Priority actions identified to improve Pakistan's skills development system

Consensus on actions related to skills development in Pakistan was reached during tripartite plus meeting which endorsed a National Skills Profile.

Press release | Islamabad, Pakistan | 20 May 2021
ISLAMABAD (ILO News): A comprehensive Skills Development Country Profile for Pakistan was endorsed on 16th February 2021 by ILO's tripartite constituents and relevant institutions from Federal and Provincial Governments and development partners. The skills profile identifies several areas where technical and financial support must make skills development more relevant to labour market requirements.

Convened by the ILO, 22 participants attended the online validation meeting represented by the Ministry of Overseas Pakistanis & Human Resource Development (OP&HRD), Employers Federation of Pakistan (EFP), Pakistan Workers' Federation (PWF), National Vocational & Technical Training Commission (NAVTTC), Provincial Technical Education & Vocational Training Authorities (TEVTAs), UNDP, UNHCR, UNICEF, UN Women, EU, British Council, and others.

Pakistan's Skills Profile highlights that Pakistan has 3,740 TVET institutions, including 2,100 private sector institutions. These institutions offer 437,000 places for training every year, which is insufficient to meet the demand for population growth. Further, the Government of Pakistan has implemented a number of initiatives to improve TVET Training quality, identified needs for training, quality assurance, adopted Competency-Based Training (CBT) and is engaging the private sector. In particular, Kamyab-Jawan has focused on Hunarmand Pakistan Programme to provide more resources for TVET. However, the quality of training varies from province to province and remains a critical concern for enhancing skills development.

The Skills Profile also notes that gender disparities exist in quantity and quality. Only one-third of seats are available for women in vocational training institutions, and they are offered conventional training trades such as tailoring, beauticians, etc. – which reinforce stereotypes. The Profile identifies significant challenges, including lack of understanding of skills demands; lack of capacity to reach out to all Pakistanis; lack of skills portability; ambiguity and overlaps in institutional arrangements; and sporadic engagement of private sector/employers in TVET.

The inaugural session was chaired by Ms Aliya Shahid, Joint Secretary (HRD), Ministry of OP&HRD. The Joint Secretary opined that a holistic approach be adopted for skills development – with clear backward and forward linkages. The integrated model shall include skills development, entrepreneurship, life-skills, financial literacy, access to finance, access to market, and other related support. Given stigmas attached to skilled workers, she advised to effectively motivate young persons to adopt skills as a preferred profession.

The technical session was chaired by Chairperson NAVTTC, Mr Javed Hassan, who appreciated the comprehensiveness of the skills profile saying that this aligned with the Government of Pakistan's "Skills for All' strategy. He endorsed the need to improve Pakistan's “Skills Needs Anticipation" system. He said that there was no restriction for the private sector to join and support the TVET sector and make it a profitable business and should therefore invest in it and make it a profitable and productive sector.

Mr Fasihul Kareem Siddiqi, Technical Advisor, from the Employers' Federation of Pakistan (EFP) welcomed the initiative by ILO and endorsed the facts presented in the skills profile. He informed the meeting that EFP had developed a 'Skills 2030 Vision' that emphasizes reskilling, multiskilling, and future work skills. Mr Nazar Ali, Member Board of Directors EFP, recommended the inclusion areas of improving 'Governance of TVET,' lifelong learning, apprenticeship system improvement, skills for migration, and assessment system of skills. EFP appreciated a focus on employers/private sector engagement in skills development.

Mr Zahoor Awan, Chairperson Steering Committee from PWF, also endorsed the skills profile. He said every year 1.5 million young workers enter labour market but very few have access to skills training. Mr Awan suggested that Government should adopt digital technologies and encourage the private sector, including Skills Development Councils (SDC), to share this workload. He recommended the establishment of tripartite governing boards in all TVET authorities to connect training with market-demand. He endorsed private sector engagement, public-private partnerships, and skills needs anticipation system as priority areas.

Executive Director NAVTTC, Dr Nasir Khan, also appreciated the contents of the skills profile. He informed the meeting that after adopting National Vocational Qualifications Framework (NVQF), had documented more than 200 Qualifications. He recommended that instead of developing a Skills Needs Anticipation system from scratch, the existing National Skills Information System (NSIS) could be upgraded, and its data should be used for this purpose. He also recommended the inclusion and promotion of the Vocational Qualification Framework in any interventions in the future. He endorsed the need for private sector engagement – but also recommended that the private sector should invest in the skills sector.

Managing Director KP-TEVTA, Mr Sajjad Ali Shah, appreciated the initiative led by ILO. He said that KP TEVTA had imparted Competency-Based Training to 21,000 students. He said KP-TEVTA welcomed private sector engagement – but there is a lukewarm response from the private sector in the province. He shared that KP-TEVTA had formally invited the private sector on three occasions, but only one firm responded to their invitations. He said that the Government was increasingly worried about "value-for-money" in the TVET sector –a reason for low allocations for TVET. He recommended the inclusion of promoting Public-Private-Partnerships (PPP) in the TVET sector and work on relaxing PPP legislation, and to work on Research & Development (R&D) in the TVET sector.

Engineer Waqar from Punjab-TEVTA recommended establishing a 'Skills Labour Market Information System' in Punjab and to upgrade training equipment and machinery in TVET Institutes in Punjab province.

Speaking on behalf of the ILO, Ms Ingrid Christensen, Country Director, welcomed participants to the validation meeting and highlighted the importance of skills development to meet labour-market demands.

Mr Muhammad Riaz from UNHCR informed the meeting that NAVTTC has started including Afghan Refugees in Government TVET Programmes – which is a positive development in inclusivity.

Mr Asif Abrar from UNICEF mentioned few TVET opportunities for adolescent girls from Non-Formal Education (NFE) system. Ms Mome Saleem from UNICEF recommended the inclusion of entrepreneurship and 'skills for innovation' in the skills profile.

In his closing remarks, Chairperson NAVTTC, Mr Javed Hassan, thanked ILO for leading the development of a comprehensive skills profile and for bringing stakeholders together to validate the analytical work. He endorsed increased support for the development of Pakistan's skills sector-including the private sector.