ADB take on pouring cash into vocational education in Pakistan

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SOURCEThe Express Tribune
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LAHORE: The Asian Development Bank (ADB) is assisting Pakistan in addressing several issues but investment in technical and vocational education must be backed by institutional improvement, said Asian Development Bank (ADB) mission head Herman Sonneveld.

Leading a study mission from Manila to the Lahore Chamber of Commerce and Industry (LCCI), he held discussions with LCCI office-bearers on matters pertaining to economic development in Pakistan, business climate, vocational training, and industry-academia linkages.

Also Read: Pakistan’s economy: ADB assessment

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Sonneveld, also an expert in vocational education and training, said training and skill development systems in developing member countries of the ADB needed to be fully equipped to produce human resources with competencies that were aligned to the needs of the labour market.

Speaking on the occasion, LCCI President Irfan Iqbal Sheikh appreciated the ADB’s role in the economic development of Pakistan, particularly through an upgrade of the country’s power infrastructure.

Referring to the workforce, he said they were yet to take steps to improve their skill set. “It is imperative that curricula of skill development institutions are modified and reformed to make the curricula more demand-driven, with special focus on skill competitiveness and employability of graduates,” he said.

“This can be done through knowledge partnerships with high-quality private-sector employers and international training providers.” He said, “there is a wide difference between the modern world and our part of the world in terms of economic growth, technological development, facilities and opportunities available to the masses.”

One of the most critical differences was the low level of literacy, which could be narrowed down further to low levels of skills, proficiency, productivity, and employability, he remarked. Highlighting the importance of human capital enhancement, the LCCI chief said it was the key to achieving growth. “The provision of necessary skills is critical for addressing the human capital challenge.”

He stated that the identification of district-wise thrust areas for skill training was important and similarly, the identification of industry-wise skill set required for training was imperative.

“Approximately two-thirds of Punjab’s population today is below the age of 30, they can become a key factor in achieving a better growth rate if they are provided the right skills,” he added.

Sheikh warned that failure to provide the required skills, in line with the needs of the modern era, could cause an increase in unemployment and may lead to disguised unemployment or underpaid employment.

Also speaking on the occasion, LCCI Senior Vice President Ali Hussam Asghar said the challenge was not just creating job opportunities but also producing well-trained manpower with basic to advanced level technical and vocational training.

LCCI Vice President Mian Zahid Jawaid Ahmad said it was important to make good use of abundant manpower available in the country. “They can become an effective source of foreign remittances if they are placed in different countries after the provision of state-of-the-art training,” he added.

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According to the World Bank’s latest Migration and Development Brief 2018, the top remittance recipients were India with $79 billion, followed by China ($67 billion), Mexico ($36 billion), the Philippines ($34 billion) and Egypt ($29 billion). Pakistan’s remittances have been stagnant around $20 billion.

Published in The Express Tribune, October 8th, 2019.

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