Employment: While the national unemployment rate in the country saw a slight decrease of 0.1 percent from 2.6 percent in 2014 to 2.5 percent in 2015, youth (15-24 years) unemployment has soared from 9.4 percent in 2014 to 10.7 in 2015.

As per the labour force survey 2015, there are some 4,504 unemployed youth in the country and about 3,500 job vacancies still available.

The vacancies, however, are mostly in the field of technical and vocational areas, which are often not preferred by most youth today.

In order to promote the image of Technical and Vocational Education and Training (TVET) graduates and to highlight the importance of skilled labour in socioeconomic development, the third TVET convocation was held in Thimphu yesterday.

The day was also observed to facilitate and create a bond among the TVET community and develop a sense of pride and achievement among the vocational graduates for being a productive member of the skilled workforce in the country.

Labour ministry officials said that convocations in general have always been associated with those who have completed a university degree and never for those with vocational certificates. “The day was observed to upgrade the image of vocational graduates and help overcome the stigma of blue collar jobs and to make them at par with any other academic graduates,” said an official.

Of the 1,539 TVET graduates (853 graduates in year 2014-2015 and 686 graduates in year 2015-2016), a total of 611 from six Technical Training Institutes (TTI) and two of the Institute of Zorig Chusum attended the third convocation.

Nima Tshering, an electrician from the Khuruthang TTI, is one of the fortunate ones who got a job before even completing his two-year-course. After completing class 12 from Phuntsholing Higher Secondary School in 2011, Nima joined the institute in Punakha.

“As a student, I didn’t have a good impression about vocational training institutes,” said the 27-year-old. “But I joined the institute and today I’m content with my profession and my life.”

He said that with the changing times, people have now come to realise that jobs will not come easy even after completing college. “The stigma associated with blue-collar jobs is now coming to an end,” he said, adding that people these days are open to jobs that require physical strength.

Nima Tshering said that not everyone will become a civil servant. “We might not earn as much as a civil servant, but we earn enough to make our own living.”

Nima is currently working with the Tala Hydropower Project under Druk Green Power Corporation.

For Dechen Wangmo, finding a job after graduating from Chumey TTI was not difficult. She and her friends were immediately recruited by a private company in Thimphu.

The 22-year-old, who specialised in welding, works as a store in-charge at the company.

“We are no different than any male welder and are equally skilled, but we don’t get to put our skills to use,” said Dechen. “In areas where there is a requirement of physical strength, women often fail to perform. In the areas that require skill, however, we are equal to any male graduates.”

She added that often most of the recruiting companies prefer male candidates to female.

Labour minister Ngeema Sangay Tshempo said that amidst growing unemployment among youth in the country and not-so-vibrant private sector, investing in skills could provide a good opportunity to overcome the unemployment issues.

“Prestige and self-esteem must come from within and you must be proud of work you do and the contribution you make to the nation,” said Lyonpo. “In the past, the traditional skilled workers were highly regarded and this must be brought back. We should provide the same respect in the modern sector as well.”

Lyonpo added that the ministry is committed to “skilling” Bhutan and from 2016-2026 the ministry aims to provide skills to 110, 000 Bhutanese under the new TVET Blueprint.

Department of human resources highlighted the 1+1=0 concept during the convocation, which means if one youth is equipped with one skill, the result will be zero dependency.

Of the 611 TVET graduates who attended the convocation yesterday, 508 are already employed.

Prime Minister Tshering Tobgay awarded the graduation certificates.

The first TVET convocation was held on October 31 in 2012.

Younten Tshedup