Employment Creation Programmes – A New Dimension in Education
Posted on December 1st, 2010

By Garvin Karunaratne, Ph.D. former SLAS(G.A.Matara)

 There is a major confusion today between Employment Creation and Vocational Training. Employment Creation Programmes are very few, while Vocational Training Programmes are many. Every country has a large number of vocational training programmes and the Governments assist the youths who complete their training with loans to enable them to become entrepreneurs. The task of training the young in vocations is so important a task that many Governments do even have separate Ministries of Vocational Education and these are guided by the UNESCO. The very unfortunate fact is that the vast majority that graduate from vocational training institutes continue to be unemployed because their learning a vocation in itself does not enable them to become an entrepreneur.

 The fine difference between Employment Creation and Vocational Education is not understood by many. Governments and Unesco generally tend to think that vocational education is the final task. They therefore do assessments and surveys of the areas where vocational education is required, with great accuracy, design appropriate curricula and impart the education at great cost and the activity ends with the trained being bestowed with a certificate of competence at a well attended gathering by the hands of a dignitary and the trained graduate is left to fend for himself. Within the vagaries of the market place, with its price fluctuation intricacies, the manipulation by banks, financial institutions and hedge funds, compounded with the inroads of imports, the trained novices find it a very difficult task to get involved in producing something for sale and marketing the product to find an income. Many fail and even lose their savings. The banks fight shy to provide them with loans and the effort ends with the vast majority of the trained remaining unemployed.

 Once I was working as a Consultant in the Bahamas and I had a Volkswagon 211 Model car which had an engine, that could not be repaired without a specialist training. Any task in it required very special tools and every part was sited in a most inaccessible place. The car developed a misfire and I took the car to the Agent’s garage. The foreman looked into it and said that all their workmen were busy that day. I requested him to somehow attend to it that day itself. He agreed to repair it and looked around. There was a group of around a dozen youths seated on a wall, doing nothing other than casting sarcastic remarks at passers by. I had seen them day in and day out perched on the wall all looking aimlessly at the skies.These are the hangers on- youths that hog the cities of many countries not knowing what to do with their lives. To my amazement he called one of them, handed over the key of my car and asked him to get going with the repair. I was really offended in that he was not getting one of his own trained workers and objected. He replied that all the youths in that group were fully trained workers who were unemployed. He said that though they held certificates of competence they do not have any opportunity and have to be satisfied with a petty job that they may get once in a way.. That worker did complete the complicated repair in record time and before long,I was on the road. This illustrates what happens to the training imparted at great cost to the Governments. It is not only the loss of money spent by the Government but what is of greater importance is the very fact that the youths had wasted years of their formative lives in a training that does not mean anything to them.

 The largest vocational training programme that one can find today is the TRYSEM (Training of Rural Youth for Self Employment) in India. It trains youths in tens of thousands in an array of vocations. This is the training component of the IRDP(- the Integrated Rural Development Programme) TRYSEM provides training in an array of vocations and leaves the trained to fend for themselves. It offers no guidance to them after training even if they were to establish their own enterprises.

 In Bangladesh, the Ministry of Youth trained around 40,000 youths a year in an array of vocations and left them in the lurch after training. The youths had mastered what they were taught but never thought of establishing themselves in a business venture where they could become productive. In Sri Lanka we train thousands in an array of vocations every year. This is a story that can be told of every country.

 Julius Nyerere, the former Prime Minister of Tanzania once even said that vocational training programmes should make the trainees skillful users of tools and not make them into tools. What we are seeing today is that the trainees end up as tools not knowing how to use what they have learned. In the process the youths become unemployed, join subversive movements and thereafter their aim becomes to throw out the Government that had already spent for their training! The youths that were moved down in their thousands, with bullets in Sri Lanka in the insurrections in 1971 and 1987-1988 were all trained youths- graduates in various disciplines. I had the task of interrogating some of the youths involved and found even engineers and scientists among them. They were the cream of the youth, gone astray due to an incomplete education system that did not include the elements for the utilization of the education that was imparted.

 Once in 1982 I was the Commonwealth Fund Advisor working in the Ministry of Youth Development, when the Military took over the Country in a coup-d’etat. The Ministry was training 40,000 youths a year in many vocations and as usual the vast majority of them remained unemployed at the end. The training imparted to them did not include the art of making bombs, but when they are compelled to remain for life scraping the barrel, they tend to become subversives. The Hon Minister Air Vice Marshall Aminul Islam held a meeting with the aim of amending the training or closing down the work of the Ministry because the Ministry of Youth Development was associated with the political party in power and used to wean the youths to be their supporters. I quote from my book, Success in Development (Godages,2010)

 ” I immediately recommended that the Ministry should get down to a programme of employment creation in order to provide employment for the thousands that receive training. I was blankly told that in the earlier three years the International Labour Organization(ILO) with all their expertise and unlimited resources had tried to establish an employment creation programme that had ended in miserable failure after incurring a massive expenditure. I was told that the Government did not have funds to waste because the failure on the part of the ILO meant that employment creation was something that could never be achieved”¦. I replied that I had successfully established many self employment projects in various industries and cooperative projects in Sri Lanka in small industries and agriculture and that there would not be a problem in my establishing an employment creation programme in Bangladesh in a design that will be suitable for the country, developing its resources, a programme that would not be giving out handouts and subsidies but instead will buckle down to the task of involving the trained youths in productive endeavour increasing national production and simultaneously create gainful income to the participant youths. I pointed out that there was absolutely no point in training endlessly and dropping the trained to fend for themselves within a market economy which they were ill equipped to face. I strongly recommended that we should establish a self employment programme where the youths will be provided training in basic economics, guided to draft their own employment projects and guide them intensively till they become commercially viable”¦.

