Training and developing Bangladesh's budding professionals

By Arthur Shears, Chief Technical Advisor, ILO Technical and Vocational Education and Training Reform project in Bangladesh.

Article | 01 June 2010

Young university graduate Sadia Priyanka speaks excitedly about a recent marathon trek across her native Bangladesh, during which she and seven other young professionals conducted an ILO-supported survey to identify issues affecting women and persons with disabilities.

In her early 20’s, Sadia has recently finished her studies at Dhaka’s BRAC University. She was chosen from hundreds of qualified young people who applied to take part in the ILO’s Technical and Vocational Education and Training (TVET) Reform Project. Many of those chosen to conduct the survey had never traveled before – even in their own country.

The TVET project aims to build the skills of Bangladesh’s next generation of technical specialists in both the public and private sectors. In a country of more than 162 million people, matching the skills that make people employable with those the country needs to develop is a challenge that the ILO and the Government of Bangladesh are working together to meet.

The survey Sadia and her colleagues worked on was designed to identify ways of increasing gender-sensitive access to TVET training targeting underprivileged groups, including working children, women, persons with disabilities, rural people and those with little education. Currently these people are mostly excluded from the publicly–funded TVET courses by factors such as insufficient education or problems reaching the training centres.

Despite the onset of the annual Monsoon season, Sadia and her colleagues spent several weeks traveling to a dozen cities to gather the necessary first-hand data. She describes the most interesting part of her work as “interacting with a diverse group of people from around the country, in different workplaces and areas under the projects… taking interviews from so many people, and attempting to help them identify ways that can change the circumstances of their lives for the better.” More interesting still will be the next step, “contributing to that change,” she adds.

According to Josh Bryant, the research coordinator, the information gathered will help the project plan future work using Training for Rural Economic Empowerment (TREE) methodologies and a new model of informal apprenticeship. It is anticipated that about 4,000 people will be identified and receive training by 2012. Further replications could be made to reach out to more people in the communities.

One important aspect of this work is the link it will have to other developmental initiatives in the TVET reform project, including non-formal education, recognition of prior learning, and potential certification through a new National Technical and Vocational Qualifications Framework (NTVQF).

The five-year TVET project is supported by the European Union, with funding of 16 million Euros. There are five major components focusing on policy, systems and management, enhanced flexibility and the quality and relevance of technical and vocational education and training. Other aspects include improving the knowledge and skills of managers and teachers, skills development for improving industry competitiveness, and increased access for underprivileged groups.