The labour ministry’s initiative to organise vocational education camp in winter deserves fulsome praise.  It is a great initiative, particularly at a time when thousands of our young people are not in school and whiling away their time doing things that are not productive.

At the first winter camp in Trashigang last week, students said that two weeks was too short.  They wanted to learn more.  Participants were class X students, who are waiting for their board exam results.  Some of them will go for higher studies, and some will have to drop out and do something to eke out a living.  This is why such camps are necessary.

Choice and opportunity: that’s what our young people need.  We have youth unemployment close to ten percent.  That’s a worrying figure.  Many felt that the training that they received at the camp could help them join one of the technical training institutes in the country, if they do not qualify for higher studies.

Some 95 students from the six eastern dzongkhags were given practical lessons on electrical, carpentry, masonry, plumbing, computer hardware, automobile, welding, embroidery and lhadri (painting).  These are vital skills that our young people need at a time when jobs are increasingly becoming scarce.

It’s been long since we since established the first technical vocational education training institute.  We have four fully functioning institutes in the country today.  The lesson that the camp took home was that there is the need for strong and effective advocacy on vocation training.  Young people should be given skills that will help them start a career after they leave school.

Camps like this will prepare thousands of young people to start their own business, or get employed in the businesses that require vocational talents.  Encouraging young people to take up vocational training this way will help build respect for institutes that train hundreds of school-leavers in different vocational disciplines.

Response from the students was heartwarming.  It is the opportunity that they lack.  The old stigma that the jobs trainees get after they graduate from vocational institutes are lowly and dangerous is no more relevant.

This is why labour ministry’s initiative to organise vocational camp every winter is welcome.  This will go a long way towards addressing the youth unemployment problem in this country.

A start has been made.  What we now need is vigour and consistency.