Skills: Amidst the social stigma that a career in Technical and Vocational Education and Training (TVET) is not attractive, the TVET sector in the country is fast picking up in popularity.

Considered a sector which not only consumes resources but also produces an essential skilled workforce, measures to further popularise the TVET sector continues.

A weeklong in-country programme on TVET, Pathways to Sustainable Development, began yesterday in Thimphu to provide the system a holistic approach in the development process. Some 30 participants from the labour ministry, six Technical Training Institutes and two Institutes of Zorig Chusum and other private institutes are participating in the programme.

The aim is to help the participants develop a green TVET curriculum, an action plan that would be practical and can be implemented without much problems.

The resource person, Professor Pramod B Shrestha said that most of the plans around the world are decoratively written but lack in the implementation phase.

“Bigger plans with millions of investment usually fail in the implementation process. The idea is to help participants develop a small action plan that they can easily implement the next day in their own institutes,” said Professor Pramod B Shrestha. “Small can also be beautiful, let that be an example. Start small that you can implement without any cost. That is green.”

Department of Human Resources director Kinley Wangdi said that like the rest of the world, the TVET sector in the country is also plagued with several challenges mainly in three areas: accessibility, relevancy and quality.

“Is the TVET system accessible to all people irrespective of their physical abilities, gender and location,” asked Kinley Wangdi. “TVET today is considered dirty, dangerous and is looked down upon. This is one of the biggest challenges faced by the sector today.”

The mismatch of demand and supply in the labour market of the skilled workforce also deters most youth from taking up TVET. “If we don’t update our curriculum with the changing technology around us, our skills become obsolete,” said Kinley Wangdi, adding that the quality of skilled workforce also needs to be produced with respect to not just the local and national levels but regional and international as well.

Other challenges hindering the establishment of a vibrant TVET sector in Bhutan, Kinley Wangdi said is the lack of national importance given to the sector and the social stigma associated with it.

On an average the minimal expenditure to train a TVET student annually is more than Nu 100,00, said the director. “The amount given to us to train the students is comparatively less than what is given for general education,” he said.

He added that because of the limited budget there are not many facilities to encourage more youth to take up the course. “If you give peanuts to the system, you will just get monkeys out of it,” he said, adding that reprioritising the budget allocation in the system is crucial for TVET to develop.

However, with the ministry’s constant efforts to popularise TVET, the system is slowly growing. “TVET system has drastically improved over the years,” said Kinley Wangdi. “The male-female ratio has also improved whereby we can see an equal number of females taking up the course at times even more than males.”

The director added that the rate of employability with the TVET graduates is also high and not many TVET graduates today remain unemployed after graduation. Of the total 611 TVET graduates of 2014-15, 508 have already been employed.

Recently graduates with degrees have also started to join the TVET sector to gain much-needed practical knowledge. Kinley Wangdi said that soon more graduates would take up TVET courses. “The 1+1=0 concept where one youth equipped with one skill results in zero dependency should be the future of the TVET sector in Bhutan.”

Professor Pramod B Shrestha said that a country that doesn’t value skills cannot progress. “There is no other two ways to this because a nation is built by skills. Engineers have got their own role to play but without skilled people, engineers would be redundant.”

He suggested that for Bhutan the concept of apprenticeships or the dual system where students are trained at the factory where they would eventually work is an ideal model. “There should not be any borders to classroom and learning,” he said.  “Importance to the TVET students and instructors must be given. The pride and passion in the system is the key.”

Younten Tshedup