A Helvetas-Bhutan seminar on “Education for Jobs?” discussed about careers in vocational education

Labour: Strengthening the Vocational Education Training (VET) systems and the private sector was some of the possible solutions Bhutan could look at to address the growing problem of unemployment.

A seminar on ‘Education for Jobs?’ organized by the Helvetas yesterday, managed to bring out various issues surrounding the Bhutanese perception around blue-collared jobs and how having a well-coordinated system on VET could address these issues.

Twelve participants from Bhutan and Switzerland shared their experiences on education, training and career perspectives of VET in both countries.

Tek Bahadur, from Technical Training Institute (TTI) in Chumey, said he didn’t have any other option than pursuing his career in masonry.

“After I completed my high school, I didn’t have other options and that was when I heard of TTI,” he said. “Although misconception about the blue-collared job continues to exist, I couldn’t hope for a better career.”

Another participant, Pema Choden, who is studying plumbing at the TTI, said that despite the stigma and inferiority attached to their jobs, she is proud about her job.

“If we don’t take up the job to fix the leaking pipes and drains, who will? I am proud to be where I am today,” she said.

Apart from these issues, members from the audience pointed out why the Bhutan-HELVETAS has taken so long to address the VET issues.

To this, the labour secretary, Pema Wangda, who was also on the panel, said that the prospect of VET addressing the rising unemployment issue was thoroughly discussed in the past.

“We even proposed a VET Act, which the government decided not to look into because there are too many Acts,” Pema Wangda said.

However, the labour ministry introduced a VET policy and guidelines for Competency Based Training in 2006.

VET in Bhutan is a relatively new and an emerging system, Karma Lhazom from the labour ministry added.

“Switzerland’s VET system is leading the way while Bhutan’s VET is emerging and has much to achieve in terms of quality to meet the needs of the rapidly modernizing labour market,” she said.

Less than 25 percent of Bhutanese students take up VET after completing class X while 70 percent of youth enter VET after compulsory schooling of nine years in Switzerland.

Country Director of HELVETAS, Hansruedi Pfeiffer, said education is not only about work but also about developing one’s personality.

“For the growing number of youth, finding a decent employment is significant. Without education, there is no individual life concept, hence the theme of the seminar,” Hansruedi Pfeiffer said.

The seminar was organized as part of the celebrations for 40 years of partnership between Bhutan and HELVETAS Swiss Inter-cooperation. Member of Parliament and representatives from private sector and government officials attended the seminar.

Thinley Zangmo