With the establishment of the Quaid-i-Azam Apparel Park in Sheikhupura and Garment City in Faisalabad, the value-added textile chain’s demand for skilled workforce will touch 400,000 people annually, industry gurus believe.
This makes it all the more necessary to train new as well as existing workforce to cope with future challenges and meet demand that surges after the grant of Generalised Scheme of Preferences (GSP) Plus status to Pakistan by the European Union.
At present, they say, the value-added textile sector has a shortage of at least 40,000 skilled workers, including 20,000 in Karachi, 10,000 in Lahore, 5,000 each in Faisalabad and Sialkot.
Looking at the shortage of skilled workers, Turkish experts have offered cooperation in developing the skills of Pakistani labourers.
“Turkey will cooperate in upgrading the textile curricula in addition to providing experts and master-trainers to improve overall skills and expertise of the Pakistani workforce,” said Mustafa Giray Tezel, country coordinator of Turkish International Cooperation Agency.
Tezel, who was heading a delegation, was speaking during a visit to the office of the Pakistan Readymade Garments Manufacturers and Exporters Association (Prgmea) on Saturday.
Turkey would like to arrange experts for imparting training to Pakistani workers in a bid to meet the needs of textile units, especially those engaged in export of their products to European countries, he said.
Prgmea North Zone Vice Chairman Jawwad Chaudhry told the Turkish delegation that capitalising on the GSP Plus opportunity would largely depend on employing high-tech manufacturing equipment and training of workforce that numbered around 10 million across the country.
The government should evolve a mechanism for the development of worker skills to help them learn more about fashion designing and enable the country to establish a firm footing in EU markets.
Fashion apparel is the key to making inroads into the European market. Garment is a labour-intensive industry as at present 40% or 2.5 million of the country’s skilled and semi-skilled labour force is engaged with the sector.
The $1.2 billion industry of Sialkot is running at least 30% below capacity partly because of energy shortages and primarily due to lack of skilled and semi-skilled workers.
Garment manufacturers see a large scope of growth for the textile industry after the EU’s trade concessions and growth could be 100% by 2016, but there is no roadmap in place to produce professionals that could be absorbed by the industry.
“Our training system is supply-driven, lacks meaningful participation of stakeholders and is not geared to meet current needs of skills,” an industry player said. “The government should introduce a soft import policy to help the manufacturers diversify apparel products and improve their business and exports.”
Published in The Express Tribune, June 1st, 2014.