Developing skilled workforce for energy and power sector

Mushfiqur Rahman | Published: September 29, 2018 21:36:06 | Updated: October 05, 2018 21:47:21

Result of admission test of Dhaka University's 'Kha Unit' (Arts Faculty) for 2018-2019 academic session shows that 4,747 students out of 33,897 (14 per cent) who appeared in the tests on 21 September 2018 could pass the tests. Among the admission seekers, only 2,378 students will have the opportunity to enroll in the departments under Arts Faculty of the university.

Result published earlier for admission test of Dhaka University's 'Ga Unit' (Business Faculty) for 2018-2019 academic session shows that 10.98 per cent of the applicants could pass the tests. According to the published information, 2,850 students among the 25,958 admission seekers in the business faculty passed the test for 1,250 seats available in different departments of the university's business faculty.

It is understood that not all of the admission seekers who qualified in the admission test will finally enroll themselves in Dhaka University because of other alternative opportunities. There will be students who may not get the opportunity to enroll in their desired departments due to limited seats in the university. However, the concern raised (and such concerns are not raised for the first time this year) that almost 90 per cent of the admission seekers fail to qualify in the university admission tests despite their good academic scores (GPA) in the secondary and higher secondary school certificate examinations. The alarm obviously refers to questionable quality of education in schools and colleges.

At the same time, those who are successful in completing their education in Dhaka University and top educational institutes are not getting jobs related to their field of studies. A lot of graduates have to remain unemployed failing to find suitable jobs. The economic growth of the country is not necessarily creating enough employment opportunities. On the other hand, the curriculum of educational institutes is not always in harmony with the industry and service sector needs of the country. Still, these institutes continue to offer courses and programmes having little or no relevance to the job market. Published information on the country's growth and increase in employment opportunities suggests that between 2013 and 2017, GDP in Bangladesh grew annually on average at a rate of 6.6 per cent and the number of jobs grew by only 0.9 per cent. While job in the agriculture sector has been declining steadily, new job opportunities have been created in the industrial and service sectors.

A published report in a local daily quoted lead economist of the World Bank office in Bangladesh Mr. Zahid Hossain stating that 'the absence of quality education and a skilled labour force are the main causes of youth unemployment in Bangladesh. The World Bank report found that more than 75 per cent of business leaders claimed that a scarcity of skilled young workers was a challenge to hiring youth. Because investment to generate employment is not in line with the demand'. He further said, 'the country currently must hire skilled workers from India, Sri Lanka and Thailand because of shortage of skilled labour'.

The situation of human resource in power and energy sector is no exception. The government plans to generate 60,000 MW electric power within 2041. 15 per cent of the planned power supply is to be met from imports and the balance to be generated-- 35 per cent from gas, 35 per cent from coal, 10 per cent from nuclear energy and 5 per cent from liquid fuels.

The present installed power generation capacity (including 2800 mw captive power) in the country has reached to18,000 mw ( 6 per cent or 1,160 mw from  import, 62 per cent generated from gas, 29 per cent from liquid oil and  2 per cent from domestic coal and 2 per cent from hydro). So far, the domestic gas production has been at 2,700 MMCFD, and 500 MMCFD equivalent LNG is being imported to meet the shortfall. Within early next year, an additional 500 MMCFD equivalent LNG will be added to the national grid.

The country has entered into the LNG import now. So far, no coal was imported for power generation. Huge infrastructure building works are underway or in the planning stage to facilitate the said imports of LNG and coal in Bangladesh. Unfortunately, the programme for human resource development remains neglected. The Power System Master Plan, the Gas Sector Master Plan (2010 and 2015) do not include specific targets and plans for required manpower development for the massive power and energy sector development plants.

The latest edition of the Energy & Power Magazine reports that government has been using the PSC allocated fund for various overseas training programmes. And in the last ten years, approximately 10,000 government officials availed foreign training and attended seminars and conferences. A part of the training programmes used PSC funds but only 25 per cent participants of the trainings funded by PSC were Petrobangla officials. The report says that the government does not have any data about the officials sent for overseas trainings and their present workplace. The country's power and energy sector constructions, maintenance and operation works are heavily dependent on foreign experts and skilled workers. And one can easily understand that the overseas trainings offered for improving skills for power and energy sector management and operations did not yield desired results.

It is high time target-based training was undertaken for developing young skilled manpower for the energy industry. The government needs to focus urgently on the matter so that coordinated and target-oriented training for skill development for energy and power sector operations and management could be accomplished.

Mushfiqur Rahman is a mining engineer and writes on energy and environment issues.

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