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COVID-19: Preparing TVET for the digital age

Pakistan is a country of more or less 220 million people with 65 percent youth, which is a blessing. This demographic dividend can be converted from huge human resource into human capital. The nexus between human health and diseases is neither a novel concept nor a new subject. The human civilization is well cognizant with such worldwide pandemics. The H1N1, Polio, Ebola, Zika and now Coronavirus declaring public health emergent situation across the globe is more or less same tale to share. The coronavirus disturbed the entire society with a large number of victims, morbidities and irrecoverable loss of human and financial loss. Since the policymakers, round the clock, are busy to come up with permanent panacea of pandemic.
The present Coronavirus era has affected the human society across the globe. Entire social set up is disturbed due to pandemic. One of the immediate effects of coronavirus is on the Technical and Vocational Education and Training (TVET) Sector of Pakistan; which seems an irrecoverable loss due to many other associate factors inter alia COVID-19.
Education and Training providers, policy makers, academia expert are eager to have alternate quick plan to get rid of disastrous virus, but only hope prevails during these days. Though there few theories prevail which claim early elimination of COVID-19, but no certainty. There are likely chances that COVID-19 will like to bring impacts on migration of workers.
The effect of global migration cannot be underestimated. In this situation, the well trained manpower will only be benefited with few concessions. A huge expatriate workers are likely to return Pakistan. The concerned authorities are required to plan to value add in their skills already acquired with them. A prudent timely intervention can save the country from huge influx. The country needs to delve the issue with future policy paradigm to get maximum benefit of the well-experienced manpower. .
It is widely known factor that the TVET sector is not a prime choice amongst the parent in Pakistan. Without any cogent reason, it remained eleventh choice to keep kids engaged in school culture. Compared to TVET Sector, university education remained the first and foremost choice regardless of the choice may cause potential cause of employment or value addition. The value of TVET sector in Pakistan is only meant for menial type of jobs as forgone choice and has remained least preference of the parents. This deficit is not only in Pakistan, but across the globe, but thanks to globalization, effect of social media, entrepreneurial culture and many more recent trends which give importance to skills and competencies.
Today, TVET Sector is considered as most important cog of economic machine. No sooner the society triggered debates over entrepreneurial ecology, the youth of Pakistan also feels dignity to have skills for employment. If education is the key of economic development, TVET is the master key. So, the TVET needs to be focused with synergetic approach for economic wellbeing and sustainable society.
The social stigma could hardly be removed with the recent hard earned efforts of stakeholders of the TVET sector in Pakistan. The role of media, TVET authorities, industry, NGOs and international community cannot be underestimated. The government, the academia, the industry, the civil society and the international community realizes the importance of TVET Sector as a change agent of socio-economic development.
With the help of international donor organizations and priority of few recent govts, the sector got impetus to address the long standing challenges and meet the public expectations. Under the regulatory organization at Federal level, National Vocational & Technical Training Commission put in strenuous efforts with the help of various donors through Reform & Support Programme to bring all the stakeholders at one page so as to make the most of human capital.
The youth of Pakistan can be turned to a demographic dividend if focused, managed, responded, prepared and equipped with modern means of training and development competencies. Data reveals that more than three hundred thousand youth is imparted training, both in conventional and Competency Based Trainings (CBT) within public and private sector institutes to undertake local and international market challenges.
The NAVTTC as an apex body is providing all possible financial, technical and human resource opportunities to create a culture of learning for earning and skill for dignity and utilization of human potential through National strategy – Skills for All approved by the Federal Cabinet.
With the passage of time, the involvement of industry under Sector Skill Council and Chamber of Commerce, the sector is expected to be a forerunner of socio-economic fabric. Prudent policymaking initiatives are being taken to make the most of sector. Among these policy initiatives setting Skills Standards and Demand Driven Curricula up to National Vocational Qualification Level-V, seeking affiliation and licensing of TVET institutes both nationally and globally, establishment of National Skills Information System (NSIS), setting up Sector Skills Councils as an independent bodies to bridge a missing link between academia, industry and public sector, teachers training programs and bridging gap between through technological innovative mechanism etc.
Despite all fascinating features, the TVET Sector of the country is still faced with few potential challenges such as immediate focus of policy makers, low quality teaching faculty, fragmentation and overlapping amongst similar organizations, odd and obsolete training equipment in the labs, theory-based teaching models and most important a low budget to the sector are requiring immediate attention of the policy makers and international community.
Despite all hiccups in the sector, the TVET sector is still Master Key and Game Changer of society. A huge number of online jobs are still available across the globe. The example of Freelancing would suffice to notice the employment opportunities even during the social distances. A well trained individual is the architect of society and engineer of life. COVID crisis can be converted into opportunities with pragmatic, potential policies though online stream. Skills development for livelihoods is a key priority for the people of developing nations across the globe.
As it is most important sector in the 21st century ever before in the human history. Sustainable Development Goals under its Goal 4 has made it mandatory “to ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and lifelong learning opportunities for all,” and “significantly increase in the skilled manpower to ensure maximum number of jobs by 2030”. How to meet global agenda with plausible success, increased funding, government’s priority, industry involvement, implementation of IT-based interventions and public support can help to achieve the global task.
Indeed contemporaneous Coronavirus can be tamed as a crisis into opportunity. Coronavirus has stumbled the normal life to standstill. Data reveals that more than 1.2 billion young people between the ages of 15 and 24 in the developing countries are looking for immediate use of their potential through skill acquired to ensure the maximum chances of employment and entrepreneurial avenues. Further, traditional brick and mortar technical training institutions have no potential to manage such huge number of learners.
It is high time to opt for Open and Distance Learning (ODL) system based upon modern Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs) to ensure increase access to training, reduce huge financing and improvise the quality in the training. Use of ICTs with flexible-blended learning opportunities needs to be devised to transform tvet sector of Pakistan to meet contemporary need of the society and SDGs as well.
It is time to equip the personnel and teacher of the TVET sector with modern means of training and development through Distance Learning Mode. Use of ICT under the policy guidelines of the apex body will enable the sector to play a gigantic role. The current era is the ear of science and technology, information edge and artificial intelligence. The conventional mode of training and development through Ustad Shagrid is required to be replaced with modern means of communication and training delivery, project based learning approach, competency based learning curricula and career education etc. A sufficient chunk of funds is required to be allocated to equip IT Labs, IT gadgets, IT infrastructure to convert the traditional lap to modern lap.
It is also mandatory to international organization to ensure peer support to equip TVET sector of Pakistan. The Colombo Plan Staff College (CPSC), the European Union (EU), the International Labor Organization (ILO) and Global Apprenticeship Network, the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), the TIKA, the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA), and German Development Company (GIZ) needs to invest in the TVET sector of Pakistan to enable the youth of Pakistan with modern means of Online Training Models parallel to conventional mode of training. Youth equipped with latest means of online training competencies can play a gigantic role in the local and international community. No fruits efforts in isolation can determine proper future, rather globalization of TVET sector though modern ICT means is crying need of time.
The current situation warrants only Online Distance Learning model to be diffused for socio-cultural change in Pakistan. In addition to contemporary need of online learning method, it is equally important to help TVET support as main stream of career education. It is high time to realize the importance of TVET Sector to lead the individual and industry.
The future cooperation of the nations will be based upon common interest and most important upon common division of work. TVET is the future of modern society. It is high time to mind the challenges and opportunities associated with the sector to re-define the future of Pakistan. Online trainings system is a must for better TVET system.

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