support. Making institutions consume scarce resources of developing countries, maximum benefits should be extracted out of these facilities.
Recommendations: the government may assume the new role of facilitator rather than direct provider of the services; national need identification survey for skills development may be conducted; need-based curricula be designed and implemented; sector-specific institutes be established; relocation of training facilities as per current need; PVTC and TEVTA be replicated in other provinces; skill development programmes be started for rural enterprise; skilled workforce be used as competitive tool; government SDIs should offer need-based programmes; compulsory OJT for graduates of SDIs; close coordination between SDIs and industry; Close coordination between SDIs and research institutes and, GoP may bring a new national training policy.
(Source: Dawn, October 24, 2005)

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