Bangladesh’s Struggle to Resolve the Skill Gap
Alfaz, an intelligent, scrappy and a fresh graduate is tired of searching for jobs online; apparently all that he has been doing for the past 6 months-Submitting his CV to one firm after another-has started to resemble a daily 3 times meal plan for him. In such situations it often seems like our lives have reached a state of inertia, and this is especially true for those of us who have higher education degrees. But more often than not, these degrees do not owe up to much because there is a glut of fresh graduates in the market who have little to no experience or guidance. There are millions of Alfaz in our society waiting for the right guidelines and proper skill training to improve their situation.
Mr. Arman, who works as a HR manager of a renowned group of companies in Bangladesh has a daily job of going through several CV’s a day to find the perfect candidates for the job openings. Lack of credentials of the candidates vying for these posts makes his job more challenging. After interviewing couple of candidates he has decided to hire a talent sourcing firm from India even though it means paying them a high fee.
These are the recent recruitment scenario of the corporate world where searching for the “Right Fit” becomes a nightmare because of the persistent skill gap. The modern competitive business world requires competency of workers both in blue collar and white collar job openings. As a headhunter, I can see a clear mismatch between qualification and the skill set required to further themselves in the industry they have chosen to find employment in. Unwillingness to learn newer crafts, poor career counseling and insufficient number of training institutes have created a pool of workers who are not fit for a high post.
Unemployment problem would not be solved until our education system starts teaching the students the skills that are in great demand, thereby minimizing the gap between academia and the industry. The courses taught by many universities and training institutions are often steeped in theories and has very little application in real life. The responsibility to elevate the skill set of the would-be graduates falls on the schools and the industry leader who will be hiring the said graduates. This simply means, university needs to design courses which has practical application in the job markets. In some of the most well known universities in the world, executive education is offered as part of continuing learning; a trend which is clearly missing in the Bangladeshi universities.
Skill development is the only way to guarantee sustainable economic growth. The Bangladeshi government has set their goals for vision 2041, whereby they would like to ensure that Bangladesh is a developed country by 2041. Similarly, United Nations had set Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) globally which are to be achieved by 2030. To achieve SDG goals, government has taken different initiatives to accelerate the mission. Research has shown that Bangladesh is earning about $5 Billion by exporting 8 million plus semi-skilled and or un-skilled workers abroad (mainly to the Middle East and South East Asian countries). Because of this skill gap India remitted $10 billion in 2017 from Bangladesh. Our country became the 4th largest remittance source for India since we couldn’t manage skilled workforce for our job market. This indicates that we are lagging behind in terms of creating mid-level and technical capacity workforce required by our corporate houses.
If there are still some disbelief over the current workforce scenario, I can provide you a clear picture of the income source foreign workers are taking away from Bangladeshi corporate sector. In the corporate training sector I have seen many local companies are hiring contractual foreign trainers where they charge up to $4000 per day. Instead of hiring local trainers these companies are giving away the money to the foreigners. Lack of patriotism, high dependency of foreign talents and fascination of foreign culture is a good reason why so many high skilled foreign workers are attracted to Bangladesh.
The overall skill gaps can be reduced by taking some sophisticated initiatives with the help of government and local training institutes. Here are some of the ways we can help raise the skill set of our workers:
1. We need to analyze particular sectors and based on the said analysis we can provide training modules, which would be designed specifically for this sector.
2. Subsidized training for blue collar employees
3. Scholarships and funding (for higher education) opportunities should be provided by government.
4. University education system should be revised every year.
5. Executive education courses should be made available for every university.