In the post-coronavirus period, sustaining existing workforce and creating more employment will be a big challenge, said experts and sector insiders.
To take tackle the situation, they recommended modernised curriculum, up-skilling and re-skilling of workers utilising 4IR and creating an inclusive digital infrastructure, infrastructure development to grab the opportunity of industry relocation and easier access to loan for the SMEs.
They made the remarks at a webinar titled “Post-covid-19 Bangladesh industry readiness: investment and skills”, organised by Dhaka Chamber of Commerce & Industry (DCCI) through zoom online platform.
Deputy Minister, Ministry of Education Mohibul Hassan Chowdhoury, MP joined the meeting as the Chief Guest. Executive Chairman of BIDA Md. Sirazul Islam also joined as Special Guest.
DCCI President Shams Mahmud in his welcome address said that due to Covid-19 pandemic we have experienced slower growth of export including in the RMG sector.
“Due to lack of working capital and squeezed international export market we have seen job losses both in SME and informal sector. Industry relocation from China opens up a greater opportunity for Bangladesh”, he said.
Moreover, Bangladesh has the competitive advantage with a demographic dividend of 63.5 million workforces, he added.
“20 per cent of our total workforce are engaged in manufacturing industry despite our need for a lot of skilled workforce.
Mohibul Hassan Chowdhoury, deputy minister, Ministry of Education said considering returning of migrant workers, the government has decided to withdraw age barrier for getting technical education. Universities should focus on creating industry’s demand based skilled graduates.
“About 2.8 million students are being enrolled in colleges under National University. But we need to modernise our education curriculum as per requirements of industry. Re-skilling and up-skilling of our workers as well as returnee migrants will be vital”, he said.
To meet up the skill deficit, National Skill Development Authority (NSDA) is doing skill mapping to identify skill gap.
The minister also emphasised quality technical education, structural change of education system and maximum utilisation of ICT and 4IR (fourth Industrial revolution).
Guest of Honour Dr. Engr. Md. Sakawat Ali, director (Training), Bureau of Manpower, Employment and Training (BMET) informed that through the 70 training institutes of BMET, training will be provided to the returning skilled migrants to help them convert into entrepreneurs.
Based on their occupational capability, a database will be created, he said.
“Those who are less skilled returned migrant, they will also be provided training so that they can find suitable job again in the international market”.
Shaquib Quoreshi, enterpriser, Business Intelligence Limited presented the keynote paper.
He highlighted that amid Covid-19 pandemic business closure in the Middle East, Western Europe and ASEAN region will result in sudden increase of returning migrant workers.
Our labour market information system is still under developed, he said. Creating sufficient employment opportunities will be a big challenge for us.
Moreover, we need to think that to attract relocated industries to Bangladesh we have to compete with other countries as well. Now is the time to emphasise technical and vocational education system.
Panel Discussant Engr. Akber Hakim, president, BPCCI and founder, Centre for Leadership said low-skilled manpower in our country is very high.
“For industry readiness, our national effort to making Digital Bangladesh needs to be implemented first”.
He also stressed on strengthening social safety net as a priority of the time.
Panel Discussant Kh. Atique-e-Rabbani, FCA, managing director, The Computers Limited said we need to change our strategy.
He said Covid-19 crisis created an environment for us to be digitised and less people-centric. Job loss in this crisis will push many unemployed to become one-man-entrepreneur and we need to be prepared to facilitate them with proper training and credit support.
Panel Discussant Md. Abdur Razzaque, member (Joint Secretary), National Skill Development Authority (NSDA) said we will have many threats in the post-Covid-19 situation.
Although few sectors are declining now in terms of doing business due to coronavirus pandemic but ICT is one of the booming sectors in this situation with a growth of about 50 per cent, he said.
It is a fact that Bangladesh has limitations in quality research for industry readiness. He informed that NSDA is working on skill mapping to identify skill deficit.
Panel Discussant Mohammad Bashiruddin, vice president, DCCI said through the DCCI Business Institute, they are trying to skilling up the professionals different corporate houses offering different need based trainings.
Additional Secretary, Md. Shahidul Alam, Ministry of Expatriates’ Welfare and Overseas Employment said about 2.2 million people is added to the mainstream workforce every year. Off them, about 800,000 people go abroad for work.
But due to Covid-19 pandemic, few of our expat workers may lose jobs and may come back to although the total will not be alarming for us, he said.
For returning migrants government has allocated a revolving fund of taka 7.0 billion to facilitate their rehabilitation.
Operating demand-driven trainings for skill development will play a key role for rehabilitating jobless workers, he mentioned and emphasised industry-academia collaboration for creating demand-driven skilled manpower.
Md. Sirazul Islam, executive chairman, BIDA said for our industry readiness, we have shortages of managerial skills among our graduates.
Our Industry is expanding in a faster pace, but in line with that, development of soft managerial skill is not quite visible at all.
‘Research and Innovation’ initiative of DCCI will be a game changer, he added.
Mentioning need for skill he said BIDA gives work permit to the foreign workers every year upon local industry requirements.
To come out of this skill gap, we need to give emphasis on communication, technical and language skill of our workers.
Amid Covid-19 pandemic situation, it is an opportunity for us to adopt 4IR.
He underscored the importance of linkages between the private sector and public sector for industry need and readiness.
“To attract the opportunity of industry relocation to Bangladesh we have to compete with other countries like Vietnam, Indonesia, India and Japan. But to attract industry relocation it is important to facilitate them, maintaining a good communication and improving in ease of doing business’.
He said private sector wants faster, transparent, cheaper and speedy services from the government. In order to ensure this BIDA started its one stop service centre.
“At present 18 service coordinated with six organisations are being provided from the OSS and soon BIDA is going to coordinate with more 10 organisations with a view to provide total 52 services”.
In the open discussion session Asif Ibrahim, chairman, Chittagong Stock Exchange Limited & former president, DCCI, Khairul Majid Mahmud, former director, DCCI, Humayun Rashid, former senior vice president, DCCI, Alhaj Abdus Salam, former senior vice president, DCCI, Data Magfur, former director, DCCI, Mohammad Sharfuddin, former director, DCCI and Kh. Shahidul Islam, former vice president, DCCI spoke on the occasion.
Speakers also urged for skill development of global standard, use of technology and industry-academia collaboration.