Skills are the common building blocks of economic growth and social development. In this current complex global economy, countries need to equip with industry demand-driven technical, vocational, managerial and professional skills for better utilization and leverage of human capital.
Managerial and professional skill development has emerged as a key competitive factor for developing countries for fostering innovation, creating business wealth, increasing productivity, integrating with the interconnected global value chain and tapping future prosperity.
In line with the global phenomenon, demand for managerial and professional job-specific soft skills has been growing in Bangladesh.
Bangladesh is the eighth largest populace country in the World. The huge populations of the country have unfolded an avenue of demographic dividend endowed with close to 64 million workforces. Among the total population of Bangladesh, one third is aged less than 24 years. Of the 30 million youth between the ages of 18 and 25 in Bangladesh, roughly 3 million go on to pursue higher education.
According to ILO, Bangladesh’s labor force is growing at a rate of 2.2% which means there are roughly 1.8 – 2 million new entrants in the labor forces each year and 1 million get job opportunities in organized and informal sectors.
Only 1.4 million of them are being trained by government-operated skills development agencies leaving an unmet need for skilled human resources by both local industries and international markets.
The recent labor force survey showed that as per occupation distribution- only 1.1% are managers and 3.8% are professionals of the total workforce. In the Seventh Five-Year Plan concerning to skills development, a Tk100-crore fund has been allocated for human resource development.
Bangladesh is earning about US$ 5 billion by exporting 8 million-plus semi-skilled or unskilled workers mainly to the Middle East and Southeast Asian countries. On the contrary, Bangladesh is paying about USD 5 billion-plus by recruiting less than 0.2 million foreign professionals here in Bangladesh.
The meager percentage of managers and professionals of the total workforce indicate that there is a huge gap between education and managerial soft skills set that the industry needs in Bangladesh. This gap is mounting which creates a major roadblock for innovation-led industrialization.
This skills gap in the managerial position especially in RMG, textile, power, construction and Consultancy sector, has created a window for the influx of foreign professionals to grab the growing Bangladeshi market with their international standard quality skill set.
Managerial ecosystem in RMGs
Though we have a huge cheap worker 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 Textiles (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.
The RMG sector employs some 20,000 foreign nationals in various positions in the sector and they are mostly from India and Sri Lanka. Our country needs around 38,000 technically-skilled and 33,000 manpower in marketing to strengthen the RMG sector.
The international ratio for the engineering team in a company is 1: 5: 25, that’s mean 01-degree engineer: 05 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.
Bangladesh’s development aspiration
Bangladesh is set to become a middle-income country by 2021 and a developed country by the Year 2041. In the remarkable success of the economic progression of Bangladesh, an industrial sector with a concentration on RMG and textile, leather and footwear, pharmaceuticals, construction materials, shipbuilding along with the service sector with a heavy concentration on tourism, financial services and ICT has been playing a predominant role.
With the emergence of diversified industrial and service activities, Bangladesh needs a huge pool of managerial and professional skills. Unfortunately, our education system is not able to meet the industry-demand with requisite skill as universities of Bangladesh certainly are not in the track of an industry-driven education.
Building job-related skills are fundamental towards graduating as an efficient, productive and competitive middle-income country. The education system of our country needs to be restructuring closely matching of skills supply to the needs of the industry and service sector.
Building job-related skills are fundamental towards graduating as an efficient, productive and competitive middle-income country.
The course curriculums of universities also need to be updated in line with the changes in technology and the skills needs of the future. Moreover, the partnership needs to strengthen between academia and industry to address the skill gap ecosystem.
The demographic dividend stemmed in Bangladesh has produced a large working-age population that will need to embody market-ready skills to spearhead a competitive economy.
To reap the opportune benefit of skill-inclusive job orientation at all levels using this demographic dividend and to backstop the government’s 12.9 million employments ceiling goal depicted in the 7th Five Year Plan (7FYP), a burgeoning platform leading to a pro-skill development destination needs to surface at the possible earliest time.
Furthermore, ratification of SDGs paralleled to our national perspective plan demands meeting the GOAL 8 (Decent Work and Economic Growth) stringently to devise policies that support skill development-backed job orientation, the entrepreneurial center of excellence building, creativity and innovation-led academic evaluation reform and lastly, the unanimous participation of public-private partners in this present skill development momentum we are going through.
Moreover, we need to facilitate the industrial attachments process to tap the much-articulated ‘demographic dividend’ realistically.
Also, Bangladesh has to gear up to face the challenges of the Fourth Industrial Revolution. So, there must be a clear pathway for the labor force displaced for technological upgrades to rehabilitate them in alternative employment by offering demand-driven skills development training.