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Bridging the gap between industry and academia is a must

Published : Friday, 26 November, 2021 at 12:00 AM  Count : 348
Md Atikur Rahman

Bridging the gap between industry and academia is a must

Bridging the gap between industry and academia is a must

The country was liberated 50 years before, but in this long passage of time we could not modernize enough the country's education system. The country did not put an end to the current three-level education system. Whose discretion is being offered to everyone now? If we want to build skilled manpower to take the country forward, we should give the highest importance to our youth.

Due to the lack of professional as well as language skills of our employees, foreign workers are making money worth billions of dollars every year from the country. Industry insiders claim that over 500,000 foreign nationals currently working in Bangladesh take away around $5 billion every year. Most of these, they claim, are working illegally.

Many foreign nationals are working in different multinational companies, garment companies, pharmaceutical companies or other organizations. Indians and Sri Lankans are among the top of these workers. There is a huge shortage of mid and top level professionals in the country. People who studied in conventional education system cannot meet the demand. As a result, the industries are forced to import highly skilled workers from abroad. The news was presented on BBC News recently. Lack of language skills was said to be one of the foremost reasons in the report.

Centre for Policy Dialogue (CPD) study found that 16% of all apparel factories in Bangladesh employ foreign individuals. According to a recent study by the CPD, foreign workers are working in 24 percent of the garment factories in the country.

Currently, thousands of students are coming out with degrees each year from various government and private universities. But these graduates lack professional as well as language skills. Especially due to the lack of English language skills, our graduates are not able to replace foreigners working in our country. As a result, millions of dollars are flying out of the country.

According to recent reports published in the Bangladesh Post, total employed population is 5.95 crore, among which formal employment is around 13 percent only, and informal employment is around 86 percent.  As defined by the International Labour Organisation, people who are out of work, want a job, have actively sought work in the previous four weeks and are available to start work within the next fortnight come under unemployed category.

In Bangladesh people who are underemployed meaning they work less than 40 hours a week or earn less than the income required to meet basic needs or those who work at a lower tier compared to their skills and expertise should be considered unemployed.

The private sector creates more employment opportunities than the public sector in the country, but the investment in the private sector has been stalled for quite a long time, and it is one of the major reasons behind the high unemployment rate. An estimated 18 lakh of those having jobs of less than 40 hours a week was found looking for new or additional jobs. The latest survey also found 86.2 percent of the total employed population aged 15 or above in informal employment.

According to research reports published from Institute of Diploma Engineers, Bangladesh (IDEB) showed that the Bangladesh workforce productivity in service sector, in terms of GDP, were 23 percent of Thailand, 24 percent of Sri Lanka, 29 percent of China, 45 percent of India and 65 percent of Vietnam.

According to the study, in agricultural sector, the productivity of Bangladesh were 18 percent of Malaysia, 13 percent of Japan and 8 percent of Australia whereas in the industrial sector the productivity were 61 percent of India, 4 percent of Malaysia, 1.3 percent of Australia and 1 percent of Japan.

The study found attributed the prime cause of the low-level efficiency to the disconnection between the education qualifications and the occupational demand of the employment market. It said that at least 61 percent public universities' students enrolled in Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences whereas 40 percent private universities' students awarded higher degree in Business Administration.

However in applied sectors like engineering, science, technology and ICT, the ratios are 12 percent in public universities and 28 percent in private universities. These huge numbers of graduates are not being able to contribute in technical sectors for which Bangladesh was not getting enough skilled manpower.  

It was estimated that the working population in Bangladesh will reach 128 million by 2030 and if the huge population is not turned into skilled manpower it will bring economic burden.
According to the analysis of population potential and challenges, it said, after 2030 the working population will start decreasing. It will lead the country to 'demographic trap' which means economically dependent people will increase than the working age people.'

Due to the shortage of timely training and language skills, our workers are not able to create a strong position abroad. To overcome these weaknesses, increasing the budget of the immigration sector and taking necessary steps for appropriate training and language skills are essential.

The ever-expanding manufacturing industry in Bangladesh makes it difficult to reduce dependency on foreign expertise, but it can be lessened with some initiatives. Public and private universities should introduce subjects such as Merchandising, Fashion Technology, Production Engineering and Management, along with practical courses.

The universities can also help the students get in touch with the industry they are interested in, and Bangladesh's dependency on foreign experts will gradually drop. At present, we are happy to know that the work is going on in government and non-governmental universities to create skilled human resources to reduce the dependency on foreigners. The concerned ministry and the UGC will have to come forward to give all-out support to these educational institutions.

It is high time for the government to focus on eradicate unemployment from the country, and on coming up with measures to develop professional skills. All concerned people, such as all political bodies, government and non-government organizational sectors, national educational and skill development authorities, research institutes, media and others, have to come forward to solve the ongoing problems.
The writer is a columnist & Former Head of PRD at BUFT

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