It is clear that continued education and skills training offer better futures for youth as they enter into the workforce.
The Bangladesh Bureau of Statistics and the International Labour Organisation define youth as those aged 15-24. As seen in the last post, youth face challenges even when they boast strong skills or high educational attainment.
Moving towards the other end of the spectrum, it is also important to consider what the experience is like for employers as these youths enter the workplace. As Bangladesh looks to take advantage of the demographic dividend, are the incoming youth workers trained well enough to take on such a task, or are their skills lacking?
Subsequently, how do employers have to accommodate under-experienced and sometimes ill equipped youth, or do they think youth are equipped with the right skills?
In this post, we explore skills training and what can be done to improve the experience of employers as they welcome an influx of new workers over the coming years.
What kind of a future do employers want to build?
Businesses in Bangladesh are looking to step up production and growth, and the country is aiming for Middle-Income status in the near future. Bangladesh looks to take advantage of a demographic dividend to meet these objectives, yet lacks the level of workforce development required to reach these goals.
An important but sometimes overlooked concern is how training programmes match skills with jobs.
Better skills programs that train job seekers in such a way that they not only have the technical skills to succeed in the workplace, but the knowledge and capabilities to keep up with rapid change, can help accomplish these goals. An important but sometimes overlooked concern is how training programmes match skills with jobs. To date these programs have focused on scaling up to match the growing numbers of job seekers. However, skills programs need to use their resources to better match skills with jobs, and ensure these new employees can remain adaptable to changing work over time.
Soft skills training and employability training are also important to create a more productive and better equipped workforce.
Skills training programs at work
As it stands, skills training programs are well funded, reach different demographic groups, including the extreme poor and marginalised young girls. Programs have the support of large organisations, and have developed innovative methods to multiply training capacity and quality of training.
These advancements in supply-side training programs have led to youth and young adults that are well trained in certain areas, such as rural trades, technical trades, retail work, garments, English, and information technology skills. However, there is still a disconnect between these programs and the demand side of the equation, or employers.
The World Bank’s STEP program recognises the problem of a supply-side focused approach to skills training
By reviewing a couple of examples in brief, the supply side perspective on skills and employment can be better understood and put within the context of youth transitions into the workplace. BRAC offers multiple skills training programs as a part of their larger project on Adolescent Development (ADP). There are four main programs that this post focuses on: Livelihood training courses, English and ICT Training for Adolescents, and BRAC’s PACE program. Additionally, the World Bank is about to begin its own large scale skills training program, called STEP.
In livelihood training courses, young women are trained to work in beauty salons, photography, and baking. Jointly with the Bangladesh Information and Technical Assistance Center (BITAC), it provides opportunities to be trained in various trades (mobile, television, plastic processing, light machinery, carpentry).
In collaboration with the Ministry of Youth and Sport, and other local organizations, youth can receive training in journalism, poultry, livestock, tailoring, and embroidery.
English and ICT Training (EITA) for marginalised young girls is another program, which uses an innovative method for sustainable teaching and training. It helps build English language and computer related skills.
BRAC’s Post Primary Basic and Continuing Education (PACE) program is aimed at improving the quality of education among primary and secondary school students. They do this by giving support after the completion of certain levels of education to keep children in schools, increasing student engagement with the process of learning, teaching, mentoring, community involvement.
The World Bank’s Skills Training Enhancement Program increases skills to ensure competitiveness and focuses on Bangladeshi’s, who are poorly equipped when better jobs require higher skills. Higher skills are often required by migrant workers that end up driving growth.
This example shows that supply side programs are growing in their size, and are trying to target the people that need this type of training the most. However, there are limitations to what these programs can accomplish at a broader macro-economic level.
The World Bank’s STEP program recognises the problem of a supply-side focused approach to skills training, however only time will tell how well it will address these issues.
Skills training programs will struggle to keep up
Skills and training programs are designed to train youth with specific skills rather than for specific jobs. These skills programs are in essence getting paid to put people in seats rather than put people in jobs. They are focused on delivering services to their stakeholders that are job seekers, rather than addressing the needs of businesses that will hire these job seekers.
Skills training programs have very few mechanisms that link job seekers with employers, meaning that many skills training programs can’t guarantee a job for a trained individual, and some businesses can’t always find individuals with the right skills set.
