Counsellors from various central and secondary schools are attending a workshop that will enable them to guide students towards more realistic careers

Employment: Mathematically, in any event, one plus one is always two. However, when it comes to skills development, one plus one equals zero.

This is no arithmetic class. According to Kinley Wangdi, the director of the human resources department of the labour ministry, if one youth is equipped with one skill, the result will be zero dependency.

“In context to skills development policy, if an individual has a skill, he does not have to depend on anyone for anything,” said Kinley Wangdi. “This serves the country’s vision of self reliance which in turn promotes the sovereignty and security of the country.”

The need for local skilled workforce, Kinley Wangdi said has now become more crucial than ever.

In an effort to create awareness on the importance of skill-based learning and value of skilled workforce, the department is conducting a workshop on career guidance counselling.

With a student-centred approach, the two-day workshop aims to create a system of counselling in schools where students can avail better and well-informed career choices.

Students especially those in secondary schools are under pressure to perform well academically, to live up to expectations of their parents and society, and the pressure to ultimately make a good living for themselves.

Without proper career guidance, many students fail to pursue what they actually want in life under the burden of the societal expectations.

Senior counsellor with the youth and sports department of the education ministry, Nidup Gyaltshen said that to find a job in the country currently, the market is mostly driven by the academic system.

He said this system puts in more pressure on the student to perform, at times forgoing what he or she actually wants.

“A parent wants his child to become a doctor or an engineer, but often times this might not be possible, maybe because of the child’s abilities, interest or skills,” said Nidup Gyaltshen.

Expectations, he said, can leads to confusion within the child. “Self-awareness in children in relation to the world of work must be taught and help them identify their interest, skills and abilities,” he said. “They need a proper career guidance, ability to make decisions for themselves, which can be provided by counsellors.”

A total of 27 counsellors from various central and secondary schools are attending the workshop. The workshop is a part of the ministry’s and Asian Development Bank’s (ADB) project, Institutional Strengthening for Skills Development.

ADB project manager, Nidup Tshering said that it is important to bridge the imbalance that currently prevails in the labour market. “What the market requires now is more of technical and vocational skills,” he said. “The aspiration of the students should be matched with the reality of labour market today.”

He said that school counselling programmes play a vital role in helping students find the appropriate career guidance. “Students spend almost 13 years in school. It is here they should be prepared for the world of the work.”

“The role of schools in career guidance is vital. We need to get it right in schools. Then the rest will follow,” said one of the participants.

Kinley Wangdi said that building the capacity of the counsellors in schools is important since they are the ones shaping the future of the country.

“If we don’t start from schools, ultimately the students come to us for employment. By then it is too late for us to counsel them,” he said. “Therefore, it is important to tackle the problem at source for the smooth transition later.”

The facilitator of the workshop (Dr) Christine Hogan said that it is important to understand the Bhutanese cultural values and context, which impact the career decision of young people at school and their parents.

“Through this workshop, we want to open up thinking and motivation of students towards technical vocational education and training (TVET),” said (Dr) Christine Hogan.

Today in the country, Kinley Wangdi said that TVET is plagued with three-Ds (dangerous, dirty and down-looked). He said that overcoming the three-Ds is the biggest challenge the ministry is currently facing.

“As long as people work with dignity of labour, no job should be down-looked,” he said. “If unemployment is to be reduced, we have to change this notion towards TVET.”

Younten Tshedup