Now that the primary concern for every human being on this planet is to survive the coronavirus pandemic, not many dare look far beyond today or the next day, let alone perhaps plan for the future. But human civilization has survived highly critical periods because, to borrow from American civil rights activist Martin Luther King Jr., "I have a dream". There are visionaries and incorrigible optimists who believe that the darkness will disappear and in its place will dawn a clear bright day. This is exactly why some people think well ahead of their time and there lies the mystery behind turning disadvantages of a most trying time into opportunities. Amid the gloomy predictions all around, a few people have already hinted at the many opportunities individuals and nations will come by following the worldwide economic recession.
It is against such a background, the government of Bangladesh deserves all the kudos for planning with the country's young, employable population. That the country's education system has not been complementary enough for the young educated to get employed has been established by various studies. According to a Labour Force Survey 2016-17 of the Bangladesh Bureau of Statistics, youth unemployment was 10.6 per cent as against the national average of 4.2 per cent. The situation has not changed much for the better, if not for the worse, over the next couple of years. The survey then found that youths with tertiary education fare worse with 13.4 per cent unemployment and those with higher secondary education the worst with 28 per cent unemployment. Then there were the 'NEET' (not in education, employment and training) with an unemployment rate of 29.8 per cent. The incumbent government has been working with this dismal fact of unemployment among the youth for sometime now. To its credit, it has continued planning with them at a time all offices and businesses are closed on account of corona pandemic.
The industries ministry earlier selected 14 projects of five-year term with the aim of creating skilled manpower. As the fourth industrial revolution (ir4.0) is knocking at the door, there is hardly any option other than getting ready for reaping benefits from it. How can this be done without focusing on the young population of the country? Once the Covid-19 phase tapers into the past, the world will be compelled to set new equations between and among nations. Bangladesh with an overwhelming majority of the young population will be placed in an advantageous position to seize many of the opportunities that comes its way.
No wonder, the World Bank, spotting merits in the projects undertaken, has agreed to finance seven out of the 14 projects. All the projects concern enhancement of capacity and modernisation of some of the existing training institutes like Training Institute for Chemical Industries, Bangladesh Industrial Technical Assistance Centre, high-tech modern technical training centre at Mirersarai industrial park, National Productivity Organisation and Bangladesh Institute of Plastic Industry. Clearly, such institutes will mostly produce low- to mid-level skilled manpower for factories and industries. There is also an overriding need for skill development at the highest level in collaboration with the country's universities. Top level management and innovation must not go out of sight.
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