The technical and vocational education and training (TVET) programme today failed to meet the standard and the purpose it was established for some five decades ago.

The programme faces a multitude of constraints that increasingly hinder delivering quality workmanship and attracting more youth to pursue various training.

According to an ongoing research report by a special committee of National Council, despite considerable investments made in the public TVET system, it still continues to face major challenges particularly in access, relevancy and quality of skills.

“Such challenges are further aggravated by the rapid economic transformation and changing labour market requirements,” the report stated.

Lack of TVET policy stewardship, inadequate attention on developing professional TVET services, partial implementation of Bhutan Vocational Qualifications Framework (BVQF), weak TVET-industry linkages, and lack of adequate financial and human resources were identified as major factors impeding the development of TVET.

While some of the programmes are broadly governed by the policy and related regulations of labour ministry, some programmes are implemented independently by the sector-specific agencies in health, tourism, agriculture, thereby posing formidable challenges for the ministry to carry out holistic national planning, coordination and aligning skills development to the economic priorities.

Labour ministry officials also reported to the committee that the current policy is limited in its scope and hence, not able to effectively cover all TVET providers under the existing policy framework.

Technical Education Department under the ministry, which is responsible for overall development of TVET, is often bogged down with the bureaucratic works and is not able to provide focused and timely professional TVET services particularly in the areas of research and development, curriculum review and development, professional development, the committee reported.

TVET graduates are constrained by the limited opportunity to upgrade educational qualification and career progression.

TVET instructors and graduates expressed dissatisfaction with the committee members over their certificates not being accorded the same level of recognition like their peers in other sectors for the job promotion and position.

TVET programme has received less than 1.5 percent of the overall Plan outlay in the past three Plans. The programme is allocated 1.8 percent of the outlay or Nu 2.1 billion in the 12th Plan.

The trickle-down share of resources to technical training institutes (TTIs) has been also very minimal. In particular, it has constrained the TTIs in having adequate infrastructure such as classrooms, workshops, hostels, transport, inadequate teaching and learning materials, tools and equipment, health and safety gears, and working uniform, among others.

Of the TTI trainees monthly stipend of Nu 1,500, only Nu 1,350 is available for meals after deducting 10 percent for rent. The trainees sometimes have to arrange their own meals and accommodation while on On-the-job training and industrial attachment. The labour ministry has been requesting finance ministry for revision of stipend since 2011.

The failure of the TVET system to respond effectively to the emerging labour market needs has led to a prolonged shortage of skilled workforce which has compelled the economy or the construction sector, in particular, to be dependent on foreign workers. The country has more than 50,000 foreign workers.

“For a vibrant private sector growth, adequate skilled workforce is of paramount importance. However, acute shortage of national skilled workforce has continuously impeded desired private sector growth,” the committee chairperson, Phuntsho Rabten, said.

Assessment of TVET sector also showed a lack of competitiveness on the part of TVET graduates. Of the TVET programs offered in the country, 81 percent are at the certificate level.

This is despite the implementation of the Bhutan Vocational Qualifications Framework in 2010. TVET graduates continue to face difficulty in upgrading their educational qualification and career progression.

Thimphu’s NC member, Tshewang Rinzin, said that the programme does not have any affiliation or accreditation from reputed foreign institutions, which is why the programme has no recognition.

In addition, in the wake of the high youth unemployment situation in the country, TVET is still not a preferred choice of youth in general.

TVET system began in the mid-1960s and there are six TTIs and two Zorig Chusum institutes.

The committee will present its full review findings with recommendations to the NC’s 23rd session this summer.

Tshering Palden