Labour: With the implementation of the Technical and Vocational Education and Training (TVET) blueprint, about 110,000 youth will be skilled in ten years (2016 to 2026), labour and human resources minister Ngeema Sangay Tshempo said during the launch of the blueprint and National Workforce Plan yesterday.

Lyonpo Ngeema Sangay Tshempo said that the quality of human resources is fundamental to any socio-economic development of a nation. In recent years, the government has accorded high priority and commitment to resolve increasing unemployment especially among youth, and the underemployment issue in the country.

Besides achieving close alignment with the government’s other policies and strategies, the blueprint will outline a strategic approach for policy reform and development planning in skills development, lyonpo added.

The TVET blueprint has a four-pillar action approach.

The first pillar is expanding TVET provision, which includes expansion of the TVET capacity to meet future needs, facilitating the expansion of private TVET providers, and promoting equity enrolments, among others.

Lyonpo said that around 200,000 youth will enter the labour market over the next ten years and a high proportion will require skills or skill upgrading in order to find gainful employment, which includes self-employment.

The current capacity in the TVET system is about 1,500 seats. Lyonpo said that the Bhutan Education Blueprint with its new education pathway expects the formal TVET system to absorb 20,000 students from secondary schools over a ten-year period.

Therefore, there will be a significant capacity gap which needs to be addressed with increasing number of youths requiring skills, lyonpo added.

The second pillar is improving quality as the TVET system faces significant quality problems and its trainees and employers perceive it negatively.

Training of trainers, improving the quality of TVET programmes, identifying new and innovative forms of delivery and ensuring that the private sector plays a key role in delivering TVET falls under Pillar II.

Lyonpo pointed out that Bhutan lacks a cohort of competent trainers. About 50 percent of the country’s trainers have a diploma level qualification and many trainers have not attended a formal training of trainers programme. As a result, the providers cannot effectively deliver TVET programmes especially at the diploma or higher levels.

A significant proportion of trainers are on short-term contracts and this acts as a disincentive for managers to support trainers’ trainings.

“Lack of academic qualification can be one of the main reasons for the providers to experience difficulties in introducing and managing organisational change or growth,” lyonpo said.

The third pillar, improving relevance, is put in place because of the growing imbalances and skill mismatches in the labour market.

Lyonpo explained that the country is experiencing increasing youth unemployment and at the same time, a growing number of job vacancies.

Youth unemployment rate is at 10.7 percent while there are about 3,500 unfilled job vacancies in the country.

“Evidence on hidden imbalances can be seen by the number of foreign workers in the country,” lyonpo said. “Evidence on the growing skills mismatch can also be seen with the large number of unemployed university graduates in the country.”

Lyonpo added that it is important to think about future imbalances and skill needs and how to respond appropriately. It is estimated that 25 percent of the workforce will retire over the next 10 years and they will need to be replaced.

Strengthening management systems is the last pillar. The TVET system management is characterised by structural weaknesses.

Lyonpo pointed out that the labour and human resources ministry does not have a coherent labour market information system to guide decision-making. Information is collected in an ad-hoc manner and based on individual surveys or studies.

“As the TVET system expands, it will be important to ensure that more data is collected to understand the labour market and guide decisions on how resources are allocated for TVET,” lyonpo said.

A series of planned background studies and consultations with the stakeholders comprising of policy makers, TVET providers, employers and society at large were carried out to develop the blueprint.

Dechen Tshomo