Skills for Employment

Leveraging Demographic Dividend to Meet the Goals of a Middle Income Country

Form the right linkages in the education sector to meet the goals of becoming a strong middle-income country based on local and international market demand. Show more

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urrent education, training and employment scenario in Bangladesh

The education sector is often disconnected from the market. The skills developed by the former are often not demanded by the latter causing unemployment and underemployment of the so-called ‘educated’ and ‘trained’. At the same time, the former does not or is not able to produce skills that the latter demands leading to jobs in the market that the local labour force cannot fulfill. Such disconnection leads to wastage of national resources, frustration of the graduates at different educational tiers, and delayed achievement of national economic goals and SDGs.

With a total population of around 160 million and labour force of about 80 million, Bangladesh has a youth unemployment rate of 9.2% and an underemployment rate of 18.7% which are steadily moving in an upward direction, according to a 2015 World Bank report. 1.7 million are joining the job market every year whereas the government trains 1.2 million every year. However, the problem is that most of this training is inadequate, not demand-based, and does not include the new labour market entrants.

a2i’s Holistic Strategy

a2i is the key driver from the Prime Minister’s Office of the government’s public service innovation agenda. Aligned with the importance of skills development in the context of Bangladesh and the high priority accorded to this issue by Honorable Prime Minister, a2i is working with a whole-of-government approach applying behavior change methodologies and leveraging the rapid expansion of technologies to create an enabling environment for the development of 21st century skills in Bangladesh.

a2i is spearheading efforts to 1) Increase remittance per capita, 2) Ensure decent work for everyone. a2i has developed a strategic framework on “Skills for Employment” identifying 4 priority areas:

Market Analysis, Forecasting and Prioritization: Labour force trained by the government training agencies for local or foreign market struggle due to inappropriate knowledge and skills. On the other hand, massive infrastructure projects in the country are in the process of creating huge employment opportunities for which labour skills development is not happening based on demand. To analyze demand and prioritize skills development, a2i and Bangladesh Economic Zones Authority (BEZA) are jointly conducting a study for the local market, whereas Ministry of Expatriates’ Welfare and Overseas Employment is doing a study for the international markets.

Market driven skills development: a2i has partnered with various organizations to create the necessary linkages between skills development agencies and job providers to pave the way for the workers to get gainful employment in different industries. Some of the initiatives are as follows:

  • Skills development through apprenticeship and job placement in informal sectors in partnership with ILO in 30 Upazillas with 600 informal industries. A total number of 1200 rural employed youths are now taking on-the-job training as apprentices in 35 trades. It is also working to certify the “ustaads” or master craft persons.
  • a2i is partnered with the Skills for Employment Investment Program (SEIP) of the Finance Division and BGMEA to ensure ‘equitable’ access to customized skills development facilities and job placement for unemployed youth including ‘Plain Land Ethnic Minority Communities’. Piloting is currently ongoing in Sirajganj District in two trades – Woven and Knit Machine Operation. Youths who are aged between 18 and 35 and want decent jobs in Garment Industry can join the 2-month long training program. After successful completion of the training, the participants will get decent jobs in the Garment Industry.
  • a2i is exploring the design of an intervention to potentially revolutionize the mindset of youths in the ‘qawmi madrasa system’ in Bangladesh. The situation at present is one where millions of orphaned and under-privileged under the madrasa system are exposed to a curriculum that does little to impart useful education and knowledge. a2i aims to empower these thousands and millions of youths to turn around their lives. This intervention will create the scope for them to learn at least one skill that is in great demand in local and foreign markets.
  • Collaboration with Higher Secondary Stipend Project (HSSP) of Ministry of Education for integrating skills development with stipend programs. The piloting is going on in 10 upazilas and 200 disadvantageous college students are getting self-employment and income generating skills.
  • With an emphasis on the remotest and most under-privileged areas, a2i, SME Foundation, Bangladesh Women in Technology (BWIT) with support from the Ministry of Women and Children Affairs jointly targeted 3,000+ women from all over the country to develop them as ICT entrepreneurs/freelancers.
  • Partnership with Microsoft Bangladesh to create woman Hardware Technicians and IT Support Technicians in rural areas. As of December 2016, skills development of 3,500 rural women completed.
  • Collaboration with Strengthening Women’s Ability for Productive New Opportunities (SWAPNO) project of UNDP to initiate skills development and self-employment amongst ultra-poor women.

