Bangladesh Youth Leadership Center (BYLC), in association with The Daily Star, Manusher Jonno Foundation, and UK aid, organised a roundtable titled “Skills strategies for jobs: How Bangladesh can meet skills demand for a new era of work and technology ensuring gender, ethnic, and cultural diversity?” on the occasion of World Youth Skills Day on July 17, 2019. Here we publish a summary of the discussion.
A central focus of BYLC’s work over the past decade has been in instilling values of public service in youth and equipping them with leadership skills. After having trained more than 4,000 youth, another major strand of our work now is in ensuring livelihood for them. We do this by partnering with the private sector and placing our alumni in jobs and by investing in youth-led enterprises and creating more jobs in the economy. The disconnect between what colleges and universities teach and what employers really look for is the gap we are trying to bridge. Over the next four years, we’ll offer blended training to more than 10,000 youth, place 4,000 of them in jobs, and invest in 40 youth-led businesses.
We need to identify the skills that are in demand in the job market so that the youth of the country can be trained in these skills. Our education policy and institutes still lag behind in terms of providing young people the required skills to match the market demand. Education policies in developed countries are conducted on solid research findings, a practice that can be followed in Bangladesh.
Wahidur Rahman Sharif
Innovation and basic communication skills should be taught from early childhood, as this will enable young people learn the value of social impact and contribute to society. Unfortunately, fresh graduates cannot even properly communicate in Bangla, leave aside communicating in English. We need to ensure that whatever language we teach our students, it has to be perfectly taught and learned, so that they are adept at basic communication skills.
M Manjur Mahmud
I believe that those who are in leadership positions should be given training on how to recruit, retain, and manage people. We should encourage young people to focus on the skills that they are good in, build on those skills, and take pride in that. We also need to work on fortifying the naturally strong industries of Bangladesh.
Maliha M Quadir
In our industry, skills in digital marketing, data analytics, engineering, and financial modelling are in demand and can be built upon through training. Coding should be made compulsory from primary school, so that everyone is acquainted with the fundamentals of basic coding. Career counselling and internships should be made compulsory, and long-term contractual internship opportunities should be made available for university students.
Most students entering the financial market have limited technological knowledge. Apart from technical skills, our educational curricula should include complex problem-solving, critical thinking, and creativity skills. Collaboration and partnership are essential for the growth of any industry. Values such as collective wisdom and pluralism have to be incorporated into our learning behavior.
Academic qualifications are no longer the main factor in ensuring employability.
Prime Bank, for example, takes into account adaptability, values, and street smartness when evaluating a person for a job. Extra-curricular activities should also be promoted from a young age, as it builds self-confidence and is essential for character development.
Syed Farhad Ahmed
Unfortunately, everything in Bangladesh is Dhaka-centric. After establishing a high-tech park in Jashore, we were pleasantly surprised to note that the young people we recruited there were efficient and were motivated to work and produce the best results. Moving certain operations to cities outside the capital will guarantee higher employment in those areas, as well as warrant cost effectiveness for the organisation.
If we want to retain or increase female employment in the job market, we need to change mindsets that force women to choose family over career and vice versa. We should promote university students to work in retail, basic hotel management, and odd jobs to inculcate strong work ethics and professionalism from a young age. Innovation centers should be established in universities to promote curiosity and invention. Corporate funding can be utilised to fund R&D in these centers.
Md. Eleash Mridha
Our outdated education system is yet to incorporate the latest manufacturing methods into its curriculum, leading to a lack of engineers with adequate technical knowledge. Moreover, there is a skills gap in ensuring environment-friendly production as graduates majoring in environmental science are not aware of the opportunities provided to them in the private sector.
Quazi Mohammad Shahed
We should make the work environment more gender sensitive by introducing women-friendly policies in the workplace. Many business case-studies in our education curriculum still refer to research conducted in foreign countries. Students should be exposed to local case-studies, which would provide them contextual knowledge to apply in their jobs.
Rashed Mujib Noman
Apart from English language competency, retaining talent is a major challenge faced by Augmedix. Despite high salaries, training opportunities, and other benefits, young people today frequently change their jobs or migrate to foreign countries. Our recruitment and retainment policies should be sustainable if we want to ensure that the young people recruited continue to work with the organisation for a prolonged period.
Zara Jabeen Mahbub
Employers need to adapt to changing times, and manage and retain fresh graduates entering the workforce using innovative techniques. Trainers who instruct these fresh graduates entering the workforce should also be trained on how best to guide them.
Communication has become a crucial 21st century skill. Our focus should be on developing the communication skills of young people so that we can tap into the emerging BPO industry.
Ivdad Ahmed Khan Mojlish
Young people should be given a sense of ownership to design projects and run them in their own way. When young people find meaning in their work, they are less likely to leave the job. They should also be given the chance to diversify their skills and receive cross-functional exposure by working in different departments of an organisation.
As there is an absence of programmes on supply chain and inventory management in universities in our country, we tried to work with some private universities to develop such programmes, but to no avail. We, as a society, should also change our mindset about the work we find respectable. If young people only seek out desk jobs and are unwilling to go to the field, how are they expected to learn and build their skills?
Md. Jahurul Islam
Instead of focusing on general training, we should emphasise on appropriate and relevant skills training. If we want to recruit and retain committed people, it is important to know the skillsets and interests of a person before determining the training they need. Thus, counselling and skills need assessment is crucial for training selection. Similarly, job mapping and surveys are also needed to identify skills requirement in the job market.
Even after performing better than men in men-led industries, women don’t prefer to enter such industries in fear of their safety. If we don’t provide women the safety and opportunities to excel in the job market, why would they feel motivated to keep working? Moreover, there are many young marginalised people and people with disabilities who are not given appropriate employment opportunities. We should make the workplace more accessible for them.