CLEVELAND, Ohio — Education is an essential factor in contributing to alleviating global poverty. However, there are different types of education and the approach of using vocational education to reduce poverty is a vital one. Vocational training allows for people to learn specific skills for different types of jobs, mainly for technical or trade-based crafts, such as electrical work or sewing.
The Shaheed Zulfikar Ali Bhutto Institute of Science and Technology (SZABIST) is an institute that consists of a variety of divisions to contribute to education all over Pakistan. More specifically, one of its components is SZABIST ZABTech, a Pakistani institution that provides “integrated technical education and vocational training service” and is aimed towards the youth to mitigate poverty and unemployment. The Borgen Project spoke with Waheeda Mahesar, Director of SZABIST ZABTech (iTVE) to dive further into the institution and its impact within the country.
SZABIST and Education
SZABIST plays several roles in the educational sector of Pakistan and has four different units. One aspect of the organization is its university. SZABIST University is a degree-awarding institution, offering a variety of programs including bachelor, master and doctoral degrees. The institution has campuses located in five different cities, four in Pakistan and one in the United Arab Emirates.
Another aspect is SZABIST ZAB-ed, which is promoting essential education for the youth, mainly junior schools and colleges in a few cities in the Sindh region of Pakistan. Since the region faces a multitude of challenges and a scarcity of resources, this section of the organization is “to contribute in the struggle of improving the overall standard of education.”
Finally, SZABIST ZABTech is a section of the institution that focuses beyond the standard primary and university education by also furthering Technical and Vocational Educational Training (TVET).
SZABIST ZABTech’s Purpose
SZABIST’s Institute of Technical & Vocational Education (iTVE) emerged in 2000 and since then has expanded its reach throughout Pakistan. SZABIST’s original focus was on providing employment opportunities to the educated.
The institute wanted to provide people with skills to make them more appealing candidates to employers, such as skills in management or accounting areas. However, as Waheeda Mahesar told The Borgen Project, the founders of ZABTech established the institution to not only help the youth that has education yet lacks required workforce skills but also help the youth who are not in schools and provide them with another means to gain steady employment. While this was the intention, there were challenges in recruiting those in rural and semi-rural areas. Mahesar explains that the organization had to engage in “social mobilization,” where they went “door-to-door, village-to-village [and]had several seminars [alongside]motivational speeches” in order to appeal to the impoverished areas in Pakistan.
Mahesar also mentions that one of the main ways the team partook in attracting people to the institution was by focusing on women. According to Mahesar, “in the context of Pakistan, the women have not been…given [the]appropriate place or platform and for them, there are several challenges,” including means of transportation and even the workplace environment.
ZABTech designed courses and resources for young women so that they would have better opportunities immediately available after completing the classes. For example, instead of regular sewing classes, the institution offers industrial stitching so they are qualified for factory jobs. Alternatively, if a few people have experience in stitching, ZABTech provides assistance acquiring bank loans so they can start a small business. Alongside proper training, overall SZABIST ZABTech provides people with “toolkits” so they can find employment as soon as possible.
To increase accessibility, SZABIST continues to engage in a number of efforts, including awarding scholarships, as well different methods of social mobilization. SZABIST offers several scholarships and means of financial assistance for their university, but also for ZABTech.
The organization aims to support young students in need, which is why, according to Mahesar, the organization has created a foundation that receives 5% of the degree-awarding institutions’ surpluses. The funding goes to students in need who have received admission acceptances.
On a different side to outreach, ZABTech is continuing to increase its partnerships to allow for more opportunities for students. In July 2020, ZABTech organized a virtual event on World Youth Skills Day to bring “together young people, public representatives, policymakers, development partners, technical and vocational education and training institutions and entrepreneurs to talk about the need for helping young people develop resilience to face employment challenges and to reimagine the role of technical and vocational training (TVET) in [a]post-pandemic scenario.”
It is clear the SZABIST wants to help the impoverished in the various regions of Pakistan through different means of education, and social mobilization and funding is an aspect of that goal.
The Future of SZABIST
Currently, 80% of SZABIST ZABTech (iTVE) graduates find employment and there are more than 38,000 trained students. As one of the largest TVET contributors in Pakistan, SZABIST ZABTech is determined to continue expanding by partnering with more industries, government bodies, agencies and more while interacting with several different youth communities.
Mahesar discussed plans to expand further out of Karachi to impoverished areas lacking in youth opportunities because “it is very much important to connect the people from the rest of Sindh with Karachi.”
SZABIST is an institution providing a variety of education in Pakistan and by growing its Technical and Vocational Education sector, it is contributing to alleviating poverty within the country. Vocational education “quickly enables a person to be a part of the competitive workforce by enhancing their skills so that he may cope with the rapidly changing technological job and environment,” according to MSES.
SZABIST ZABTech is making a significant impact in Pakistani underprivileged youths’ lives through education.
– Karuna Lakhiani