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FEATURE STORY

Skills Development in Sindh Increases Job Opportunities

October 22, 2012

Students learn to operate the sewing machines at Shaheed Zulfikar Ali Bhutto Institute of Science & Technology (SZABIST) in Hyderabad, Sindh province. The institute provides training and skill development programs to help graduates rise to challenges.

STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Many young people in Pakistan who manage to complete their education still don’t have practical, marketable skills. Less than 1% of the population has any technical education or vocational training.
  • The Sindh Skills Development Project aims to train 50,000 unemployed youth in Pakistan's Sindh Province by offering them short technical courses to prepare them for a range of jobs.
  • “Every company has an IT department now, so there are many, many jobs for us when we’ve completed this program,” says one student.

 

HYDERABAD, Pakistan – Most days, camel carts piled impossibly high with parcels and produce lumber past the building where Mohammed Tahir Bhatti is learning cutting-edge computer skills.

But Bhatti, 25, is too absorbed in his classes on Web design and complex software to notice whether any of the camel drivers come from his village near Pakistan’s southern city of Hyderabad. In fact, he’s determined to leave behind the low wages and hard labor of agricultural life. Instead, he hopes a new program, called the Sindh Skills Development Project, will help him, and thousands of other young people, learn modern, more marketable skills.

“These computer courses will be good for better employment and a better life,” says Bhatti, who studies at Khowaja Institute of Information Technology. “Otherwise, there is absolutely nothing in my district that can offer this.”

Training unemployed youth

Started last year, the skills development project, overseen by the Sindh government with financing from the World Bank, aims to train 50,000 unemployed youth by offering them short technical courses on a range of jobs, including fashion design, engine mechanics, multimedia graphics, architectural design, call-centre operations and numerous other trades.

At present, many of the young people in Pakistan who manage to complete their Class 12 education still don’t have practical, marketable skills. It’s estimated that less than 1% of the population has any technical education or vocational training. There are also fewer job opportunities for women and those from rural areas.

But now, the Sindh Skills Development Project is supporting technical courses at approved institutes throughout the province.

To attend his computer program, Bhatti travels two hours back and forth daily in the intricately painted buses that ply Pakistan’s roads. A round trip costs him 400 Pakistani rupees (about $4), a sum that his family struggles to afford. But it’s an investment in the future, he says. “I am confident that I will now get a good job from this course.”

Open Quotes

This course gives us hope, picks us up from the ground, and lets us reach for the sky. Close Quotes

Farazana Shah
Student

Reaching for the sky

In another computer lab down the hall, Fatima Naqvi, 20, and Mahvish Zahid, 22, are taking a business management course, hoping for more job security.

“Our families are simple, so it can be tough for us and we are feeling the pinch,” says Zahid. “It’s also hard because we don’t have computers at home to practice with,” she says, as about 25 students nod in agreement.

High unemployment and a shortage of skilled labor have dramatically slowed the country’s growth, says Ghullam Abbas Mallah, principal of Szabist Job Skill Training Centre with 200 students, also in Hyderabad.

“Now students are able to stand on their own and earn a good living,” says Mallah, adding that half of an earlier batch immediately found employment.

In the Szabist fashion design program, Nazia Shah, 24, shows off a green and yellow ladies’ wedding suit that she created after learning how to tie-dye fabric, attach intricate ribbon and beading, and sew it all together.

“Fashion is my passion, but the private academies are quite expensive, and the quality of education is good here, so now I can have my dream,” says Shah.

Farazana Shah, 28, says she was unemployed for months before joining the fashion design program.

“Nowadays finding a job is like trying to count all the stars in the sky,” she says. “This course gives us hope, picks us up from the ground, and lets us reach for the sky.”

Growing employment opportunities

Down the hall at the Szabist Centre, Sadia Kanwal, 25, is learning to be a computer systems support engineer and can look forward to a healthy salary of 30,000 rupees (about $315) a month or more.

“Every company has an IT department now, so there are many, many jobs for us when we’ve completed this program,” says Kanwal, who comes from a traditional family where her mother seldom leaves the house. Her father is a shopkeeper.

“My parents are very happy for me because they want me to be a good worker, achieve my goals and have some independence.”

In another area of Hyderabad, goats graze in a refuse-strewn field below the modern rooms where Alpha Solutions Institute of Professional Excellence is located. Alpha Solutions is offering 50 young people courses that qualify them to be call center operators.

Faryal Hyder, 18, and her sister Maria, 23, are learning how to speak clearly and understand Canadian, Australian, and British accents, so they can call up these places and make sales pitches on everything from furnace duct cleaning services or solar panels to debt collections.

They also practice patience in their soundproof cubicles, says Faryal. “Sometimes people are rude, but we still have to face them and be very kind. We can’t be aggressive or lose our cool.” The sisters can expect to earn about 20,000 rupees, or about $210, a month if all goes well.

Alpha Solutions is owned and operated by 29-year-old Asher Jibran Abbasi, who says there are plenty of call centers looking for employees in Pakistan. Or if they’re lucky like one of Abbasi’s earlier students, there are jobs cropping up in the Middle East and elsewhere, he says.

“We know this is a growing field with plenty of opportunities for those who want them,” he says. “Right now, there is so much unemployment and everybody needs a good job.”

“We truly think that we are giving these young people a chance to increase their skills, have more confidence, a better life, and of course, get paid as well,” says Abbasi.