ISLAMABAD, Pakistan — On April 30, approval was given to the U.S. by the World Bank for $50 million in aid to Punjab, Pakistan, enabling the region to better fund skills training programs centered on increasing post-college employability. The new initiative will improve the overall quality of these programs while also making them more relevant to labor markets and more accessible to Punjab’s youth.
The aid will be given to the Punjab Skills Development Project, which is overseen by the Punjab Skills Development Fund, or PSDF, an organization that provides various training programs for those seeking to enter different markets. Current skill development projects involve training for industries including energy, garment production and agriculture.
Among PSDF’s success stories is Tehseena Begum, a Bahwalnagar woman who attended the program’s course in Advanced Dress Designing and Making, that gave her the valuable skills she needed to pursue a career in fashion design. Begum had long been captivated by the world of fashion, but education was unfortunately not a priority in her family, and after her father’s passing, her household was left with no income and Begum was unable to find a job.
Upon her completion of the course, Begum did not have the investment capital she needed to start her own shop, which frequently impedes the success of female entrepreneurs. Begum instead began working from her home as a freelance dress designer receiving dress orders from women throughout her community. She has since been able to provide for her family who was once faced with serious financial struggles.
Begum is representative of the real possibilities that training programs can provide to their students, and her success as a female entrepreneur is noteworthy since this is less common in many parts of the world, specifically those with more pronounced poverty rates.
The World Bank has reported that about 70,000 of those trained will benefit directly from the work of PSDF and of this group, females will account for 15 percent.
The Punjab Skills Development Project has been structured with accuracy in mind, mirroring the Punjab government’s development strategies and objectives for its Vision 2018 initiative. The Project’s details were formed after collaboration with development partners, and it is believed that it will be successful in helping to form more employable young men and women.
Task Team Leader of the Punjab Skills Development Project, Monami Latif, remarked, “The project will improve the quality and relevance of training through improved collaboration between the private sector and training providers. Interventions would focus on, but not be limited to, developing partnerships with small and medium enterprises in priority economic sectors.” It is through this kind of approach that the project hopes to gain positive results.
World Bank Country Director for Pakistan, Rachid Benmessaoud, stated, “The main challenges in the skills development sector of Punjab include limited supply of skilled workers, weak institutional framework, and low access to quality and relevant skills training.” If PSDF can develop a strong base of trained workers for Punjab, economic growth will follow. The region’s youth represent an invaluable investment in the future, which, if successful, could hold the key to development and poverty alleviation.
– Amy Russo
Sources: World Bank, PSDF 1, PSDF 2
Photo: Area 14/8