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23 October, 2018 10:47:25 AM

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Equipping the workforce with necessary skills

Academic qualifications do not always accurately describe the qualification-holder’s level of practical skills that is actually needed in the industrial production process
Prof. Sarwar Md. Saifullah Khaled
Equipping the workforce with necessary skills

In  modern times skill development of the workforce is a sine qua non to enhance productivity in industries of all levels from primary to tertiary. So equipping the workforce employed in industrial, agricultural and employed in all other sectors of the economy with the requisite skills is necessary for today and for tomorrow.

Skill development is a strategic concern in the national growth and development outlooks of all the countries of the contemporary world. Each of the world country’s ultimate prosperity depends on how many of its people are skilled to work and hence how productive they are. This in turn rests on the level of skills they have acquired and how effectively those skills are used in the production process.
Therefore, like all other countries of the world skill based education and trainings, in this regard, can be a foundation of decent and efficient work and better and enhanced productivity in Bangladeshi industries of all types. The interaction between academic educational qualifications and practical skills in determining higher wages in the economy and labour market arrangements are still heavily based on academic educational qualifications. But in fact the academic educational qualifications do not always accurately describe the qualification-holder’s level of practical skills that is actually needed in the industrial production process.

It has been observed that in the practical field better-skilled individuals with a mid-level educational qualification earn more than low-skilled tertiary academic graduates. At the same time, it has also been found that tertiary academic educated workers with low practical skills still get a higher wage than mid-skilled workers with lower academic qualifications in Bangladeshi job markets. This discourages indeed the necessity of acquiring skills for productivity growth and ensuring quality production. In reality as much as 96 percent of the Bangladeshi labour force has less than secondary academic education, and 66 percent has less than primary academic education at present.  

The World Bank (WB) shows that, just a third of the primary graduates acquire the numeracy and literacy skills they are expected to master by the time they graduate. Moreover, only 0.17 percent of the work force has professional degrees in the fields such as engineering and medicine. A World Bank survey of 1000 garment firms out of nearly 5000 garment firms countrywide found in 2011 that if firms located outside Dhaka skills were the major disadvantage in the garment sector. In a 2010 United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO) survey, the high rejection rates of Bangladeshi garment products also point to low average skills of garment workers. In sectors such as Information Technology Enabled Services (ITES), shipbuilding and pharmaceuticals, part of this Diagnostic Trade Integration Study (DTIS), higher skills were in constant demand.

So far as the education sector is concerned Bangladesh’s performance on literacy rates and secondary school enrollment is extremely poor and undermines the development of all other sectors of the economy. The basic tasks conducted in all sectors, from garment to IT Enabled Services, typically need a work force that comes out of the country’s secondary schools and colleges that can then be trained to acquire required skills. Bangladesh has one of the poorest records of comparators in this respect. In contrast, for example, Sri Lanka has provided a skills environment that allowed garment firms to quickly move up the value chain. But Bangladeshi firms’ choice is mostly restricted to primary school graduates and high school dropouts. This is a serious drawback in developing the work force of the country to a required level for enhancing productivity and quality of products and services of the country’s overall industrial economy.  

Hence importance needs to be attached to skill development of the work force that we employ in different field of economic activity so that they can produce quality products and earn more. Simple general education at whatever level that may be is not enough to employ individuals for gainful employment and to advance the national economy at a satisfactory speed. As a result Bangladesh has to establish more and more technical, vocational and training institutes and at the same time improve the quality of general education at various levels so that the country may meet the growing demand for skilled personal for its enhanced growth and development. This will at the same time help satisfy the foreigners’ demand for quality goods from better working environment in the country.  

Apart from improving the quality of products, skill development improves the efficiency of production at all levels of the production process in both the primary and tertiary industries. Efficient production in consequence reduces the cost of production of quality products by saving time and waste in the production process. Reduced production costs of commodities improve competitiveness of products like say for example the apparel items, in the international market. This benefits the entrepreneurs in the form of improved profit margin in the one hand and the workers and employees in the form of higher wages and salaries on the other.

It is a reality that the Bangladeshi garment workers are paid low wages not only because of the willful negligence of the employers but also because of the low productivity of the unskilled workers. The situation is similar in all other Bangladeshi industries of all levels also. Given the willingness of the entrepreneurs to shun miserliness and their greed for earning exorbitant profit in improving the lot of their workers and employees, to come out of this situation one cannot help without improving the workers’ and employees’ skill level through training. Skill development of the workers and employees in all levels of economic production is a must to achieve the goal of the required level of development of the Bangladesh economy at the stipulated time.                           

The writer is a retired Professor of Economics, BCS General

Education Cadre

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Published by the Editor on behalf of Independent Publications Limited at Media Printers, 446/H, Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1215.
Editorial, News & Commercial Offices : Beximco Media Complex, 149-150 Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1208, Bangladesh. GPO Box No. 934, Dhaka-1000.

Editor : M. Shamsur Rahman
Published by the Editor on behalf of Independent Publications Limited at Media Printers, 446/H, Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1215.
Editorial, News & Commercial Offices : Beximco Media Complex, 149-150 Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1208, Bangladesh. GPO Box No. 934, Dhaka-1000.

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