A labour ministry advisory comes up with short and long term proposals to improve situation

Survey: More than 700 industries have not recruited a single Technical and Vocational Education and Training (TVET) graduate in the last three years, a labour ministry survey found.

About 208 industries of the total 1,029 have recruited up to 10 vocational graduates each in the last three years.

The labour ministry’s human resource advisory series released last month highlights several loose ends in the TVET, a critical area that has been identified in the 11th Plan to tackle youth unemployment, and points out that the sector is not up to the mark yet.

The prime minister recently asked the employment creation task force members to explore ways to create employment opportunities.

The advisory has both short and long term recommendations to improve the situation.

On the supply side, the training institutions need to diversify and accredit courses, while industries have to upgrade their working environments and technology to suit the TVET graduates’ training.  The driving force behind these changes would be government’s investment and policy support that was found lacking, the advisory states.


The current TVET providers offer courses mostly limited to certificate and short-term programmes in the areas of information and communication technology (ICT), finance and accounting, and management.  The advisory states that, to meet the labour market demands, these providers have to diversify into higher-level programmes.

The advisory stated that lack of job security and poor working conditions have resulted in the youth not taking up occupations in hydropower and construction sectors or trades, despite high demand.

TVET providers, for instance, today do not have courses for many areas that the Economic Development Policy 2010 identified, such as organic farming, agro processing, fisheries, health food, solar and wind technology, high-end education, water-based products, textile, and fine arts, among others.

More than 90 TVET institutes offer 300 different programmes, but only a handful provide accredited courses, which are not mandatory.  Thus, most of the courses are not aligned with the Bhutan Vocational Qualification Framework (BVQF), which in turn means there is little scope for vocational graduates with higher education.

Of the more than 90 vocational institutes, 29 providers have not availed the training of trainers (TOT) pedagogy support, a basic requirement for training delivery as per the trainer’s registration of occupational standards department.

The government, the advisory states, has to devise appropriate policy enabling TVET diversification, as per the Economic Development Plan and economic direction of the country.

ICT-based learning in the field of traditional and contemporary arts and crafts, product development of wood and agro products, and other relevant areas, should be explored and supported, it stated.

“Collaboration on TVET linkage programs, such as apprentice training program, on-the-job program, skills assessment, curriculum development and occupation standard development, is frail,” the advisory states, in addition to the collaboration being weak and ad hoc.

The labour ministry has so far lacked in providing crucial and accurate labour market information and skills forecast data, which are essential for vocational institutes in providing programs that are relevant and up-to-date to the labour market needs, for students to make decision on availing programs that has higher employment prospect and for secondary institutions to make accurate career guidance to the students.

“Currently, the labour market information are available only on the existing profile of jobs, industry and vocational courses, which lacks credibility since the industry requirements change with business diversification and growth,” the report states.

The lack of forecast information also hampers career counselling offered at the secondary education level, critical point for students since their decision will have direct impact on the kind of jobs they take up later, which at the present is ad-hoc.

The education and labour ministries do not have a system for career counselling in all middle and secondary education level, the advisory states.

Youth unemployment in 2013 was 9.6 percent and in the 11th Plan more than 120,000 job seekers are estimated to join the labour market.

Despite the unemployment situation, as of December 2014, there were 46,441 foreign workers residing or working in the country.

Most foreign workers were employed in the major occupation category of craft and related trades workers, elementary occupation, as plant and machine operators and assemblers.  The data also indicates that 99.5 percent of the foreign workers are male and most of them are engaged in the construction and the hydropower sectors.

Of that 13,211 are in Wangdue, as the dzongkhag has two hydropower projects under construction, followed by Thimphu with 8,169 and Trongsa, where another hydropower project is coming up, has 7,864 foreign workers.

More than half of the country’s workforce is engaged in the primary sector, which comprises farming and road construction.  This trend has been common over the years, and more than half of the workforce engaged in the labour force is illiterate or unskilled.

Despite the policies defined under the Bhutan Qualification Framework (BQF), vocational institutes are still not integrated with the education system.

In the 11th FYP, a budget of Nu 960 million has been planned for improving quality and relevance of vocational education.

Labour and human resources minister Ngeema Sangay Tshempo said the ministry has started working on the recommendations in the advisory. “Vocational training is one of main components to give employment to youth in the 11th Plan and we’re working on it,” he said.

By Tshering Palden