Bangladesh economy has been registering steady economic growth of around 6 percent over the past decade. As local and global economic shifts continue toward industry and services, demand for skilled manpower is expected to rise at home and abroad. A labor-surplus country, the Bangladesh government is increasingly focusing on workforce development through technical and vocational education training (TVET). This is a timely response as the country prepares to accommodate and capitalize on the ongoing demographic dividend. However, poor training quality, low employability and inadequate wages plague the TVET sector, requiring interventions for addressing these issues.
STEP increases the skill levels of the workforce to ensure competitiveness in both the labor and product markets. Enhancing the range and quality of vocational training will help the country to more effectively utilize the overseas employment opportunities. Skilled workers can then claim higher wages in international markets and thus contribute to an increase in Bangladesh’s remittance earning. Through effective vocational training, the project hopes to increase the average wage that a migrant can demand in the international labor market as well as reduce the risk of unemployment in times of financial crisis. At home, with the increase in skills, the export industry will be able to diversify the product base it offers to consumers. STEP is designed to address the key issues concerning the Technical and Vocational Education Training (TVET) sector in a number of ways.
- Firstly, by incorporating views from industries and civil society it seeks to ensure that the programs being offered are relevant to the needs of the labor market.
- Secondly, it would ensure that the long-term teacher-trainer vacancies are filled.
- Thirdly, the project breaks new ground by supporting both public and private institutions and thereby creating a level playing field. Institutions are performing well in terms of pass rates, number of teachers trained, and placement rates of students as well as the implementation grant of up to US$ 1 million.
- Finally, the project provides stipends to students from disadvantaged socio-economic backgrounds, including universal stipend coverage for females enrolled in any STEP-supported public polytechnic. Students receiving a stipend must maintain 75 percent annual attendance and 50 percent pass marks in the annual examinations.
In addition, STEP is also working to pilot new TVET schemes. The project has initiated pilot programs at the SSC level in an attempt to link schools with community and other training providers. Also, it has initiated the Recognition to Prior Learning (RPL) program, which works to assess and certify workers’ skills irrespective of where and how the skills were acquired. The certification through RPL will allow workers to signal their market value at home or abroad as well as upgrade their skills by participating in formal higher level training programs.