Abdul Wahid Uqaily speaks to Enterprise.
Abdul Wahid Uqaily, Managing Director, Sindh Technical Education and Vocational Training Authority, talks to Enterprise in this exclusive interview.
How was the need realized to set up the Sind Technical Education and Vocational Training Authority?
Pakistan is one of the South Asian countries which has a growing young population unlike the West. At the moment, youth between 13 to 25 constitutes almost 60 percent of the population of Pakistan. The same is the case in Sindh. In order to make this large segment of society productive, you really need a mega initiative to train them for enterprises in Pakistan and for jobs abroad.
The government came up with a plan to constitute an authority, where we could put all the institutions under one umbrella so that there would be one regulatory body and one managing authority, to which we could always refer for what we wanted to do, appropriate funding and develop linkages with the industry, so that these institutions could give positive results in the short and long term.
In 2007, the government issued an Ordinance for establishment of the authority, but no action was taken until August 2008. That was the time, when the present government was looking out for means to bring a difference in people’s lives. In August 2008, a Board of Directors for the Sindh Technical Education and Vocational Training Authority (STEVTA) was nominated. Air Marshal Riazuddin Shaikh (retd.) was nominated as Chairman. The homework for the project involved two things. First was a research on the prevailing state of affairs. Termed as the baseline survey, it was conducted for almost every institution in terms of certain parameters, which involved the state of infrastructure in these institutions, human resource, equipment and machinery and then the linkages these institutions have with the industry – if the industry is not ready to accept our product then there is no utility. The next step was to engage a full time Managing Director and that’s how I came in April 2009. As soon as I joined, the government gave a practical shape to the Authority by transferring all the institutions of education, labour and social welfare to the Authority, thus entrusting us with the managing power and control over all these institutions.
Our Board of Directors is required to hold meetings every three months and we put forward whatever plans and restructuring we think is going to be better for the overall achievement of organizational objectives. The Board has at least two people who are leading professionals - Sohail Wajahat, Chairman, Pakistan State Oil and Tahir Jawaid, Vice President, Engro Chemicals.
‘To reduce poverty you have to economically strengthen people for which they must be given skills. Once they have those skills, they can either get better employment or become entrepreneurs. Our organization is striving to impart those skills to the youth.’
They have a pretty clear idea of what the human resource requirements of the industry are.
What is the role of STEVTA in fulfilling the requirements of technical and vocational training?
If you see the current state of affairs in Pakistan, only acquisition of a degree is not producing effective results. What is required globally is that people should have some technical or vocational skills to either be able to get employment in an enterprise or generate self-employment. The institutions under Sindh TEVTA deliver Diploma of Associate Engineering in various technologies like mechanical, civil, electrical and electronics, IT, garments, instrumentation, chemicals, textile designing, textile spinning and weaving - overall around 26 technologies. These people are engaged at the supervisory level and we also give trained people floor level jobs, like electricians, plumbers, carpenters, motor mechanics, CNG mechanics, welders and others. But jobs do not come with certificates, they come with skills. To impart relevant skills you should have institutions that are well-equipped and have trainers who are themselves trained as per market requirements. So investment is required both in infrastructure and human capital.
For any institution, it is highly important to regulate the input and output. We have tried to regulate our input by introducing a uniform entry requirement into our system by completely outsourcing the admissions to the National Testing Service (NTS), which is again an accredited body. Thus students are evaluated on standardized testing basis and not on the basis of any political affiliations.
It is not possible to turn around all the 265 institutions in Sindh, for which we have tried to create models spread out across Sindh, so that our present status and future intentions may be reflected through these models. In the first phase we have 10 model institutions, out of which there are two in Karachi. The institutions cater to the underdeveloped area of Lyari and slums of Gulistan-e-johar. Then we have institution in semi-urban area of Kotri, in Tando Mohammad Khan, Mirpurkhas, Naushero Feroz, Sukkur, Dadu and Larkana.
