In order to meet the challenges of modern times, technical training and skill development are the most important factors affecting any country’s economic progress. If industries insist on relying on traditional work ethics, they will lose a market as they won’t be able to fulfil market needs on time. Therefore, there is a need to focus on technical and vocational education to meet the demands of growing industries.
Pakistan Association of Automobile Parts and Accessories Manufacturers (PAAPAM) Chairman tells The Express Tribune that having skilled workforce is one of the industry’s basic requirements and there is a need to work with the Technical and Vocational Education Training (TVET) sector.
“Instead of paying attention towards acquiring skilled workforce, most factories focus on ustaad-shagrid (young interns working with an adept technician) work relationship. This needs to end now. We need a skilled workforce. This will enable us to meet higher demand and increased workload,” he says.
He says that the domestic auto industry has a lot of potential. According to a rough estimate, 245,000 cars, 8,000 trucks and buses, 50,000 tractors and 2.2 million motorcycles are currently being manufactured every year. The industry has grown 30% this year against figures for past year. “Our basic requirement is skilled human resources which we don’t have. The (output of) car industry will be doubled by 2020,” he maintains.
Discussing ways and means to work effectively, he says that although it is not possible for the TVET sector to interact with industries individually, it can work through associations such as PAPAAM, which has 300 members across the country. Such associations must work with the TVET sector to meet the demands of a skilled workforce. The public sector will have to be involved (in this endeavour) with such associations if they are truly interested in solving these issues. “We need to develop a plan (if) we (want) to see our industry (developing and progressing) in five or 10 years.”
Pakistan Vocational Training Council Public Manager Relations and Marketing Bushra Nawaz tells The Express Tribune that industries do not cooperate with TVET sector as much as we need their cooperation and associations do not have time to build a continuous work relation with us.
In order to meet the industry’s demand for a skilled workforce, TVET Sector Support Programme, working since 2011 is extending its support to train 3,550 teachers, 1,500 assessors, 500 principals from public and 48,500 workforce, of which 30% are inspired to be women. TVET Sector Support Programme which is funded by the European Union, Governments of Germany and Norway aims at scaling up the reform process based on the national TVET policy and the National Vocational Qualifications Framework (NVQF). The Programme specifically focuses on enhancing the engagement of the private sector in TVET planning and delivery.
Changing entrepreneurs’ mindset
One of the biggest hurdles in this regard is that industries do not train youths, fearing they will leave if they get better opportunities and their investment will be lost, Khan says.
In 2013, PAPAAM set up skill development centres in Karachi and Lahore. The association organised at least 90 seminars and workshops.
“We mainly trained entrepreneurs and tried to change their mindset, telling them that in addition to providing soft skills training, there is a need to provide staff with vocational training because our industry is growing and skilled human resources are unavailable,” he adds.
“I even said what if your trained staff leaves after getting a better job, they will still be working in the country and in the end, the country will benefit.”
If we want skilled and confident workforce, Khan advises students should be sent to industries for internships before they get into their fields. “When we buy a car we don’t know how to drive, we learn and after (some) practise we are able to drive on roads,” he says. Same is the case with fresh graduates, he adds.
Advising technical trainees to initiate discussions with industries, he says it is essential to send students for at least six-month-long training so that they get hands-on experience before they actually start their careers. He says if students spend six months in the industry they will be aware of the work environment and will gain confidence too.
Adopting the new ways
Khan says skilled manpower can only be developed with willingness. In industries, most of the work is done manually. In the near future, when new companies from China and Thailand will set up their plants then they will look for a skilled workforce and they won’t find them. “Our entrepreneurs are not prepared for this.”
He laments that now everything is being done through software while we are still using traditional modes in industries. “The time is not far when we won’t be (able to run) industries or (enter new) markets because of our traditional modes of working. If demand increases and we are unable to meet deadlines, we will (lose) markets.”
Competency-Based Training and Assessment (CBT&A)
When asked if the industries realised which skill sets to develop through CBT&A system and skilled workforce, Khan says out of 300 companies associated with us 70% are SMEs and only 30% are major companies. Only large companies have five-year plans and targets. SMEs cannot even plan to induct 100 students in a year and this is why they do not take initiatives and rely on manual methods thus it is hard for them to trust trained students so there is an acute trust deficit.
Nawaz says youth in Pakistan comprised 60% of the country’s total population and we are not doing enough to produce a skilled workforce. “It is not government’s top priority either.”
He adds these institutes need to build a relationship with industries and invite them to their institutes so that they build trust on each other. If an industry gets 10 good students from an Institute every year it will develop confidence on the Institute. Similarly, industries should also invite students from various institutes to come and visit factories so that they know how things work in factories. “The industry is growing so we will have to pay attention towards producing a skilled workforce.”
While Nawaz says industries and their associations will have to move a step ahead to work with the TVET sector.