In today’s highly interconnected world, experiencing rapid technological changes, possession of skills by its workers, gives a country an edge over the others. To survive in this age of globalisation, it has become imperative for Pakistan to have a competent workforce. The presence of skilled labour would attract investment and help in the transfer of new and state-of-the-art technology from developed countries, a prerequisite for the modernisation of the local industry in Pakistan.
In Pakistan, the term ‘technical’ refers to courses of study offered after the secondary level that aim at practical training of students to prepare them as technicians. The term ‘vocational’ refers to a lower level of education and aims to train students for skilled work in various trades. Technical-Vocational Education (TVE), in Pakistan, can be referred to those aspects of educational processes involving, in addition to general education, the study of technologies and related sciences and acquisition of practical skills, attitudes, understanding and knowledge relating to occupations in various sectors of economic and social life.
TVE can be a tool for ensuring the supply of well trained and efficient personnel for industry, thus acting as a catalyst for economic development. TVE can play an important role in the development of Pakistan as the macroeconomic policies and high-paced industrialisation in the country demands an adequately trained workforce.
Graduates from the general side (non-TVE) of education do not get absorbed in the white-collar job market, leading to a very lopsided situation where excess supply leads to large-scale unemployment. This is further exacerbated by the fact that institution of higher learning eg. medical and engineering colleges sometimes face unnecessary pressures from many students who, due to lack of any other options, choose to enroll in these and find themselves unable to cope with the demands of such an education. In both these cases, these trigger an undesirable situation where the unemployed and frustrated youth become a threat to law and order.
Another important link of TVE with development is that it can help combat child labour. TVE can provide the mineral and ore industry in Pakistan with suitably trained and skilled labour for an effective and economically viable utilisation of its natural resources like minerals and gas. Also, better agro-technical education resulting in better skilled and technologically competent farmers, will ensure rapid development for Pakistan’s agrarian economy.
In Pakistan, there is a dearth of technically qualified and skilled people to fulfill the demands of industry, particularly in the manufacturing sector. TVE can make a mark on the economic growth of Pakistan by improving the quality of labour through investment in human beings, ie. by creating human capital. In the past, illiteracy, lack of training and the lack of an adequate infrastructure deprived Pakistan of creating any substantial economic impact in the global market. Low-skill labour has resulted in low wages that led to insufficiencies in the production chain, affecting exports and industries. An example of this is value-added textile and garment industry where, despite being one of the largest producers of cotton, Pakistan has failed to make a mark because of poorly trained and low-skilled labour. On the other hand, the surgical instrument industry is flourishing because it successfully meets international standards due to a workforce, highly trained by master-craftsmen and polished in TVE institutes. This industry earns valuable foreign currency for Pakistan.
TVE would also enable investment and capital available from international donors to be put to better use and to be quickly assimilated for development by providing an able workforce, better-equipped to perform efficiently in the new physical infrastructure, thereby aiding and not limiting economic growth. TVE can also be seen as playing a powerful role by providing trained manpower for increased competitiveness in a global economy, which demands that Pakistan’s economy be more efficient. TVE, by enhancing the workers potential, can positively expedite the rate of technical change of an enterprise.
The economic advantages of TVE in Pakistan can also be measured by the comparison of a general education institution with one that is technical and vocational. Typically, the latter is more cost-intensive because of the provision of apparatus and machinery, but students pass out in a shorter span of time and are absorbed in the job market relatively quickly, which often offsets the cost disadvantage by way of time saved.
The contribution to the GDP of the country by skilled workers is indeed valuable and would increase further if these occupational groups were given the opportunity to get training and learn the skills more effectively in the TVE system.
Acquiring TVE-related skills also allows individuals to achieve a degree of self-employability. Besides, it can be an aid in the growth for the rural areas because industries wishing to set up factories or plants would find an easily accessible pool of skilled labour.
The sociological impact of TVE in terms of benefiting society can be seen in relation to Amartya Sen’s capabilities approach. Opportunities for TVE surely serve to enhance human development by creating capabilities and functioning in the individuals that enable them to live in a way where they can enjoy a full and free life in society.
In a country like Pakistan, education can play a particularly potent role in this regard, especially in the rural areas where the populace is often living in oppressive conditions and whose economic livelihood are dependent on the whims of the local feudal landlord. TVE can enable people to play their role as citizens by becoming more aware of their rights and more informed about the issues that directly affect them. Eventually such a better-informed citizenry can be expected to make good choices at the time of elections.
TVE provides an edge for the disadvantaged and socio-economically backward. It serves as a channel for the upward mobility of the poor and underprivileged. It gives those students, who are neither academically inclined nor have the resources to go on the higher stages of education, a chance for better opportunities in life. Once they have the necessary tools for being absorbed in the work force and in society they can then opt to go further or be gainfully employed.
The underprivileged and impoverished section of society in Pakistan, especially women in rural areas can particularly benefit from TVE as there are various TVE schools for women that are playing an effective role in their uplift.
TVE can play a vital role in improving the employability chances of people, enhancing the quality and stock of human capital, attracting investment, boosting economic development, providing private and social returns and in general leading the way to development.
Published in The Express Tribune, June 9th, 2015.