A mismanagement of skills directly leads to inefficiencies in the workplace, and lower productivity as businesses are relying on ill-equipped employees.
Conversely, some programs (such as the technical and vocational education, or industry related skills programs) teach outdated curricula, which means that workers entering a new job are not adequately prepared for work. Even the programs that do teach updated knowledge and applicable skills, provide relatively narrow programs on skills related to a specific task instead of holistically preparing youth with lifelong work skills.
Teaching specific trade skills are important, but in the event of changing jobs, or when new industries arise and older areas of employment shrink, then these individuals, who were trained to do specific tasks, have trouble adapting to a changed working environment.
A mismanagement of skills directly leads to inefficiencies in the workplace, and lower productivity as businesses are relying on ill-equipped employees. This is especially a problem as employers are looking to increase the level of productivity in the workplace, and require workers to be able to understand the changing dynamics of the workplace including different responsibilities and new methods of production (often including more advanced forms of technology).
Training programs that can create adaptable workers that are trained to adapt to such changes and that have the technical knowledge to keep up in these industries will help increase the productivity of these businesses.
A paradigm shift is required
A paradigm centred on supply-side programming leads to large skills shortages and mismatches, which develop because programs are disconnected from what business owners need from their employees. For example, in an industry that’s growing and changing as quickly as the garments industry, in order to keep up with growing demand, employees are required to be better trained to be able to adapt to new tasks and jobs.
Bring employers back into employment practices
These inefficiencies require a reconsideration of the market for skills and employment, starting with a better framework for including demand side needs into this labour question. There are two ways to understand demand side approaches to skills training and employment, demand-led and demand-focused.
Demand-led takes its direction entirely from employers. The problem it is trying to solve is some deficiency in relation to employees or job candidates, and involves asking employers how they assess the level of skills in the labour market.
Demand-focused tries to analyse the workplace. The problem it is trying to address is both skill needs as well as ensuring there are good jobs, and that the skills are being well-used. It wishes to improve the operational functions of a business and it involves asking the employers about ways in which businesses can better use trained workers to optimise productivity.
It comes as no surprise that any consideration of demand side approaches to skills training requires consultation with the demand side of the labour market. In doing so, better programs can be developed to improve the transition of youth into work, and therefore improve the productivity of any workplace.
Along with better consulting practices, programs that get paid to connect trained individuals with jobs, and train workplace, employability, and other soft skills are the two largest considerations any program should make.
A potential example of success
A training program that has been built into the existing workplace environment offers an interesting example of what demand side programs could look like. To create an in-house training program, the Leather Goods and Footwear Manufacturers and Exporters Association and the Skills for Employment Investment Programme have signed an agreement to train workers in factories. This skills training programme will be established within factories to offer free of charge training to employees to increase technical and workplace skills.
In this instance, SEIP will bear most of the cost, however they believe that this deal will diversify the growing manufacturing sector. The idea is that workers can still work for a portion of the day, and then subsequently be trained as needed. This arrangement allows not only for new employees to be trained, but also for existing employees to be retrained as necessary. While only a single example of demand-focused programs, it offers a glimpse into what skills training can look like, and it reveals the advantages it might afford.
It is clear that more research needs to be done on the specifics of this demand-side approach.
While this post presents a better framework, which gives a more holistic picture of the market for skills and how skills training programs should function in Bangladesh, more work needs to be done on what employers are looking for in youth. Whether this results in an entire overhaul of the skills training regime in Bangladesh, simple tweaks to the current approach, or no change at all, youth and employers will nevertheless be better off communicating their needs and aspirations.
Sources relied upon
BRAC Adolescent Development Program. http://www.educationinnovations.org/program/brac-adolescent-development-program . Information retrieved May 2016.
Deloitte. (2016). Global Manufacturing Competitiveness Index. Center for Industry Insights. London, England.
Raihan, S. (Ed). (2016). Structural Change and Dynamics of Labor Markets in Bangladesh: Studies on Labor and Employment. Dhaka, SANEM Publications.
World Bank Skills Training Enhancement Program. http://www.worldbank.org/en/results/2014/04/11/bangladesh-skills-and-training-enhancement-project . Information retrieved May 2016.