Nov 21 - 27, 20

Textile is an important industry of Pakistan. Its importance for the national economy can be gauged from a fact that the industry is generating 60 to 70 per cent of foreign exchange. If its share in the domestic economy is put on a measurement scale to realise the significance of it, the figures are neither unsubstantial: eight to 10 per cent share in gross domestic product (GDP) and employing 35 to 40 per cent of manufacturing workforce.

Lack of trained labour force in the downstream industry is one of the prime barriers in harnessing the real potential of textile for the betterment of internal and external economies.

Downstream industry comprising of weaving, readymade garments, finishing, and towels and hosiery is mostly unorganized with cottage businesses and small-scale sector operating on self-help basis and workers having acquired informal and word-of-mouth trainings from their self-learned mentors. Commendably, the informal chain of mentoring without institutional supports whatsoever is so pervasive in the downstream industry, that generation on generation has been serving the textile economy since Pakistan's inception.

It should be noted that informal means of e.g. colour matching is prevalent even in the big companies. Learning by experience or trial and error instead of learning by education is a commonplace in the entire textile value addition chain. There are also the individual cases in which foreign experts appreciated the informal techniques workers used to solve problems even in absence of required technologies. 'Jugar' is a word used in parlance commonly to create alternative solutions with scarce resources.

According to the independent analysts, institutional supports to the downstream industry would ramp up the value addition exports significantly, quality of industrial outputs, and the domestic economy.

At present, fabrics, knitwear, made-ups including bed wear, and readymade garments and cotton yarn are the major export revenue spinners.

Since downstream industry is in the informal sector, no concrete statistics are available related to its direct share in overall textile industry. A report by Pakistan investment guide had registered 50,000 looms, 175,200 power looms, 7,602 terry towel looms, 300,000 sewing machines, and 12,000 knitting machines in cottage and small-scale sector back in 2005-06.

Integrated textile units and independent weaving units are far better in performance than power loom sector due to understandably availability of resources including capital, human, and technology. Power loom sector has however not developed capacity to cater the demands of garment sector as it majorly deals out low quality outputs.

The government's research wing has attributed the underperformance and underdevelopment of the sector to lack of trained workforce and unavailability or paucity of financial assistance that keep it terribly unorganized.

Investments have been poured in shuttle-less and modern projectile and air jet looms, albeit majority of weaving units especially in cottage industry depend on power looms for production of cloth. Bank financing is insignificant in upgrading of traditional cloth making. Although outputs of power looms are exportable, capacity building can improve the quality of cloth.

Private sector has been endeavouring to develop human resource in the textile industry for years. Trade associations are proving practical training to students in different fields of the industry.

Advanced learning is however an area still to be focussed inasmuch the size of textile industry. Higher education in textile is incomprehensibly neglected, or given least importance by both public and private sector despite the undeniable economic significance of the industry.

One can count on fingertips textile institutes giving formal technical education in the selected disciplines nationwide.

Textile institutes in Karachi include textile institute of Pakistan (TIP), Pakistan bedwear design training institute, Pakistan readymade garment technical training institute, fashion apparel design and training institute, institute of textile technology and management, and PHMA institute of knitwear technology.

SMA Rizvi textile institute has also been creating technical workforce for years with the assistance of leading textile companies such as Afroze textile, Nakshbandi industries, Feroze textile, etc. It is a joint project of towel manufacturers association (TMA) and ministry of textile. Offering degree and diploma programs in textile, the institute has recently been come in limelight for the vigorous training it is giving to its students mostly from middle and lower middle class. The institute was established back in 1990s to provide education in weaving and wet processing technologies.

In the same way, National Textile University in Faisalabad and Bahauddin Zakaria University in Multan are also recognized names of textile learning seats.

Textile education centres are unable to meet the needs of job market. There is dire need that public and private sectors join forces with each other or independently offer technical higher education in divergent fields of textile. Textile companies should step forward to provide technical assistances to the institutes. With affordable fee structures, these academic centres can easily attract a plenty of students, thereby fostering quality human resource.

Fashion designing is an integral part of textile value addition chain. It is unfortunate that article samples are found opposite to the international fashion trends.

A senior merchandiser at a buying wing of foreign hypermarket told this scribe the Pakistani designs are sometimes unable to reach the psychographic standards of buyer. Unconsciousness to cultural diversity causes problems in synchronization, he said.

Private institutes are running fashion designing programs in the country e.g. Pakistan school of fashion design in Lahore and fashion apparel design and training institute in Karachi. Fashion departments are also operating in few private sector universities.

Combined efforts of government and stakeholders can develop workforce to harness the potential of downstream industry.