BackgroundTo reduce poverty in Bangladesh and mitigate the limitations of inadequate school education, more people need access to improved technical and vocational training to develop employable skills. One of the most effective ways to deliver skills training is through apprenticeship programmes and, as the majority of employment in Bangladesh exists in the informal sector, this is where the need for apprenticeship models is highest.
Decent safety, health and working conditions are as important to the individual worker as to sustainable business growth and the society at large. Research suggests that poor safety, health and working conditions exist in part due to financial and human resource constraints, but also often to a lack of awareness and limited knowledge/experience on how to improve the conditions. The informal sector in Bangladesh is majorly unregulated in Bangladesh and this is where the highest incidences of hazardous work occur.
The ILO TVET Reform Project, in partnership with UNICEF and BRAC, is assisting the Government of Bangladesh to develop flexible apprenticeship models for the informal sector. Apprenticeships are based on a dual training model, combining one day off-the-job theoretical training with four days on-the-job practical training. To date, 1000 young people in 14 occupations have been partnered with 500 Master Crafts Persons and equipped with employable skills using this model.
A lack of awareness on health and safety issues in these small establishments was one of the key issues noticed by the ILO while training the young persons. While basic health and safety training was initially imparted, it was insufficient to tackle the multitude of challenges that arose. It was also noticed that inefficient business practices in many small enterprises were leading to low productivity levels. In order to ensure the safety, health of young people as well improve productivity, the ILO is organizing training on Work Improvement in Small Enterprises (WISE).
The WISE approachThe ILOs WISE approach focuses on low-cost and easy improvements in small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), which in part improve safety, health and working/living conditions and in part support achievement of other business goals in terms of productivity, quality and/or competitiveness. The approach also encourages the use of improvements that are already implemented in the area or community. Moreover, it is participatory and offers the participants, typically entrepreneurs and owners of SMEs, a learning-by-doing experience.
ObjectivesThe training aims to:
• Equip 30 national consultants and staff of BRAC and other NGOs with the skills to be National WISE Trainers. This includes imparting practical knowledge on common safety, health and productivity issues and how to improve the conditions using local examples. These trained trainers would in turn train staff of BRAC and conduct training for the ultimate beneficiaries, primarily owners and MCPs of 500 SMEs.
• Improve the safety, health, working conditions and productivity levels of 500 informal shops/SMEs in Dhaka, Chittagong, Sylhet, Rajshahi and Barisal cities.