The Financial Express

Bridging the skills gap

| Updated: December 08, 2021 22:19:22

Photo: CPD Photo: CPD

That there is incompatibility in education and skills of candidates on the one hand and employers' demands on the other was known but how wide the gap is has never been assessed precisely. Of late, though, an attempt has been made to have a representative picture of the gap by a study titled, "Skills Gap and Youth Employment in Bangladesh: an Exploratory Analysis". According to the study carried out by the Centre for Policy Dialogue (CPD) in collaboration with Friedrich-Ebert Stiftung (FES), Bangladesh office, 46 per cent employers find qualities or skills wanting in candidates for recruitment. That is almost half the total companies having openings for employment.  Graduates also lack required soft skills such as communication and English language. When theemployersemphasis put on technical knowledge and communication, candidates perform poorly on both counts. So far as English language is concerned, it could not be a barrier had the country's mother tongue been updated and enriched in terms of terminologies for the study of highly technical subjects at the tertiary level.

Communication skills, however smartly displayed, are no substitute for merit and in-depth knowledge of science and technology. Computer literacy is essential and today's youths somehow or other catch up with the barely required knowledge for works. What the study found is not encouraging at all because the CPD-developed skills assessment test based on feedback received from employers proved that the incompatibility between skills required and supplies from higher seats of learning was unbridgeable. The evaluation of 500 university students and recent graduates made under the study showed this mismatch. Clearly, the problem lies with education imparted right from the primary to the tertiary level. The country is yet to focus on career building by students according to their merits. Sure enough, not all students have to pursue higher studies but they deserve to be employed depending on their merit and skills.

What is required then is to assess the agricultural, industrial and business requirements in terms of quality and skills. With agriculture becoming increasingly mechanised and diverse, skilled manpower will surely enjoy great demand from the sector in the future. Factories and industries will undergo even far greater transformation and education must keep up with scientific and technological advancement. The information communication and technology (ICT) has by the time made such an unprecedented breakthrough that the previously known world has transformed to something unimagined before. It is likely to change further with the introduction of artificial intelligence (AI). So the challenge is there and there is no reason why the country will not rise up to it. After all, the new generation has shown how quickly it can master the knowledge and art. 

There is no alternative to greater and closer collaboration between educational institutions, particularly the universities and research institutes, and private sectors. Such collaboration works wonder as has been demonstrated by the collaboration between the University of Oxford and the British-Swedish multinational pharmaceutical and biotechnology company AstraZeneca plc. Such cooperation serves both humanitarian causes and proliferation of business at the same time. Education here by all means should be geared to serve both needs. 

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