The United Nations General Assembly has declared 15th July as World Youth Skills Day, to acknowledge the significance of enabling youth with skills for better future. Since 2014, countries, Technical and Vocational Education and Training (TVET) institutions, youth and other public-private institutes around the world have been celebrating this day. This day is aligned with the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), Goal 4 – ‘‘Ensure inclusive and equitable education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all.’’
Youth, the most influential, energetic and powerful fragment of the society, are the ones who make notable changes in the development and prosperity of a country. They are the architects who form the present and future of a country. The UN has categorized people between the ages of 15 to 24 years as youth. About 68% of the population in Pakistan is under 30, making it the fifth youngest country in the world. There is no doubt that this huge percentage of youth bulge can shape the future of our country. But the figures are very dismal and show that 30% of our youth is illiterate and around 80% has poor education and lacks skills. Furthermore, according to the study, currently 31% of the youth in Pakistan, out of which 51% are female and 16% male, are unemployed. Besides, 60% of females are neither studying nor working.
All these statistics conclude that human capital in Pakistan is regrettably held back by many factors including low education, higher unemployment rate, high illiteracy, limited job opportunities, unskilled labour force, mismatch between the labour market demand and supply, low resources and finance, and limited or no access to technology. These problems have not only impeded the abilities of our youth but also put the country’s growth and development on a regressive path. Not everyone is born to become a scientist, doctor or engineer, there are so many other fields in which our youth can make their mark to become independent and increase national economy.
Assets, backbone, hope, future leaders, all these terms come to mind when we talk about our youth. But it depends on the institutions of a country, how they use these assets to strengthen their backbone and empower youth with the hope for a better and prosperous future.
Countries around the world have reaped tremendous benefits by skill development of their youth. Technical education, and training helps youth in acquiring decent employment or to try entrepreneurship. Investing in youth, equipping them with advanced skills on-job trainings, resource and technology access, is the best approach for development of human capital and enhancing productivity. Certainly upskilling youth lessens financial dependency, creates a rise in job opportunities, improves work-based learning, and helps in competing for better paying jobs, especially for females.
Pakistan has also taken substantial measures for empowering its youth in the past few years. Federal and provincial governments have taken various skills related initiatives including: National Skills for All, Hunarmand Pakistan, Kamyab Jawan Programme, Punjab’s Parwaaz Programme, E-rozgar and Digiskills for youth skill development. These initiatives offer diverse programs including training in mechatronics, advanced technologies, artificial intelligence, construction, block-chain intelligent vehicles, augmented reality, hospitality, 3D printing, manufacturing and robotics. Additionally, skills of graphic designing, event designing and planning, WordPress, textile and domestic skills for women of less developed areas, are included. Internship programs, loan schemes, matric-tech programs, financial funds, Takamol Skill Verification Program, entrepreneurship, apprenticeship and leadership trainings are also offered.
The government has also launched incubation centres in TVET centres for better skills development and entrepreneurship through business support. The National Vocational & Training Commission (NAVTTC), collaborating with other public and private institutions has introduced competency-based training. Also, several national and international organizations are functioning in different regions of the country for income generating skills development and women empowerment to make them emotionally and economically independent.
We have just begun our journey to upskill our youth, and there is still a lot to be done. Pakistan should invest rightly and effectively in human capital to bring a socio-economic revolution and empowering youth. There is an essential need of putting forward national policies and emphasize upon youth potential for growth, development and prosperity. The need is to prioritize and allocate adequate budget for improving quality of skills development programs especially for women.
As per a study, there is only 2% of youth that has enrolled in TVET institutes in the country. Firstly, local governments should conduct youth skill counselling sessions and programs that motivate youth in enrolling themselves in TVET institutes, thus enhancing their capabilities. Secondly, NGOs and public-private institutes should focus on capacity building programs to make them productive. There is dire need to update the old curriculum according to the current market demand. Thirdly, the number of women specialized TVET centres should be increased to enhance female self-employability.
There is a huge gap between industrial sector and TVET sector, limited involvement of one sector in the other, low productivity, less supply of skilled workers in industries, etc. Industries should also take part in the training and skill development of youth to achieve demand-driven workforce. Joint ventures of these two sectors can contribute significantly in skills development of labour and identifying the labour demand of the market. Chiefly, skills/training institutions and research institutions/academia should work in cohesion to fill the gap of skilled workers demand and supply in the labour market. They should conduct proper research on area-wise (rural and urban) demand, sector-wise demand, overseas demand and ICT demand of labour. Lastly, government and private sectors should focus on increasing the job opportunities for these skilled workers according to their niche. This will help to overcome the problem of low productivity, local and international competitiveness and economic growth.
No doubt, our youth have the potential to do wondrous feats but sadly they are left on the side lines because of limited opportunities. Taking the abovementioned steps along with existing policies, will help lessen the issues of unskilled labour force. Moreover, it will also help in achieving the SDG4 by 2030. HH
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