With the Ministry of Labour and Human Resources (MoLHR) trying to make school and college graduates employable, the number of short-term trainings provided by the ministry is expected to have increased over the last few years.
However, local training providers say they have not been able to reap the benefit of the increase in number of MoLHR-funded trainings. The reason: competition from training and job placement companies in India.
Owners of local institutes say their companies are facing a financial crisis and would be forced to close down unless there is a policy intervention from the government. They say the government needs to prioritise local firms over foreign companies if more jobs are to be created and training firms are to survive.
“Most of the trainings go to India,” managing director of Bhutan International School of Hospitality and Tourism, Chencho Tshering, said. “We are willing to provide both trainings and placement, but we are not getting the jobs.”
Those working in the training institutes are also losing their jobs due to the financial situation the training institutes are in.
Chencho Tshering said she had to lay off some employees from her institute as the number of trainees drastically decreased over the last one year. Most training contracts are awarded to Indian companies whose credibility she said was doubtful.
There are 106 training institutes in the country including driving schools. About 20 of the total are government-owned.
In its effort to fulfill the pledge of providing employment for all, the government is planning to train and send at least 200 youth as sales executive and in food and beverages in India. MoLHR has invited expression of interest (EoI) from training providers and employment consultancy firms for their training and placement.
Through the guaranteed overseas employment programme, the government has earlier spent about Nu 80,000 a candidate for training and placement of jobseekers in India. At this rate, it would cost Nu 16 million to send 200 students to India although the rate can vary.
However, local training providers say it is hard for them to win such contracts if they have to compete with Indian companies.
“Local firms would benefit if the contracts are given to them,” proprietor of the Thimphu-based Bright Life Institute, MB Mongar, said. “But the criteria set by MoLHR are so unrealistic that we are sidelined,” he said.
In October last year, Bright Life Institute had quoted Nu 45,000 a candidate for training and placement in guest relation executives posts in India. However, it was the Noida-based M/s International Institute of Wellness Studies that won the contract for Nu 80,000 per head.
The proprietor said that his institute has hardly received any candidates for the past one year. He said they are capable of providing both training and placement in India with tie-ups with Indian firms. “We can train them at home and provide placement in India. Jobs for local firms would help in the growth of the private sector and creation of jobs in Bhutan,” he said.
Local training providers also feel that the way in which MoLHR invites EoI and awards contract is suspicious.
On October 6, the ministry invited EoI for placement of jobseekers in India both from local training providers and Indian employment consultancy firms. However, the proprietor of Bright Life Institute said he found later that the same notification was posted on the ministry’s website on September 29.
“There were only three days for me to submit the EoI for the contract excluding government holidays,” he said, adding that he mostly follows newspapers for tender notifications. This, he said, gives reasons for local firms to be suspicious about the tendering process.
In an email response, the department of employment and human resources stated that the ministry has the mandate to skill job seekers through quality training since there is a mismatch of jobs available and the capacity of job seekers.
“In order to ensure quality training, the ministry is taking steadfast measures to identify training providers which can train as well as place our jobs seekers into jobs,” it stated.
It stated that as such the ministry invites proposals to train jobseekers and place them in jobs from credible training providers from both within and outside the country. “This is done, firstly, to identify potential training providers with credible portfolio and experience. And secondly, to get competitive rates to render services.”
The outsourcing of training and placement services are announced through mass media including the national newspaper like Kuensel and The Economic Times in India, according to the labour ministry.
“We have a committee to study the tenders and award the works. So the awarding of training and placement tenders is not arbitrary or unilateral,” it stated.
The department stated that sending jobseekers to India to be trained by Indian training providers is solely based on the credibility of the training proposals which includes condition to find jobs for jobseekers in India after the training. “The contracts with foreign training providers are bound by the Regulations on Bhutanese Overseas Employment Agents 2013,” the department stated.
The ministry, it stated, has effective oversight measures to ensure compliance to quality and standards and that such practice has helped the ministry to explore job opportunities in India where jobseekers can experience competitive work culture and gain good job experience.
“So there is no bias towards local and international training providers. Local training providers which have demonstrated such service credibility have been engaged by the Ministry and awarded the trainings.”
100 percent placement requirement
Chief Executive Officer of Athang Training Academy, Anthang Dorji, said that although India has some good institutes, some of the trainings they provide could be provided by local institutes. One of the conditions that make bidding difficult for local firms, he said, was the requirement to guarantee placement for every trainee.
“Indian companies come and promise 100 percent placement to the government and the jobseekers. It is difficult for us to promise 100 percent employment,” he said.
If the candidates do not complete the training or the contract period, which is usually for a year to two years, the placement firm will not be eligible for full payment. However, the placement firms say that although they could train all the candidates, it was almost impossible to get all employed and make them complete the contract period in the same company.
Instances of failure to implement the 100 percent clause have already emerged. About 30 of 87 jobseekers that had gone to India in April have returned home due to the failure of the Noida-based Alfresco Solutions LLP to provide placement even four months after the completion of their training.
The company had agreed to place all the trainees in jobs for a period of two years. According to the affected job seekers, 20 of those who are in India are still looking for jobs.
During the recent meet the press, labour minister Ngeema Sangay Tshempo said that the ministry would withhold the payment to the Indian company for non-fulfillment of the terms and conditions of the contract. “The first thing we do is stop the remaining payment to the company,” he said.
In another instance, MoLHR has withheld a payment of Nu 1.8 million to Bhutan International School for Hospitality and Tourism. This is because some candidates changed the companies while some discontinued the programme.
Another training provider said, “Even if we know that we may not be able to provide placement for all candidates, we have to sign the contract saying we can. Otherwise, we will have no business at all.”
She said that it was not possible for the private sector to do what even the government couldn’t. India, she said, had a similar employment scheme but the employers are obliged to provide placement to about 80 percent of the trainees.
Meanwhile, some local firms such as the Institute of Management Studies and the driving schools say that they are able to sustain.