The readymade garment (RMG) sector is one of the economic lifelines of the country, but a bottleneck hampers the efficiency and productivity of the industry significantly. It is a hard fact that the industry has been suffering from a lack of skilled workforce. Enterprise-based training (EBT) is a must for development of the RMG and textile sector. It is a process of teaching or learning particular skills, knowledge or attitude on the premises of the enterprise and at the company level.
Experts have worked out the following reasons that could be responsible for the under-performance of the RMG sector in Bangladesh:
l Low efficiency/productivity at workplaces
l Acute shortage of skilled workforce at all levels
l High turnover of employees and poor record-keeping
l Lack of implementation of national skills standards
l Coordination and capacity challenges in the delivery of effective and consistent training
l Absence of research and development for the apparel sector
l Low standards for working condition and safety in factories and lack of compliance
l High underemployment and unemployment, low wages and therefore high level of working poor
"The shortage of skilled hands is a major challenge which adversely affects the efficiency, quality and productivity of the industry. The RMG industry faced a shortage of about 25 per cent of the total skilled individuals required to efficiently run the industry," said KM Rezaul Hasanat David, Chairman and CEO of Viyellatex Group. At present, a few thousand expatriate workers from Sri Lanka, India, Pakistan and other countries are employed in the apparel sector.
The RMG sector, being the employer of around 4.4 million workers, needs continuous supply of skilled machine operators in thousands, but off-the-job training centres in Bangladesh do not have the capacity to supply this large number of workers. So, the Centre of Excellence for Bangladesh Apparel Industry (CEBAI) has come up with the concept of enterprise-based training, through which factories can produce their own operators and do not have to depend on outside labour. The CEBAI is a joint initiative of the International Labour Organisation (ILO) and the Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association (BGMEA), funded by H&M and Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency with a view to establishing a replicable model of industry-driven training and support services for the RMG sector of Bangladesh.
Why EBT is needed: It is not possible to fill the gap of skilled workforce, 25 per cent of the skilled labour, through off-the-job centres. Though there has not been any research on the available training centres that provide training to the people in the RMG sector, the number of such providers is extremely low, according to the stakeholders. Hence, enterprise-based training follows structured competency-based training, assessment and certification where factories are able to develop their own human resources, thus building a learning culture within the business entities. Following are the major rational explanations why EBT is useful and effective:
l Reduces dependence on others to get supply of skilled workforce
l Customisation of programmes is easy as the training is under the factory control
l A certified pool of trainers under the factory payroll who can positively influence the production floor
l Reduces the overall cost as EBT helps reduce helpers from the floor
l Beneficial for workers, as they get a certificate, enhance their competencies and get motivated to improve further
l Beneficial for employers, as trained workers demonstrate positive behavioural changes as well as attitude towards work and the industry
l It provides firsthand entry of working helpers to operators' grade
l EBT can be linked to apprenticeship programme, therefore tax incentive can be achieved
Flexibility of EBT: There could be various types of EBT. It depends on the factory and the management as to how they want to implement it. However, enhancing only technical skills is no longer a requirement for the sector. Rather, improving the knowledge and attitude has become equally important so the workers are motivated at the workplace and they take pride in where they work for. Therefore, a dedicated training space separated from commercial floors has become imperative to impart knowledge, skills and attitude to the workers altogether. Rest depends on the factory while a guideline is already available from BTEB that is willing to conduct competency-based training and assessment. Factories can have the flexibility to adopt their requirements as per their desire.
According to Miran Ali, Managing Director of Bitopi Group, "The initiative is inevitable not only for my factory, but also for RMG sector and as this is a new framework of skills development, it needs time so that it could deliver to its full potential."
Atiqul Islam, President of CEBAI, who was the immediate past president of BGMEA, has emphasised the vital importance of EBT. He firmly believes that this training opportunity will have a great impact on the future of the RMG industry.
Current Status of EBT: Currently 10 factories have established EBT facilities with dedicated training spaces of varied capacities. The factories are:
l Russel Garments, Narayanganj
l Knit Concern, Narayanganj
l Fakir Apparels, Narayanganj
l Remi Holdings, Narayanganj
l Hoplun, Savar
l Comfit Composite, Mirzapur
l Beacon Textiles, Gazipur
l Mohammadi Group, Gazipur
l Genesis Fashions, Gazipur
l Tarasima Apparels, Manikganj
Using effective EBT, these 10 companies produced over 3,500 candidates in-house as of March 2017, who have now been contributing positively to their respective companies.
Benefit of EBT: As the training takes place inside the factory, the trainees have the option to take on-the-job training. Factories can allocate a required number of machines for the training centres. Moreover, the factory-based training centre can easily adopt a change in design, competency, process and operation as per the production floor requirement or buyers' demand. The skilled workforce in the factory can act as technical trainers. As the training centre is meeting the requirement of the factory, the management doesn't have to depend on floating workers coming at the factory gate. The training centre can be used for other training purposes as well like fire safety, occupational safety and health, compliance, wet management and efficiency, supervisory skills development etc. Factories are aware of the better way of applying the learning techniques; its trainers have the knowledge about competency-based training and assessment.
l They can upgrade skills, develop multi-skills
l Recognised for individual competencies
l Recorded assessment results through CSLB
l Institutional learning opportunities
l Qualification certificate as per NTVQF
l Improved language, literacy and numeracy skills
l Learning and earning/higher wage
l Career path
l Competent workforce
l Contribution to workplace motivation
In view of the importance of enterprise-based training (EBT), we do expect that all other factories would be interested in working for skill development of their workforce to meet the growing demand for technically knowledgeable and factory-oriented skilled personnel for betterment of the RMG industry as well as Bangladesh's economy.
Mehdi Mahbub is the President of Bangladesh RMG Centre (www.rmgcentre.com).