We are also working in major collaborations with Pakistan Air Force, Ministry of Petroleum and Natural Resources, United Energy Pakistan, Sindh Rural Support Organization, National Rural Support Organization, IBA Sukkur and Pakistan Stone Development Company. These organizations wanted to train individuals for their specific industrial requirements. PAF started in April last year and its first batch graduated after 6 months. Every trainee was offered the recruitment test for the PAF Airmen cadre or civilian cadre. Only 46 students preferred to join PAF and out of them they recruited 39.That is more than 90 percent recruitment-employability ratio. It happened because they have trained the people according to their own requirements and there is no financial burden as well. Due to the presence of private sector representatives on our Board, we have more result-oriented strategies to achieve our objectives.
How is the policy framework of STEVTA in line with the WTO regime?
At the moment we are preparing ourselves through our plan of generating human resource that is globally accepted. There is difficulty in global market acceptance for the diplomas and certificates which we hand down in Pakistan. Therefore, we have signed an MOU with City and Guilds UK, which is a certifying body for skilled workforce as per internationally recognized standards. Under this agreement, we are going to introduce the City and Guild’s approved curriculum at our 10 model institutions. Students will be trained as per the internationally accepted curriculum, tested as per internationally accepted standards and the successful ones will be accepted by the global market. We cannot do this for every trainee coming to STEVTA, as not everybody is ready for the global market and there are huge costs involved as well. So, initially it would be implemented in 10 schools and upon graduating there would be about 500 students. This is how we plan to take our students into the global market.
How do you view the socio-economic landscape of Pakistan in terms of employment opportunities and sustainable livelihoods?
Unfortunately, Pakistan is a labour-surplus economy. Our industrial base is shrinking, but our young population is increasing. So we are aware that our system output is not going to be 100 percent employed by the industry. We have to prepare our trainees for self-employability as well. There are various international organizations that are working with us, because they have found a one-stop solution in STEVTA for skill development. With the help of ILO, we have customized the ‘know about business’ (KAB) modules. These are training frameworks developed by the International Training Centre in Turin, Italy, under the aegis of ILO.
We have started offering KAB training at our six pilot institutions in STEVTA. These modules help students about how they can think of entrepreneurship instead of waged employment, how to look out for surrounding opportunities, how they can develop business models and find microfinance for their enterprises. In the social fabric of Pakistan, where not everybody can get employment, we are trying to divert youth towards entrepreneurship.
Do you support the idea of nurturing skilled human resource for export?
Export of human capital means that our youth who can find employment outside Pakistan whether in the Middle East or Europe, where there is a gap for young people. It is nearly everybody’s fantasy that there should be a training institute where people can get trained and go to work abroad. But there is a lot more to it. The basic parameter is that the students must hold internationally recognized certificates to be accepted globally. Through City and Guilds certification we are trying to prepare our youth for the global market.
What is the role of ILO in empowering the TEVT sector of Pakistan?
ILO is a UN body which is very specific and broad-minded towards ensuring decent work for everyone. They ensure that there is no discrimination on basis of gender, wages, or workplace facilities. Now, unless people have relevant skills, they cannot be decently employed. So ILO helps those organizations like Sindh TEVTA or Punjab TEVTA to achieve the aim of decent employment for everyone. You need to know that ILO is not a donor organization. They do not come and dole out money to us. Through STEVTA, ILO helped us train 25 of our master trainers for the entrepreneurship training module. Those master trainers are delivering KAB training at various institutes. In this manner the industry develops confidence in the institutes and employability of students increases.
Please elaborate on TEVT revitalization through uniform competency.
For every country there must be a National Vocational Qualification framework, which means that there should be a uniform standard for training. For example, with specific labour training standards for the whole country, a labourer trained in Karachi can easily move to Lahore or any part of the country. Now that is the domain in which the National Vocational Training Commission is working and we as a participating component have achieved this standardization in skills training.
How can skill development address the issue of poverty in Pakistan and strengthen the economy?
To reduce poverty you have to economically strengthen people for which they must be given skills. Once they have those skills, they can either get better employment or become entrepreneurs. Our organization is striving to impart those skills to the youth. In this way more and more people will get employed and the goal of arresting poverty in Pakistan can be achieved.