The Financial Express

Need for increased female enrollment in skill development training

| Updated: December 30, 2021 20:36:22

Need for increased female enrollment in skill development training

Female enrollment in skill development training in Bangladesh is a time-based and market responsive demand. Deploying women in skill development training and building their competency could enhance the productivity level significantly in workplaces. This could also improve upon the mismatch between skills supply and required skills in the demand driven marketplace. Developed countries have ensured female enrollment at skill development Technical and Vocational Education and Training (TVET) sector resulting incremental contribution to the Gross Domestic Production (GDP). Bangladesh has immense opportunity of exploring the collective efforts of both males and females by involving them in skill development TVET sector.

Women's participation in TVET sector in Bangladesh ranges from 9 to13 per cent in public institutions and 33 per cent in private institutions. This is, of course, a great imbalance, particularly in TVET sector which is interconnected with skill development training. In the year 2019, female shared slightly higher than 25 per cent which means out of every four students in technical and vocational education, only one is female. Government Technical School and Colleges (TSCs), Technical Training Centres (TCs), Bangladesh Industrial Technical Assistance Centre (BTAC), skill development projects, Non-Government Organisations (NGOs), private TVET institutions, international NGOs are engaged in skill development TVET sector to produce skilled workforces aimed at the demand driven national and international market. Female enrollment in the aforesaid institutions and organisations is far less than male participations. Several reasons are responsible to hold back women's participation in the TVET institutions. Among them the the major one is about female's incapability of doing technical jobs e.g., carpentry, appliance service and repair, welding, plumbing etc. But Skills for Employment Investment Programme (SEIP), a project of the Finance Division, has proved that girls can equally adept at learning these technical jobs and can successfully apply their skills at the workplace.  Family barriers, early marriage, location of TVET centres, inadequate training module, poor infrastructures and a general lack of acceptance from society also act as constraints. National Skill Development Policy, 2020 (NSDP 2020) has been formulated to address the issues which is yet to implemented. The 7th Five-Year Plan has also a strategic road-map to enhance women's participation in skill development training to ensure empowerment equality and gender equity.

Finance Division, Ministry of Finance implements SEIP project supported by the Asian Development Bank (ADB). The project aims at training to 841,680 trainees on ten priority sectors including 40 per cent females. The highlight of the project is its strategy of providing 60 per cent job placement against the target enrollment. The project has specified mandate of enrolling female trainees in its partner institutions and associations. It provides training on 139 specified and demand driven courses and several of the courses are woman-friendly. In some of the courses, female enrollment is remarkable. Bangladesh Women Chamber of Commerce & Industry (BWCCI), an partner of SEIP project, enrolled 4300 female trainees at 23 TVET institutions in 12 different courses and 100 per cent of them are females. Female enrollment is also encouraging at SEIP supported associations and institutions e.g., 61.98 per cent at Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association (BGMEA), 52.47 per cent at Bangladesh Knitwear Manufacturers and Exporters Association (BKMEA), 46.66 per cent at Bangladesh Agro-Processors' Association (BAPA), 57.19 per cent at Leather goods and Footwear Manufacturers and Exporters Association of Bangladesh (LFMEAB) and 31.95 per cent at Bangladesh Bank-SME (BB-SME). In addition, there are some popular and female-friendly skill development courses of SEIP project in its affiliated TVET institutes that ensure mostly female enrollment. This is certainly a good initiative taken by SEIP to reinforce/attract female participants in skill development training.

Female enrollment in skill development TVET sector is considered as an important channel of providing requisite skills in increased competition caused by trade liberalisation. The government of the United States, Singapore, South Korea, Thailand, Malaysia, Britain, New Zealand and Australia envision female enrollment in skill development TVET sector as an investment in the economy and society. Many developed and developing countries like Japan, Brazil, Italy, Sweden, Vietnam, Sri-Lanka, Philippine and China have adequately funded in skill development TVET sector to create an inclusive skill eco-system. It has been noticed that countries with heavy investment record the highest female enrolments. However, in Europe, at least 50 per cent of the students in upper secondary education pursue some form of technical or vocational education. In China, India and South East Asia, the figure is 35-40 per cent, whereas in Africa it is less than 20 per cent. Kenya is reforming its inclusive TVET policies which had been developed mainly in Australia, England, New Zealand and Scotland. South Africa, Botswana, and Uganda initiated inclusive TVET reform policies, provided lesson learnt at the regional level. The Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) States are struggling with increasing the enrollment and employment of women in skill development TVET sector. Some GCC countries including Saudi Arabia and Bahrain have viewed skill development training as a key element of educational policy for many years, other GCC nations have only reasonably focused their attention on improving skill development training systems. While countries are making efforts to increase and close gender gap, there still exists significant gender disparity in skill development TVET system. In Nigeria female students constituted 35 per cent of TVET enrolment, in Uganda less than 15 per cent, in Benin and Senegal the proportion is about 30-35 per cent, in Tanzania 13 per cent and in Ghana part time and full time, stood at 30.9 and 54.5 per cent respectively.

Skill development TVET system is being recognised worldwide as the most sustainable training programme that can produce required skills to support technical innovations and growth. Women constitute almost half of the population of Bangladesh and we have more than 60 million people in workforce, 18.6 million of whom are women. More than two million people, mostly young, are entering the labour market every year, of whom only half a million are trained. Millions of working age population are still out of the labour force, unemployed or employed in the informal sector. The country's workforce is expected to reach 76 million by 2025.  Besides, overseas employment constitutes a significant part to the national economy of Bangladesh. In 2019, more than 0.7 million Bangladeshis including women went abroad which is equivalent to more than one-third of the annual entrants to the labour force. They remitted US$18.3 billion in 2019 which constitutes about 5.8 per cent of the GDP of the country. The golden opportunity of grasping the demographic dividend would best be explored by engaging young women at mainstream workforces. Besides, skilled woman workforce can equally contribute to the expected Fourth Industrial Revolution (4IR) where machines are integrated with humans through Cyber Physical Systems (CPS). Hence, by providing skills development training to woman it is possible to turn them potential human resources resulting in increased productivity in the workplace.

To speed up the country's pace to a middle-income country and achieve the sustainable development goal for promoting "decent work for all", there is no alternative to enrolling increasing number of women in market responsive and inclusive skill development training. Bangladesh has a young population with 34 per cent aged 15 and younger as well as just five per cent aged 65 and older. At present, more than 65 per cent of our population is of working age, between 15 and 64. Female enrollment in skills development training is interconnected with demographic dividend as the transition passes through a stage of the working-aged people. More specifically, women enter into the labour market as fertility level declines. Most of the youths crave better opportunity and equip themselves for the demand driven market. They get more experienced through exploring skill building initiative.

Keeping women aloof from skill development training means exploring half of the total human resources in TVET sector. It clearly means 'having two eyes, we just use only one'. Therefore, we need to maximise female enrollment in skill development TVET sector e.g., from underprivileged, underdeveloped and grass-root rural areas. There should be a skill dfecelopment ministry that would lead and guide NSDA, execute NSDP 2020 at all the skill development institutes. Gender friendly skill development training centre could be established in each Upazilla and Union for young women providing special stipends, transport facilities, hostels, child care centres and tool kits. Market responsive and women supportive skill development training could be reinforced by orienting and counseling the parents, local elites, religious and community leaders. Special incentives and recognition should be given to the relevant institutions and industries that employ more females than males. Development partners like the ADB and the World Bank may find it worthwhile to increase grants for skill development TVET sector.

Md. Nurunnabi is a Project Officer at SEIP,

Finance Division, MoF.

[email protected]

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