MoLHR: If Technical and Vocational Education and Trainings (TVETs) in the country is to produce a skilled workforce, the government needs to pump in money in the sector. The current share of the government budget for the TVET sector is just over one percent.

Labour and human resources secretary Pema Wangda at the consultation workshop to finalize the TVET Blueprint yesterday, urged the Members of Parliament to increase the budget.

The secretary suggested the TVET budget in the 12th Plan should be increased to at least 5 percent of the total government budget. “Otherwise, we are going to continue with the same problem,” Pema Wangda said.

Bhutan has seen increased youth unemployment and at the same time human resources shortages in critical sectors.

The labour and human resources minister Ngeema Sangay Tshempo said, “One of the main hindrances in the private sector development is the shortage of skilled human resources.”

The blueprint is expected to find a solution to the problem recognized years ago.

The minister said that the government’s emphasis now must gradually shift towards preparing youth for the world of work. To address this emerging problem, he said there is an urgent need to bring transformational changes in the education system including TVET.

“The education and training system must respond to aspirations of the youth by providing gainful employment at the same time contributing towards providing much needed skill manpower in the country,” he said.

He said TVET can impact positively towards helping individuals gain access to decent work and sustainable jobs and escape from poverty and marginalization. “An efficient TVET system can lead to development of various economic activities in the country through supply of skilled workforce and professionals and achieving our government’s vision of achieving full employment and promoting social inclusion,” he said.

The immediate challenge however, is to increase the quality and relevance of TVET and to communicate opportunities to youth in areas of technical and vocational education.

A participant at the workshop requested parliamentarians present at the workshop to incorporate and address human resource issues in the national economic plan.

MP Kinga Tshering floated the idea of tackling the unemployment and current account deficit problems through monetary policy reforms. “I don’t have an immediate answer as I’m from the opposition party,” he said.

Kinga Tshering said Bhutan should explore the idea of reducing the value of Bhutanese currency vis-a-vis Indian currency. This is not only expected to make import of goods and labour more expensive but also reduce the trade deficit.

If the value of Indian currency is higher than Bhutan’s, importing labour would be expensive.

A Senior Social Sector Specialist from the Asian Development Bank, Ms. Karina S Veal said although South Asian countries are lagging behind in TVET development, some of the countries are investing millions of dollars in skills development.

Presenting an assessment report of the country’s TVET sector, officiating director of the human resource department, Sangay Dorji, said 57 percent of the training providers are based in Thimphu. He also emphasized on the need to upgrade the TVET programmes as 80 percent of courses are at the certificate level.

Presenting the National Workforce Plan, Chief HRD officer Tenzin Choden of the human resource department said industries reported that most skills they require were not available in the country. She reported that 33 percent of the industries were facing skilled labour shortage.

International Education and Skill Expert and ADB Consultant, Marcus Adrian Powell, said Bhutan’s TVET programmes face lack of social and economic relevance.

The TVET blueprint aims to align skills development programmes with the country’s economic priorities and make TVET occupations attractive career routes for youth. A draft of the document is expected to be ready the end of this month and submitted to the cabinet in April.

The blueprint was developed with assistance from the ADB and has the exact purpose to articulate a long-term strategic vision that will guide and influence reforms and development in TVET over the next 10 years (2016 to 2026).

MB Subba