Skill development has of late come under intense focus. The reasons are obvious: migrant workers are returning home in droves from some of the popular destinations and foreign consultants and skilled employees are remitting money with a tinge of evasion. Workers are returning because of their lack of skill and education. But when educated youths find no employment and industries and business enterprises have to hire foreigners, it blatantly exposes the incompatibility between the kind of higher education offered and the business and industrial requirements of the country. The Transparency International, Bangladesh (TIB) report that foreigners remit US$3.1 billion annually corroborates the fact. Yet skill development at these levels would not be sufficient if the fourth industrial revolution (4IR) now knocking at the door is taken into account. Workers' skill development can by no means be compared with information and technology (IT) professionals' techno-savvy orientation. But to reap the benefit of the 4IR, the challenges of this latest knowledge based on artificial intelligence, robotics, Internet of Things (IoT) 3D printing, genetic engineering, quantum computing and nanotechnology have to be take up.
The good news is that there is no lack of enthusiasm and merit among the young generation in taking up the specialised subjects in the sector. They have proved their mettle. However, facilities for furthering their horizon in research and experiments are limited at home. Even within constraints, a few extraordinary talented youths have come up with some amazing apps, start-ups, IT solutions to software problems. Even a school student in a remote village with minimal investment has been successful in making a talking robot. In his chief guest's speech at a seminar of the Startup World Cup 2020, Prime minister's private sector, industry and investment adviser Salman Fazlur Rahman has observed that Bangladesh still lacks a pool of right kind of skilled manpower to derive benefit from the 4IR.
One could not agree more with him on this score. But at the same time there is no reason to be frustrated as well. The young generations are inventive and highly talented to prove themselves if only they are given an enabling environment to advance the cause on a par with the rest of the world. It must be admitted that the IT sector has made its initial strides without much government patronage and policy support. Now the government has also come forward to help the sector but there remains more to be done.
In a highly populous country, the greatest challenge lies in devising an education model that can create an environment for spotting the IT prodigies from an early age -preferably at the primary level of education. At the top level, there has to be something of the order of a Silicon Valley. Bangalore has done it successfully. However, in between there has to be arrangement for developing technical hands who may not be creative enough but are quite expert in operating office systems and business networks based on IT expertise. To make this happen, education must be radically reformed.
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