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Unleash the youth potential bears good omen for Pakistan

Nation-building is referred to the process of getting all the citizens involved in the socioeconomic prosperity of a country. However, it is youth which is considered as nation builders in its truest sense. The young minds have passion, energy, acceptance for new innovative ideas, dreams and hope. According to a recent report, 64% of the population in Pakistan is below the age of 30. Furthermore, 29% of the total population comprises people aged between 15-29 years. This is quite a healthy sign. However, if not utilized, the same young minds can create serious problems for any country. Today Pakistan faces uncountable number of issues such as economic crisis, terrorism, targeted killings, street crimes, etc. These issues have their root cause in the non-utilization of youth.

With the contribution of human capital in total wealth growing globally, the creation of a skilled labor force that is more productive and better able to adopt and adapt to new technologies is at the core of a long-term growth path for Pakistan. To this end, improvements in education and learning need to go hand in hand with improvements in health and well-being to maximize the cognitive potential of both men and women in the population. Pakistan has made progress on these fronts, but it is uneven and slow. If Pakistan is to grow in an inclusive manner, the government must prioritize and invest equitably in the development of its human capital — the country’s most important resource.

By spending less on education, we are losing on two counts. On one hand, our semi-skilled labor force could not fetch the much-needed foreign exchange for the country; while on the other hand, those wishing to pursue their dreams over here are constrained by illiteracy. It is important that the Federal Government increases education budget to 4% of GDP. Only then provinces will be able to increase their allocations, as promise of increasing education budget to 4% of GDP was made by the government.

However, ongoing skills development programs such as the Prime Minister’s Youth Skills Development Program (PMYSDP) is a project aimed at training the young population. It is carried out across the country and is executed by the National Vocational and Technical Training Commission (NAVTTC) and Ministry of Education and Training in collaboration with Provincial TEVTAs and other government/private sector skills training institutes.

 

Introduction of skills development programs like the PMYSDP and Prime Minister’s Special Initiative for Hunarmand Pakistan Program (PMSIHPP) is a highly commendable step taken by the government. However, Pakistan cannot progress until its higher education system is qualitatively strong enough because this poor quality is resulting in low employability, low performance of the specialized individuals, and lack of innovative and creative ideas. These are the key elements of success and progress in present time. All in all, there is a need to enlarge the adaptive capacity and quality of the higher education system so that it is more responsive to the changing world and meets the diversified needs of economy — both domestic and global. For this purpose, diversification of the Pakistani higher education system must be pursued as a goal. This can be achieved by having a proper mix of public and private, formal and non-formal institutions. Special initiatives are required to enhance employability. Curriculum and content must be continually renewed through authorities and skill development network may be set up. Collection of data on job market trends, its analysis and dissemination are important. Drawbacks mentioned above need to be transformed into the strength of the Pakistan higher education system, but this can only be done with strong willpower, determination and willingness to change.

Pakistan is currently ranked 4th in terms of broadband internet growth in the world. Due to the emergence of 3G and 4G, the size of e-commerce market, one of the most important drivers of a digital Pakistan, is expected to grow up to US$ 1 billion by 2020. Pakistan is making good progress on Business to Business (B2B) front as software industry aims to achieve the goal of US $5 billion export mark by year 2020 through software development, freelancing and service out-sourcing. All these statistics are not only considered as good omen for the prosperity of Pakistan but also call for a robust strategy towards utilizing the youth to expand benefits generated by turning them into future entrepreneurs.

The writer is a Karachi based freelance columnist and is a banker by profession. He could be reached on Twitter @ReluctantAhsan

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