A solution for the joblessness

The foundation is laid. The tools are readied and the materials are gathered. All we have to do is start building.

The Build Bhutan Project, launched yesterday, is a comprehensive policy. It could provide solutions to the ever-increasing unemployment problem. The project also includes the thousands of people who have lost jobs, at home or abroad because of the coronavirus crisis.

It goes beyond just ensuring jobs. The objective is to match skills with jobs, the overworked excuse the government and implementers love to cite.

It might have needed the Covid-29 pandemic to show us the way, but the project sounds comprehensive and if this is not going to work, we don’t see a better alternative.

Jobseekers should be attracted. The project has everything that would encourage the jobless to come forward and register. Starting from free skilling and re-skilling programmes with food and lodge to free personal protection equipment to provident fund and top up on wages, the project sounds too good to fail.

The ideas of the project (see article, Pg 1) should improve the image of the construction sector which is plagued with a shortage of workers and made us dependent on hired hands from across the border. Mechanisation, mandatory occupational safety and standards made mandatory in the tender documents and tweaking policies in favour of the sector had been wanting for long. Nobody wanted to be a construction worker. The picture of a construction worker, today, is that of a weather-beaten, skinny man in torn shirts and slippers carrying bricks, cement and bending rods.

This is a good opportunity for the jobless to relook at construction as a lucrative sector and a chance to make a decent living. Skilled or semi-skilled is what we lack. And from our experience, there is money in it. The shortage has made us pay at the whims of the thekadars or the contractors.

The project sounds generous and promising. There are other issues it could help solve. Beyond creating jobs, it could help prevent the scarce Indian Rupee flowing out with the sector employing about 30,000 before the Covid-19 pandemic.

This is an opportunity to seize. It will lead to a huge pool of skilled Bhutanese who could later venture out as entrepreneurs or even contractors. The only thing our young jobseekers should change is the mentality. There is only so much the Zhung can do. The reality is there are no desk jobs for everyone.

BBP should not let the energy wane after the launch. We had been training people from the numerous technical training and vocational institutes for years. Not many are seen in the construction sector. Training methods, technologies and equipment too should change with the new idea. A common complaint from VTI graduates is not being able to apply their skills in the job market. An institute uses machines made in the 1960s to train its mechanical students when vehicles that flash by the institute are half computerised.

Change in technology, training curriculum and adding values to traditional skills becomes relevant. We have run short of our own carpenters and masons, a skill passed down for generations. Today, only a few are left at dzong or lhakhang construction sites. The shing zows and the dozops have the skills of building dzongs without cement or nails. These skills could also be incorporated. After all, we would not only be building concrete towers or roads.

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