In 2014, my nephew, Dipto, had claimed that investing time and money for graduating from a university was pointless, if he did not have an uncle who can help him find a job afterwards. At the time, I knew there was no easy fix for what he thought, and I wanted to do everything I can to reset my nephew’s view on the Bangladeshi job market and life in Bangladesh overall. I knew then that what worked in the USA will not work in Bangladesh. A lot has changed since then. Today, given Bangladesh’s progress in so many fields, I am confident that a model I see working flawlessly in the USA will work similarly well in this country.
However, first, we need to understand the reasons why Bangladeshi youths find job hunting so frustrating. According to Zahid Hussain, Lead Economist at the WB’s Dhaka office, the key problem is skill mismatch. A recent article in The Daily Star summed up this current gap brilliantly. According to the article, the biggest reason for university graduates to lag behind the job market was that graduates often lack relevant skills valued by employers. To remediate the issue, Professor Abdul Mannan, former chairman of the University Grants Commission, had said, “The graduates should be equipped with the right set of skills to make them employable in the fast-changing job market.”
Clearly, universities have to step up to the plate, but that is only one side of the equation. Employers, too, have a key role to play under such circumstances. Out of 235 employers surveyed, three employers had partnerships for recruitment and two reported having a partnership for apprenticeship programmes with colleges. Employer involvement for developing necessary skills amongst prospective employees early on in their careers, is a critical component for addressing the skill gaps referenced by Professor Mannan.
We need a model that works for both universities and industries, to address the skill gaps. We need to figure out a way to empower our students by allowing them to attend university and work at the same time. We also need to empower companies by providing them access to the students and vet them, before the hiring process begins.
I am not suggesting a traditional co-op or internship model. I am talking about universities and industry leaders developing a sustainable career development partnership to help students establish a strong foundation of education and practical business experience, which will enable them to become the future employees that all employers want. I have been a part of such programmes in the USA as both an educator and a corporate mentor, and I see no reason why such programmes will not work here in Bangladesh.
Booshra Ahmed is the Senior Vice President, Bank of America, a faculty member of the MBA & Data Science Program at University of North Carolina Charlotte and the Management Development Program at Harvard Business School Alumni CC. She is also the Executive Coach at the Applied Technology Program, run by Bank of America and UNCC. An Executive MBA graduate from Harvard Business School, she was featured alongside 17 HBS Alumnae Female Leaders worldwide.