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Running expenditure of the programme is met from the Zakat and Usher funds

From KHALID BUTT, Lahore
Oct 31 - Nov 13, 2005

A significant but relatively unknown poverty alleviation programme of the Punjab government has been on the anvil for the past many years with steady progress.

The programme is run under a high-powered Punjab Vocational Training Council (PVTC) through a vast network of Vocational Training Institutes spread all over the province by imparting demand driven skill training involving private sector to enhance employability.

It is much to the credit of present Chief Minister, who has taken some remarkable initiatives in the field of education, economic uplift, health and other social sectors to have not only continued a worthy and noble project started by his predecessor but further enlarged and strengthened it. PVTC was established under the PVTC Act 1998 to set up and manage Vocational Training Institutes (VITs). The Council is an autonomous corporate body constituted by the government consisting of up to 15 members out of whom three are ex-officio provincial secretaries including Secretary Zakat and Usher.

The Chairman and all members of the Council work voluntarily on honorary basis. A look at the PVTC reveals the secret of its steady success because it includes some highly distinguished and successful personalities from public and private sector. The council includes Jahangir Khan Tareen, currently a federal minister but a successful industrialist and entrepreneur, Dr Salman Shah (management expert and educationist), Saeed Khan (a former Coca Cola Senior Executive), Almas Hyder, Riaz Asghar, Arif Ijaz, Mumtaz Khan, Arshad Chaudhry, Avais Mazhar Hussain, all known figures as members with Sikandar Mustafa Khan, a successful private sector name as its chairman. The need for above programmes was felt due to many compelling reasons, like about 35 per cent population being below the poverty line and high youth unemployment. With the generally untrained workforce unable to match the required skills of local employers, there was an imperative need for providing demand driven employable skills. Adding to overall problem of low literacy rate was an alarmingly high dropouts scenario both at elementary school level as well as at higher and secondary stage.

PVTC started out under the umbrella of Punjab government as an autonomous body to chalk out and implement purposeful training programme. The programme was to be undertaken through a network of VTIs, to be set up at tehsil level and all to be run by a local management board. Most of the sites were picked up from the available unutilised official buildings and running expenditure of the programme was to be met from the Zakat and Usher funds, as the admission was given to the deserving and bona fide candidates who come under the category of Zakat Mustahiqeen. Each of the students was also paid a monthly stipend of Rs 500, besides being provided with necessary classroom and on-job training for a certificate to be awarded on their passing out.

The experiment of VTIs is a unique one as this was undertaken through the productive utilisation of Zakat funds and was no burden on the government exchequer. It was also unique for it was offering demand driven training in industrial, agriculture and services sectors.

The special feature of the programme was 'Mora' stipends of Rs 500, for personal expenditure, and a special grant of 5000 for each trainee for the purchase of tools, etc. at successful completion of training.

The Chairman PVTC, Sikander Mustafa Khan, commended the dedicated services of his council members, which have brought such remarkable results. The number of VTIs has jumped from 20 in 2002 to 129 in 2005 and PVTC was aiming to reach the figures of 500 by 2008, he added.

Saeed Khan, who as CEO overseas the development and expansion of VTIs said that there was a tremendous response from the private sector and multi-nationals to the project. That over 70 per cent of the traceable trainees were instantly absorbed by the industry and the rest were able to get start on their own, tells the story of this unique venture. CEO Saeed Khan says that major emphasis is on imparting quality training. Standards are set in order to guarantee a minimum quality for every trainee. Quality is monitored both at the institutional level and among the teaching staff. Curricula is in line with the requirement of labour market.

So far PVIC has developed curricula for 38 trades based on need assessment. Each trainee is provided with a trainee manual. Training schedules and lesson plans are provided to teachers. Curricula are constantly revised and updated as per market needs and technological changes.

Saeed Khan believes that teachers are the most important asset of the organization as only good teachers can impart quality training. Teaching and training staff employed by PVTC are well qualified and knowledgeable in their trades.

Teachers are selected purely on merit basis. Training programmes for teachers are organised according to regular monthly schedules. In addition training programmes are also organised for principals and administration staff to develop their Management competencies. A staff and teachers training institute is being set up at Lahore to ensure regular training programmes.

Institutional facilities correspond to latest requirements and technology used in the industry.

Participation of private sector in the management of VTIs through the formation of local board has proved to be an excellent tool for the efficient management of institute and for monitoring the quality of training. Boards of Management (BOMs) are sufficiently empowered to assist in the selection of trades relevant to their area, monitor the utilisation of recurring and capital budget and most importantly to facilitate the on the job training and placement of pass-outs in local business enterprises.

A major aspect of this training programme is that at the end of a training, the VTIs facilitate the trainees find gainful employment through a placement officer and the efforts of the members of local boards.

The entire system has been computerised to ensure efficiency, better monitoring and control as well as prompt decision making. All VTIs have been linked to the PVTC Head Office via internet for efficient flow of information for consolidation and analysis. A web site has been developed and activated for the awareness of various publics.

Stringent financial controls have been put in place. A comprehensive financial manual has been developed for efficient control and monitoring of financial and administrative functions of PVTC and each of the VTIs.

The project with its proud and successful track record shows the way as a role model to all others and notably to other provinces that what can be achieved with sheer single-mindedness and sincerity. This programme should continue to receive the full support of the Punjab government as vocational training for Mustahiqeen-e-Zakat, which is perhaps the best possible utilisation of Zakat funds.


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