Education and Skills

This is how Pakistan is closing its skills gap

Commuters move past a man selling pappadoms as he waits for customers during the monsoon rain, as the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak continues, in Karachi, Pakistan August 6, 2020. REUTERS/Akhtar Soomro - RC2H8I9PQUEB

Closing skills gaps: making a difference to people’s lives and futures in Pakistan. Image: REUTERS/Akhtar Soomro

Jawad Khan
Founder, Parwaaz
Mashal Yousaf
Manager, Research Policy and Donor Management, Parwaaz Country Manager, Punjab Skills Development Fund (PSDF)
Myra Mufti
Associate, Punjab Skills Development Fund
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  • Pakistan is the sixth most populous country in the world, with 64% of its population below the age 30 and youth unemployment rate as high as 8.5%.
  • Efforts to re-skill and upskill the population by the public sector are patchy.
  • A new multistakeholder approach is taking flight with a number of pilot projects underway to bridge the skills gap.

Like other emerging markets, Pakistan’s rising investment in automation and technology has significant consequences for its businesses and youth workforce.

As the sixth most populous country in the world, with 64 percent of its population below the age 30 and youth unemployment rate as high as 8.5 percent, Pakistan urgently needs to prepare its youth workforce for the technological transformation underway. Skills training will be a gamechanger, considering 80% of Pakistan’s youth labour force has low levels of education and a poor skills base.

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A flawed public-public model

Skilling, reskilling and upskilling in Pakistan have traditionally been led by the public sector. This conventional model comes with its own challenges and limitations. There is a gap between the quality and relevance of training offered and the skilled labour force that industry actually needs, in market relevant and demand driven trades.

In reality, there are fewer private training opportunities, higher costs and limitations associated with public sector skills delivery and beneficiaries struggle to keep pace with technological shifts in fast evolving market trends.

This skills gap alongside a more pressing need to reskill, upskill and new skill the workforce to increase employability and meet the needs of the employers in the era of the 4th Industrial Revolution inspired the Punjab Skills Development Fund to join the Reskilling Revolution and partner with the World Economic Forum on a Closing the Skills Gap Country Accelerator in Pakistan, named Parwaaz.

A multistakeholder approach takes flight

In the local context, Parwaaz means ‘’to take flight”. Standing true to the spirit of the name, with the guidance of the most influential public and private-sector leaders, Parwaaz is developing a futuristic approach to reskilling the nation.

Parwaaz is a multi-stakeholder alliance representing both the public and private sector. It focuses on three areas: lifelong learning and upskilling, future-readiness and youth employability, and innovative skills funding models.

It has identified 6 priority sectors to fuel Pakistan’s future growth: ICT, Financial Services, Textile, Hospitality, Retail and Services, Manufacturing and Light Engineering and Agriculture and Livestock. 42 of the largest employers in Pakistan are working together with the Punjab Skills Development Fund through Parwaaz to establish 6 sector-level incubators to identify reskilling, upskilling and new-skilling roles that are emerging today or that will appear in the future.

Parwaaz business leaders are providing support to the platform in form of funding (full/partial), training facilities, guidance and support in designing course curriculum, providing instructors or any other form of support. Working closely with experts appointed by each of these businesses from within their own companies, the training courses for each role under each industry incubator are being standardized to meet market needs. This will not only be a proof of concept but allow the model to be scaled up quickly and attract a larger pool of employers in each of the 6 sectors across Pakistan.

Future of Jobs 2020 Image: World Economic Forum

Real people, real skills, real impact

Parwaaz is already making a difference to people’s lives and futures. Three different skills, pilot incubators have been established and the work underway will ultimately result in approximately 1,000 young people graduating by June 2021 with improved and market relevant skills for the labour markets of tomorrow. These pilot programmes are owned and supported by the companies taking part in Parwaaz and are focusing on the following sectors and skills:

  • An ICT sector incubator is upskilling 500 young individuals for roles including, Contact Centre Agents to service international clients, Full Stack Developers, Data Scientists and E-commerce professionals.
  • A Financial Services sector incubator is equipping 200 young people with the skills they need for roles including, Information/cyber security experts, Data Analysts and Digital Compliance Experts.
  • A Textiles Sector incubator is preparing 300 young people for roles including, Data Analysts, 3D and CAD Designers.

Bridging the gap

The Accelerator is raising awareness and urgency not only among the employers and private sector at large but also the young people around the importance of skilling and reskilling and nurturing a proactive mindset despite of the challenging times. At the peak of the COVID-19 crisis, the Co-Chairs of Parwaaz participated in a number of open virtual activities to provide guidance to young Pakistanis and share their advice on how to navigate this time and prepare for the bounce back of the economy.

Ultimately, the Accelerator is bridging a crucial disconnect. With the Government working closely with the private sector, an opportunity for public-private partnership in the skills sphere has been ignited, which didn’t exist before, and can result in new, forward-looking policies and strategies, and a brighter future for Pakistan’s young and growing workforce.

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