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FEATURE STORY

In Bangladesh, A STEP forward toward Success

October 20, 2015

STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Every year 1.3 million youths enter job market in Bangladesh. An increasingly skilled labor force is vital to accelerate economic growth. “Enhancing vocational training will help the country fully tap into local and overseas employment opportunities by enhancing vocational trainings.
  • The Government of Bangladesh in helping students from disadvantaged socio-economic backgrounds to enroll in market oriented vocational training courses and find better jobs.
  • The government is providing stipends to 96,000 diploma-level students from disadvantaged socio-economic backgrounds to access and continue vocational trainings for improved employability and better jobs.

In today’s competitive world, having the right skills matched with the market demand is key to get a good job. As local and global economy is shifting towards industry and services, the demand for skilled manpower is likely to increase in home and abroad.

Bangladesh has a window of opportunity to benefit from the on-going demographic dividend, with a larger share of working-age population and fewer dependents – a trend expected to continue over the next two decades.  Each year, 1.3 million youth join the labor force. But most of the entrants lack the essential education or skills for a better job.  Around 96 percent of the 57 million workers in the domestic labor market at best have only secondary education. 

Every year, around 400,000 Bangladeshi migrant workers go abroad to try their luck. In 2015, the country earned a remittance of US$15170 million (source: BMET). Remittance has become a driving force for the economy. But in most cases, the migrant workers have low education and a few vocational industry-specific skills. As a results majority of the migrants are engaged in the low-skilled, low-wage jobs.

Realizing the importance of a skilled labor force, the government is focusing to improve the quality of technical and vocational education training (TVET) in public and private polytechnic institutions and ensuring the curriculum matches with the job market demand.

Reaching out to the poor students

Started in 2009, Skills and Training Enhancement Project (STEP) is a timely initiative for developing TVET sector and helping the poor students especially women to acquire new skills for better employability. STEP offers vocational training opportunities aligned with market demand to the poor students unable to afford higher education and also to those who have knack for technical work and want to be self-employed.

STEP provides institutional development grants to 33 public and private polytechnic institutions to improve quality of skills training and increase the employability of the trainees. These diploma programs enhance the students’ skills and help them to explore new and better opportunities for employment or setting up business ventures.

STEP provides stipends to all diploma-level female students, while adopting a poverty-targeting stipend for male students. Around 96,000 diploma students in 93 polytechnics have received stipends to ensure poverty does not become a barrier for students in receiving the technical skills and qualifications needed to prepare for a better life. “I was lucky to participate in the STEP skills competition. After a month’s hard-work, I won the competition and got stipend. So, I could pursue my career as a computer engineer. Technical skills helped me get an edge in a constantly changing global job market,” said Jarin Tasnima, a student at the Dhaka Mohila Polytechnic

Building competent workforce for future

Skilled teachers are prerequisite for ensuring a quality TVET sector.  Under the STEP, the government has hired 1,141 contractual teachers in around 50 public polytechnics, filling up 98% of the vacancies. STEP has signed up a partnership agreement with Nanyang Polytechnic International, Singapore on teachers’ professional development and additionally established a Technical Teachers Training Institute in 2014. 

TVET institutions can make a meaningful dent in the job market, when their offered courses matches with the market needs. For the first time in the country, STEP launched the Recognition of Prior learning (RPL) to assess and certify informal workforce, with no prior formal skills training or certification. In 2014 through RPL training and assessment, 1190 candidates were assessed and 76% certified as ‘competent’.

Changing lives with better Jobs

STEP introduced short-course trainings as life changers for thousands of poor youths in Bangladesh. To date, 47,000 trainees received trainings in 38 trades -- 34% graduates already got jobs within six months of training completion. Another 840 unskilled and semiskilled industry laborers received training of whom 88% got better jobs.

These trainings also enabled hundreds of young women from low income families to learn market oriented skills and become self-reliant. Dress making and tailoring, computer technology, beautification and garments are popular Courses among women. “I work hard. I am financially independent and support my family to live with dignity in the society,” says Dolly. She is in her mid-twenties and opened a tailoring shop in Dhaka. Now she earns around BDT 12,000 (USD 150) a month.

STEP also organizes job fairs to connect the potential employees and employers. “After completing my training as a beautician, I wondered how to use my skills to find a job” said Sonia Akter. Then, she attended a STEP organized job fair and got a job as a beautician in a beauty parlor. Currently, she earns BDT 6,000 a month. More than 1,700 trainees received job offers at the job fairs. Moreover, about 65% of the polytechnics established industrial partnerships for internships and job placement and offers job counselling to the students.  STEP is helping Bangladesh to create skilled labor force for faster poverty alleviation and economic growth.

Results in numbers

  • 96,000 diploma students from 93 polytechnic institutions received stipends. Female beneficiary share increased from 10% to 15% from adopting universal female stipend instead of poverty targeting in 2014.
  • 98% of the vacant teaching posts were filled up by employing 1,141  full-time contractual teachers in around 50 public polytechnics
  • 47,000 trainees received trainings in 38 trades, 34% graduates got jobs within six months of training. 
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