There is no alternative to skill development for sustainable development of textile industry

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Textile and Ready Made Garment (RMG) industry is like golden goose for Bangladesh as it is now the biggest earner of foreign currency and creates more than 4.4 million employments and contributes significantly to the GDP. Moreover, Bangladesh RMG is now the second largest export earner in the world. But the current position will not be retain neither we will grow further if we do not take proper step to enhance excellence of manpower in the sector. Because there is huge scarcity of skilled workforce, which can slow down the progress process of the industry and that slow down must hamper the goal set by our government and Bangladesh Garments Manufacturers and Exporters Association (BGMEA) to increase annual export to US$50 billion by 2021. Recently Dhaka Summit on Skills, Employability and Decent Work 2016 has been organized in the capital to overcome the problem related to workforce, where every speaker, including Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, emphasized on the necessity of skilled workforce issue.

Present Scenario of manpower condition in RMG Industry

Bangladesh has a population of more than 156 million and a labor force of 79 million according to World Bank data, 2014 and only 5% of the labor force has received any form of training, with just 1% having undertaken technical/vocational training. In RMG sector the scenario is more vulnerable and the problem ‘skilled manpower shortage’ is emphasized on the roadmap (issued by BGMEA for the goal attainment) as a key challenge. Though we have huge cheap worker but the productivity of our workforces is 77% (Considering Chinese workers 100%), which is lower than our major competitors India (92%), Vietnam (90%) and Pakistan (88%).

A report, prepared by the Directorate of Textile (DoT), said Bangladesh had a shortage of about 110,000 people in RMG in 2014 and this gap is set to increase to about 180,000 by the year 2021. Not only the shortage but also the RMG sector employs some 20,000 foreign nationals in various positions in the sector and they are mostly from India and Sri Lanka. Therefore, it can easily be assumed that the shortage increases day by day and this scarcity will be fulfilled by employing more foreign nationals. In one hand, manpower scarcity is a problem on the other hand, skilled manpower is a challenge for the industry.

BGMEA mentioned on their RMG Roadmap book that over the year a good backward linkage has developed but the sector still fall short in forward linkage. The industry for marketing and design depends on agents and source country respectively. A few days ago, Industries Minister Amir Hossain Amu highlighted the need for making skilled workers to sustain the development of RMG sector and informed that the country needs about 38,000 technically skilled and about 33,000 manpower skilled in marketing in RMG sector. He said, “If we can create skilled manpower in the country, we can replace foreign manpower by local manpower”.

Reason behind the scenario

The demand of skilled manpower has been changed with the rapid modification of technology but technology-based knowledge is not growing in the RMG sector as it should be and most of the worker is uneducated. Moreover, our education system is not properly matched with requirement of textile industry in most cases.  Though there are many institutions which are providing education but there are imbalances in the textile education structure. And supply to different levels is not enough at all to fulfill the demand of the sector.

Government set a plan to set up around two dozen textile engineering colleges and vocational institutes, which once operational, but there is huge lack of proper step to implement the plan. So, required number of textile engineers and technologists are not coming out for the sector.

Scarcity of diploma engineers is seen in the sector as day by day the institution for providing diploma engineering course is decreasing. International ratio for engineering team in a company is 1: 5: 25, that’s mean one degree engineer: five diploma engineers: 25 technicians (unskilled workforce or day labor is not a part of engineering team). But BSC engineer is more available than diploma engineer in Bangladesh textile and RMG industry as vocational and diploma institution is not growing rather declining.

Business graduates and outstanding first line graduates from other disciplines are not entering to the textile and RMG companies. Management is critically important in companies having so many of manpower and such complex supply chain. More management, finance and marketing staffs are required in the textile and RMG companies for achieving sustainable growth. Graduates from other disciplines from leading universities should be encouraged to join in the textile and RMG companies.

The possible way forward

There is no alternative than providing skilled workforces for sustainable development of RMG industry. The Dhaka Summit on Skills, Employability and Decent Work 2016 was organized to way forward to develop the present condition of workforces as well as to make a skills agenda towards encouragement of decent work. Already Bangladesh government has started to improve manpower skills. The premier said that with the support of development partners, our government has been working relentlessly to improve workers skills, technical and financial assistance from ILO and other development partners are playing a major role to implement the government’s long-term technical and vocational education and training reform program.

Though our government and many non-government organizations are trying to provide training, education for increasing skills but at this moment the RMG sector is facing a great shortage of skilled manpower. We need to emphasize the issue more not only in words but also in actions.

Millions of dollars are being paid to foreign workforce though thousands of young educated people are being without a job, it’s only because of our academia is not fully harmonized with our industry. So at first we need recast our education system properly and set up, diploma institution, college and universities in right ratio and quality.

The RMG sector needs to arrange training program for existing workers and officers. And training institutions should be encouraged both from public and private sector for remaining and upcoming workforces. Need more investment for soft skill training as well as hard skill/ technical training to increase productivity-oriented employee.

In fine, we can remember Zig Ziglar, one of the world’s most famous salesmen and author, who said once, “You don’t build a business. You build people. And then the people build business.” If the government of Bangladesh and leaders of textile industry want to make their dream true to increase annual export to US$50 billion dollar by 2021 and become a middle-income country by 2021 and a developed one by 2041, they have to build the people and the people will snatch the goal for the country.

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