Pakistan is currently facing youth bulge where 64% of the country’s total population is between the age group of 18-30 years, this youth bulge is expected to last for the next 20 years. Pakistan’s current population is around 184 million with an annual growth rate of 2.1%, which makes Pakistan the sixth most populous country in the world, from these stats we can assume that working age population is likely to increase from current level of 110 million. Similarly working age population (15-49) will increase from 96 million (2010) to 180 million by 2050. Current statistics revealed that only five percent of Pakistani youth have access to quality education which involves higher education at university level. This scenario calls for more skill oriented programs for youngsters in order to create job opportunities for them, especially for people from lower income strata of the society.
Current statistics revealed that only five percent of Pakistani youth have access to quality education which involves higher education at university level.
In today’s time, unemployment is high among the young masses because of low education, job unavailability and lack of financial resource. Currently the unemployment rate in Pakistan is around six percent. Unemployment and under-employment are two of the grim problems being faced by Pakistan, and are major hindrances in the path of economic development. One of the core reasons of unemployment is the scarcity of skilled human resource. It is becoming fast evident that employment opportunities are becoming limited for the graduates of general subjects in the current global scenario. Unfortunately, in third world countries specially, the education given at degree level is not designed keeping in mind the market demand nor is it skill oriented.
Government needs to shift focus towards initiating skill development programs for the young cohort of the population. Skill development programs include both technical and vocational training. It is a well-known fact that well implemented skill development programs can play an important role in the socio-economic development of any nation and help in strengthening the economic status of the weak segment of a society by giving them decent earning opportunities. If we look around, most of the Asian countries, due to their abundant skilled labor have a stable position in the global economy.
This brings into spotlight the discussion about Technical and Vocational Education and Training (TVET) sector in Pakistan. TVET has become an important policy issue for the country. Prime Minister Skill Development Program was launched by Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif in September, 2013. The main aim of the program was to create various incentives and opportunities for the youngsters which includes technical and vocational training employment and scholarship opportunities. Six schemes have been announced under this program which include small business loans, youth skill development small micro loans, youth training and small business loans. These initiatives by the government emphasised the role of youngsters in reaping the full advantage of demographic dividend.
This multifaceted but incoherent structure has actually weakened the TVET structure in Pakistan because of varied and low quality curriculum which fails to meet the demand of job markets and international standards.
If we talk about TVET network in Pakistan, then approximately 3500 registered TVET institutes are currently functioning all over the country with mere enrolment of 350,000 students whereas; annual demand of TVET graduates is above 950,000. Pakistan has a fragmented network of TVET provision. Numerous institutes are working in the government and private sector with different curriculums, insufficient lab facilities and infrastructure. These institutes are working either under governmental or private setups e.g. TEVTA’s, working on federal level under the umbrella of National Vocational & Technical Training Commission (NAVTTC). Fauji Foundation on the other hand is also running TVET institutes all over the country. In the private sector, small sized institutes are either being run by the NGO’s or by entrepreneurs. This multifaceted but incoherent structure has actually weakened the TVET structure in Pakistan because of varied and low quality curriculum which fails to meet the demand of job markets and international standards.
Inexperienced faculty, lack of funds for the proper maintenance of technical facilities, focusing more on theory than practical optimization of skills are few reasons to talk about in the long list of substandard production facilities. Institutes are attracting youngsters by offering monthly scholarships and fee exemptions but fail to equip them with skills necessary for employment in local and international job markets. Graduates of these institutes surely have a diploma in hand but not a job. During my MPhil dissertation I was told by one of the institute’s principal that technical and vocational training can effectively contribute towards generating income opportunities for the youngsters, particularly of those belonging from lower income strata of the society. He further brought into my notice the low enrolment of students at TVET institutes despite government’s high budget allocation for this area. Experts are of the view that youngsters from different backgrounds have not realized the importance of TVET in finding out better employment opportunities for them.
No one can deny the role of skill development programs in harnessing the innate potential of youngsters. For effective TVET provision, focus should be on the quality and uniformity of curriculum and propagation of practical skills. Before launching any skill development program, awareness about its pros and cons should be advertised through proper channel, so that maximum number of individuals can take advantage from the program. Government should target youngsters from lower socio-economic backgrounds with scarce opportunities and financial resources for higher education in order to make them a member of skilled human resource of Pakistan. In the time period of the diminishing labor force and rising elderly population in developed nations, Pakistan with such a precious resource of young population has the chance to reposition itself as a major source of providing trained and skilled manpower for the world. Not only externally, but internally, to meet the upcoming challenges of the China Pakistan Economic Corridor, this production of skilled and energetic human resource needs dire attention of our policy makers.