Coordination and standardization: There are 28 departments under 23 ministries directly involved in skills development or TVET. The National Skills Development Council (NSDC), led by the Honorable Prime Minister, has been founded to coordinate and accelerate the skills development initiatives to make a bridge between different organizations engaged in skills development and employment generation. a2i is supporting NSDC to:

  • Bring together all players from across the ecosystem
  • Drive the dialogue by discussing key issues, challenges and opportunities
  • Moreover, a2i and NSDC are jointly developing a ‘Skills & Employment’ dashboard to coordinate and monitor all the skills development initiatives of the country.

National Communication and Branding: Technical and Vocational Education and Training or TVET has a stigma associated with it in Bangladesh that this is for students who are not able to ‘make it’ in the mainstream education. Uplifting image of TVET through proper communication and branding is a major national goal. Media, including social media, is leveraged to create positive hype and awareness about TVET and how it can lead to personal prosperity and contribute to national economic growth.

a2i Co-Organized “Dhaka Summit on Skills, Employability and Decent Work 2016” held from 11-13th December 2016 along with Ministry of Labor and Employment (MoLE), Bangladesh Employers’ Federation (BEF) and National Coordination Committee for Workers Education (NCCWE). Considering the importance of the skills development in the context of Bangladesh and the high priority accorded to skills by the government, the private sector and the development partners, the summit had an overarching skills agenda towards promotion of decent work. The event was supported by the National Skills Development Council (NSDC), International Labor Organization (ILO), World Bank, Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC), Canadian Government, Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association (BGMEA), Bangladesh Knitwear Manufacturers & Exporters Association (BKMEA) and Centre for Policy Dialogue (CPD).

Focus on SDGs

Skills for Employment initiative is a significant endeavor to increase remittance per capita and ensure decent work for everyone through appropriate planning, coordination and reshaping skills development. Only with a concerted effort will it be possible to stand up against unemployment and making meaningful contributions to attain SDGs 1 (No Poverty), 4 (Quality Education), 8 (Decent Jobs and Economic Growth), 9 (Industry, Innovation and Infrastructure), 10 (Reduced Inequalities) and eventually earning a strong middle income status in the world arena.

Cases and Stories


Skills for Employment

Shymol Kumar has a family of 8 members and he is the eldest son of his family. He had to take the responsibility of his family since…

Skills for Employment

Shymol Kumar has a family of 8 members and he is the eldest son of his family. He had to take the responsibility of his family since his father died in an early age. As a result, he discontinued his study in class 8. To earn his family’s livelihood, he started farming. He was hardly making both ends meet. His siblings also had to give up study because of financial instability. In July 2016, Shymol got to know through their local Union Digital Center (UDC) about a two month duration training program on knit machine operation. After successful completion of the training, Shyamol received a job placement assurance by BGMEA. He confirmed his admission in September- October session after discussing with his family. He received first hand training on suitor, polo shirt, t-shirt and jersey knitting. He passed the training successfully and on 1 November he joined as an operator in Niagara Textile Limited, located in Gazipur. His monthly salary is 10,000 taka with an opportunity of earning more through overtime. His income is more than that of the other operators and he can work more efficiently and effectively, thanks to the training program. He can now afford the smile of his family with his stable income. Shymol is quite optimistic that other unemployed youth would also follow his trail and ensure a better living for their families and themselves. Training of these kinds could change the macro-economic condition of the overall country, increasing the life standard of the impoverished sections of this country. Beneficiary Shymol expressed his gratitude this way- “Knit machine operation program has changed myself and my family’s life. I am better off now. I can now send money to my mother every month. I am sincerely indebted to a2i”

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