AN ECONOMIC OPPORTUNITY WASTED BY CONTINUED NEGLECT

Technical education plays a crucial role in the economic progress of any  nation. Be it the example of post-war Japan or China in recent years,  technical skills of a large number of people laid the foundations on which  the two worked diligently to become industrial giants of the world. While  conventional education play a vital role in turning around the fortunes of  the masses, it remains a reality that not everyone is in a position to pursue  a degree and afford the rapidly rising cost of higher education

or such individuals

technical and vocational training is and should be the natural alternative to make a decent, well-paying living. But many do not opt for this route to livelihood or are simply not aware of it. In US alone, Georgetown University’s Center on Education and in America that paid an average of Workforce estimated that there were over 30 million jobs $55,000 and did not require a bachelor’s degree. There are thousands of job in other part of the world as well that do not require fancy education but still pay handsomely, even Pakistan, but a lack of awareness or a criminal neglect of the sector has rendered this vastly lucrative sector useless. For such individuals, technical and vocational training is and should be the natural alternative to make a decent, well-paying living. But many do not opt for this route to livelihood or are simply not aware of it. In US alone, Georgetown University’s  Center on Education and Workforce estimated that there were over 30 million jobs in America that paid an average of $55,000 and did not require a bachelor’s degree. There are thousands of job in other part of the world as well that do not require fancy education but still pay handsomely, even Pakistan, but a lack of awareness or a criminal neglect of the sector has rendered this vastly lucrative sector useless. The case for technical education has become even stronger in this age of technology. Jobs of olden days are being rapidly replaced by sophisticated machines that require skilled sets of hands to get operated. Traditional jobs like nursing, auto mechanics, electricians and lathe operators are being constantly evolved by technological advancements and the room for unskilled labor is shrinking by the day. On the other hand, opportunities for people with technical skills are only widening.

NEGLIGENCE

Despite tall claims of reforms in technical education, it remains intact that the sector has faced continuous neglect from successive governments. The country’s technical education sector is still far from international standards, students are being imparted technical and vocational education per decade-old methodologies. State-of-the-art machinery, well-trained teachers and modern classrooms continue to be stuff of dreams for the sector. Technical education is being imparted through various organizations and authorities set up by the federal and provincial governments. National Vocational and Technical Training Commission (NAVTTC) is working at federal level and is supposed to provide assistance to provincial organizations working for the promotion of technical education. At provincial level, Punjab, Sindh and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP) have set up Technical Education and Vocational Training Authorities (TEVIA) s, which are responsible for policy making, curriculum and examination in the technical and vocational education sector.

In US alone, Georgetown University’s Center on Education and Workforce estimated that there were over 30 million jobs in America that paid an average of $55,000 and did not require a bachelor’s degree.

Things get further confusing upon a closer look_ In Punjab, there are three parallel organizations with different names working for the same cause. These organizations include TEVTA Punjab, Punjab Vocational Training Council (PVTC) and Punjab Skill Development Fund (PSDF). Although the working and operations of these departments differ from one another, but it is really hard for a common man to spot the find difference. Besides, several multinational organizations including Microsoft, City and Guilds, Turkish Cooperation and Coordination Agency (TIKA), Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA), Deutsche GesellschaftfurInternationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) and European Union (EU) are also working in the TVET sectors for reforms and funding local organizations.

OPPORTUNITY

TEVTA Chief Operating Officer Punjab Akhtar Abbas Bharwana told Academia Magazine that Punjab TEVTA was imparting technical education through polytechnic and vocational training centers. It also had the largest network of institution across the province of Punjab. With 393 institutes in every nook and corner of the province, TEVTA has trained 190,000 students to date. Talking about CPEC and the opportunity for technical education, Bharwana said ever since work had begun on CPEC projects, “major change is being observed in the education sector as students now prefer technical education over conventional education. Massive increase in enrollment is also being observed since the work on these projects started”. He added that a major shift in this regard was also being witnessed in the first quarter of 2017. The data shows that from January 2017 to March 2017 as many as 120,000 students have been enrolled in various courses of TEVTA. On the other hand, the number students in 2016 stood at 170,000.

Status sacrifice

despite the opportunities that are offered by this sector, one of the major reason cur young population keep away from raining technical education and making careers in the sector is a cultural norm prevalent in our parts of the world. The pressure starts right from home, where parents discourage and even detest the idea of children going down this path. Each parent wants their sons and daughters to be in high paying jobs in medical, engineering or bureaucratic circles, and anything else is considered a failure. The pressure to avoid the field is reflected in the larger lack of importance, and in some cases respect, the general population gives to technical or vocational professionals like electricians, mechanics, tailors, welders, lathe operators, plumbers etc. Come Eid, and every citizen would want to get a piece of a tailor’s time, yet no one would want their child to be one. It’s too menial a job to engage in, even if that tailor makes twice the amount of money an average university graduate earns at fancy job. Same is the case with auto mechanics. In today’s tech-fueled car industry, mechanics with the right knowledge and tools are minting thousands against a few minutes of work. Yet, hardly any parent would suggest their child becomes an auto mechanic

HIGHER TECHNICAL GROUNDS

Another important fact for the lack of interest in technical education is that there is no real operational higher education institute available in country. Although Pakistan Muslim League Nawaz (PMLN) led government in Punjab announced to set up a technical university in collaboration with Tianjin University of China, but upon finalization, the university was made a “technology university” and is offering courses similar to University of Engineering and Technology (UET). The former Punjab government failed to appoint a full time VC to the technical university and the situation remains the same under the PTI government. Besides, the PTI government has now appointed Hafiz Farhat Abbas, as the TEVTA chairperson. If the neglect of technical and vocational education by the government continues as has been, Pakistani laborers will not only fail to compete with skilled laborers from other countries of the world in foreign labor markets, but will also fail to capitalize on the immense potential that CPEC carries for Pakistan and its people. it is time we realize the changing dynamics of the world and give importance where it is needed.

Arsalan Haider is Editor Reporting of Academia Magazine. Prior to joining Academia he has worked with leading national dailies. He can be reached at arsalan.haider@academiamag.com and on twitter @ arsalanhaider14