Addressing the skilled workforce shortage

The country has been facing severe shortage of skilled workforce. While unemployment among the young keeps increasing by the year, we continue to hire non-national workers for our projects in various sectors.

It has been found that more than 33 percent of industries in the three sectors of tourism, construction and production are confronting major shortage of skilled workforce. These are critically important sectors for development.

It is not very difficult to figure why the nation is facing shortage of skilled workforce in the key sectors. Some of the factors that contribute to the shortage are helplessly cultural. Bhutanese treat blue-collar jobs almost as taboo. So much has to do with mentality.

However, it is encouraging to see that our young people are slowly breaking that cultural barrier. What is critically important is that there has to be a major shift in the way employment opportunities are created and offered. We can create jobs by thousands, but what’s the good if there are few takers?

Pay is prestige. For so long a job pays well, there will be takers. Bhutanese don’t mind going abroad to clean toilets if they have to because they get paid well in the end. Every year so, hundreds of Bhutanese, some senior civil servants even, gladly kick their job and head promptly abroad. When a person’s monthly salary is not enough even for the rent of a modest apartment he lives in, there will be shortage of skilled workforce. Good pay becomes an important factor, especially because of our economy. A slightest change in the production line somewhere sends prices of goods in the country flying over the roof.

It is interesting that our industries demand experienced and qualified workers but do not support training and professional development of the workers. It is important, therefore, that our industries have a workforce development plan of their own first to meet the demand of skilled workforce. Otherwise, there will continue to be shortage of skilled workforce.

Addressing shortage of skilled workforce in the country will need courage and foresight. It doesn’t matter how many thousands of jobs we create if there are no takers. Investments must be made in the area of skills development. At the same time, factors like pay and working environment must be restructured to attract jobseekers. Prestige and glamour will find their own answer.

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