Speakers in a webinar on Saturday suggested the authorities concerned act fast to develop new skill sets among the workforce to tap potential investment in the post-COVID era.
As countries like the USA and Japan have planned industrial relocation from China, they said, it is high time Bangladesh expedited talks with those countries and interested investors.
A special database of the returned migrants is required to utilise them as per skill sets in the local industry and re-skill them for the post-COVID overseas market.
The speakers made the observations at the webinar styled 'Post-COVID-19 Bangladesh Industry Readiness: Investment and Skills' hosted by the Dhaka Chamber of Commerce and Industry (DCCI).
Deputy minister of education Mohibul Hassan Chowdhury addressed the programme as the chief guest with DCCI president Shams Mahmud in the chair.
Bangladesh Investment Development Authority executive chairman Md Sirazul Islam were present as the special guest and Bureau of Manpower, Employment and Training director (training) Md Sakawat Ali as the guest of honour.
At the event, Mr Chowdhury said inter-ministerial coordination is needed to train and educate the country's workforce as per the needs of the industry.
Pointing to a poor linkage between industry and academia, he said graduates are not ready to meet the industry's demand for a lack of modern curriculum and socio-cultural perspective of technical jobs.
"Our graduates do physical jobs while going abroad for higher education but don't engage in such profession in Bangladesh for a socio-cultural attitude towards the type of employment."
As the skill sets of graduates and middle-aged to older workforce mismatch the demand, the government has lifted age barrier to take in technical and vocational education and training (TVET), he said.
Mr Chowdhury said over 2.8-million students are enrolled with National University where many subjects taught have no applicability today as fourth industrial revolution is knocking at the door.
The rate of TVET here has increased to 17 per cent from less than 1.0 per cent only 10 years ago, he mentioned.
Md Shahidul Alam, additional secretary of expatriates' welfare and overseas employment ministry, said some 2.2-million youths enter the job market every year. Of them, he disclosed, 0.7 to 0.8 million go abroad in search of employment.
Extra pressure will fall on the economy as new workers have not been able to go abroad, Mr Alam cited.
Again, many expatriates are returning home as their host countries cut jobs as a fallout of the pandemic.
Emphasising coordination among ministries of expatriates' welfare, education and foreign affairs, he said finding new markets and modernising curricula are a must to tackle the post-pandemic challenges.
DCCI president Mr Mahmud said in the last 11 months, exports reduced by 18 per cent following a downtrend in global demand and supply chain disruptions.
These factors have created unemployment in the export-oriented industry, small and medium enterprise, and informal sector. In the meantime, private-sector investment came down to 12.72 per cent of the gross domestic product (GDP) in 2019-2020 fiscal after maintaining 22 to 23 per cent for the past six years.
However, Mr Mahmud noted that sectors like health, e-commerce and agriculture have generated employment in the changed reality of the pandemic.
Bangladesh will enjoy demographic dividend with its 63.5-million workforce who will give it a competitive edge for investment relocation from China by the USA and Japan, he said.
Mr Mahmud told the webinar that the Dhaka chamber is set to establish its own research and innovation department to understand the needs of industry and link it with academia.
DCCI vice-presidents Mohammad Bashirullah and NKA Mobin, and Bangladesh-Philippines Chamber of Commerce and Industry president Akber Al Hakim also spoke.