UNDENIABLE SIGNIFICANCE OF VOCATIONAL TRAINING
SHABBIR H. KAZMI
Nov 21 - 27, 2011
With the growing competition in almost every field, it has become imperative that each job should be done prudently and efficiently to optimize the cost and achieve economy of scale. This becomes even more important when the same thing has to be done repeatedly or production is done at massive scale.
In Pakistan, many of the businesses become delinquent only because they could not compete or produce according to buyers' specification.
As the country aims at enhancing its exports and is also required to open up domestic market, there is no option but to exploit comparative advantage enjoyed by the country. In this endeavor, development of human resource is most important.
Bulk of Pakistan's population comprises of people below 25 years of age when learning new technologies is easy. Therefore, one just cannot deny the importance of vocational training.
Textile and clothing contributes nearly 60 per cent to Pakistan's total exports. Bulk of this earning comes from export of made-ups, which employ the largest work force. Production of made-ups is highly labor intensive, which is the key reason for shift of this industry to developing countries from developed countries.
While India has become the largest centre for outsourcing, Pakistan has not been able to attain even one-tenth of the orders placed in India. According to the industry experts, one of the key reasons is that made-up manufacturing in Pakistan suffers from an acute shortage of trained work force. Most of the operators have been trained in-house and in order to retain them, employers are forced to pay them higher wages.
In textile industry, processing requires the highest level of precision. With the introduction of high-speed printing machines even the smallest mistake could render hundreds of meter cloth unfit for use in manufacturing of garments.
Dying master and his team is often considered the backbone of a processing mill. In printing, introduction of computer-aided designing has made designing job simpler but to retain an edge over competitors mills have to keep on introducing new designs on regular basis. Dying and printing have attained special significance because of introduction of eco-friendly dyes.
Introduction of computer-aided cutting and embroidery machines help in producing products at massive scale but unless those sitting on the assembly lines are efficient, the benefit just cannot be exploited. Since work force is expensive in developed countries, they have introduced high speed stitching, buttonhole making, and button fixing machines.
Use of these machines is on the rise but in the absence of training centers, manufacturers have to impart in-house training before placing these persons on the assembly line. According to sector experts, the outputs of properly trained and semi-skilled workers differ considerably and so does the remuneration.
The common complaint is that Pakistan mostly exports 'low quality and low price' products, which keep its share in global textiles and clothing market around twp per cent despite the fact that the country is among the top five largest cotton producing countries.
Until recently, bulk of Pakistan's exports consisted of raw cotton, yarn, and unprocessed cloth. One of the reasons was availability of export refinance facility for these items. As against this, Bangladesh, which does not produce cotton, has attained much larger share in the global markets simply by exploiting the advantage of low cost labor.
GEMS AND JEWELRY
While machine made jewellery has attained significantly large share globally, ethnic designs still attract people from India and Pakistan living abroad. Interestingly women belonging to these two countries still buy jewellery in large quantity as it serves two purposes 1) display of their wealth and 2) investment.
While market for 'ten tola bar' has grown very large, there seems no reduction in demand for handmade jewellery, a highly labor intensive industry. This industry is flourishing because of recycling of gold.
Export of hand-knotted carpets earns millions of dollars annually. Historically, this has remained a family business wherein fathers/mothers/sons/daughters work on handlooms installed at homes. Though centuries old designs are still popular, yet buyers now look at the ornamental value rather than rugged nature. This requires introduction of new color schemes and designs.
Cognizant of the importance of carpets in Pakistan's foreign trade 'Carpet Training Centers' are operating throughout the country. However, with the influx of Afghan refugees and a porous border, the share of Afghan carpets in total export of carpets has increased considerably. This has rendered many of Pakistani carpet weavers jobless. Pakistan earns millions of dollars by exporting sports goods, an industry thriving due to highly skilled labor.
Made in Pakistan footballs have been used in world class events but the country came under sever criticism for use of 'child labor'. One of the biggest objections of the western media was that the children are exploited as they get lower remuneration and are made to work for longer hours and less attention is paid on their education and healthcare.
Share of hand-carved furniture in Pakistan's export is on the rise. In this business, artisans play the most important role. However, the art is being transferred from father to son and only a few training centers are operating in the country. One of the factors that have kept export of this type of furniture low is that it has to be exported in knock-down condition, assembled and polished in the importing country. This has created new employment opportunities in importing countries.
Above-mentioned is not an exhaustive list of the jobs that need formally trained work force. Better training in other areas can also help Pakistanis secure higher remuneration jobs in the global markets and increase export revenues.