 I had paved the path for a very serious discussion that lasted at least two hours”¦

My thrust was that youth work had to be totally altered by making all training contribute to the national economy in definite terms and that this could only be done by establishing a self employment programme as an integral part of the training where the graduands of the training will be enabled to become involved in gainful activity putting the knowledge they gained in training into actual practice. They would be taught elements of economics, calculation of costs and the art of marketing a product.

 The Hon. Minister finally decided to arbitrate. He said that he had been listening to both sides and that he has had enough of it. We were all on pins not knowing whether the next day would dawn. The Military barked decisions and they were all final. What ever I said was fully truthful and convincing. I had no option but to speak out as I was ordered to tell what contribution I could make for Bangladesh. One wrong word and I would have been bundled and deported. The Hon. Minister asked the Ministry of Finance officers to tell him the exact number that each programme aimed at not only training but training and self employment where the trained will be guided to become self employed. That was what I has said I would do if allowed to expand the youth training programmes to include guidance in the management of self employment projects. The answer was that there was not a single programme of that nature”¦ Then the Hon. Minister asked for the programmes where skills training was provided in vocational and technical fields. He totaled the figures and that included the 40,000 trained every year by the Ministry of Youth. Then to everyone’s amazement he asked for the number of school leavers in a year that would not have fed to the higher echelons of learning and instead would be searching for petty jobs and be relegated to be under-employed or unemployed, scrapping the barrel for life. The answer for the latter was in millions and the number that was being trained every year was in the thousands. Without a moment’s hesitation he immediately ruled that a self employment programme would be approved.”

 “The Aim was to equip the trained youths with skills and knowledge and simultaneously to guide them intensively to become commercially viable entrepreneurs. This was not to be achieved by giving subsidies and establishing them in an enclosed enclave but to ensure that the trained youths learn the art of becoming adept in running their enterprises. The thrust was at building up their capacities and abilities in the management of the enterprises. I was sternly warned to demonstrate what I said I would do.”

 The rest is history today.

By the end of 1983, “Self employment had emerged as a major area of activity in the Department of Youth Development.”

There gradually emerged a full fledged self employment programme for the youth, a programme that was expanded from guiding 2,000 youths in 1983 to over 3,000 youths a year by 1987, to 9,000 youths a year by 1990 , to as much as 160,000 a year from 1997. By March 2008 as much as 1.6 million youths had become self employed on a commercially viable basis.

“The target was to get trained youths to establish self employment projects and generate a net income of Tk. 500 a month, which was then the salary of a clerical officer in the public service.

 It was hoped that the youths will in six months’ of decision making, operating entirely on their own and under free market dynamics prove to be responsible enough to manage their own concern on a commercially viable basis (From the first circular of June16,1982)

 “With a handpicked staff I commenced addressing youths who were undergoing training, teaching them elements of basic economics, reducing economic concepts of production, buying and selling, the working of supply and demand, the art of maximizing profit, keeping costs down to a minimum to the smallest possible level to educate village level youths some of whom had even forgotten to read and write. Our aim was to motivate the trainees to think of drafting a project for self employment, however small with a dozen chicks or a cow. They were urged to explore the possibility of obtaining family support for funds”¦.. Practical exercises were laid down for them to follow in their own villages and in their own market places where they will eventually have to sell their produce. The trainees were unknowingly being immersed within the working of the supply and demand mechanism in their own rural economy The content was intense but my broken Bangla kept them entertained. The word got round and old trainees too flocked in. Even bank clerks gave up their jobs in sheer enthusiasm to become self employed.

 Most of the trainees educated their younger brothers and sisters in handling poultry and livestock, imparting to them the little they had learned at the Training Centers and enlisted them to take care of the chicks, hens or cows during the week till they came at the weekend to handle the project activities. Thus the training imparted at the Training Centers had a jump start involving a very large number of young folk. The Instructors on their visits involved the trainees as well as their younger brothers and sisters in the informal training sessions whenever the trainees faced problems.

 The Method was to intensively guide the trainees in the management of their enterprises. Every action from the planning of their projects to the purchase of raw materials, the chicks, the feed, the process of manufacture or the process of the growth of cattle, poultry, fish, the sales, how the sales were done was intensively monitored on a non formal basis where the youths were trained to look at the advantages and disadvantages of each action and allowed to get peer help and act on their own. They were monitored closely and helped immediately they failed. The failure itself was built into an educational exercise that had a lasting imprint for it not to happen again”¦. The youths were trained to think of the local economy,, the national economy and study local resources and to think of how they can generate incomes within their local economy. They were taught costing the inputs including the value of the labour they had spent in the process of creating production”¦.. Group exercises were also done where there were elements of peer learning”¦ It was a major learning exercise where on an impromptu basis the lecturers would provide the technical knowledge that was required. The trainees were also taught to maintain accounts.

 The training of the youths was kept intensive but of a minimum possible duration- 3 to 6 months. There was a suggestion to increase the period of study but my experience of long term training has been that the graduates always wanted white collar jobs or work as officials rather than become active practitioners.. Additional training was done when necessary.

 A key policy change was to decide that all Training Centers would become Training cum Extension Centers. Once the extension activities became an integral part of the training the training did not stop with the acquisition of skills and knowledge.

 The design of the Programme was essentially on a non subsidy basis as the grant of any subsidy creates dependence and no commercial viability can be established. Instead of subsidies what was concentrated upon was intensive skills training and continuous economic and technical guidance once the self employment projects were commenced. The training in self employment was:

1. To understand the working of the free market economy and the working of the forces of supply and demand,

2. To identify areas of activity within the economy where there was a potential to be self employed. Guidance was offered to the trainees to think seriously about the local economy, local resources and how these could get dove-tailed into the national economy.

3. To understand basic economics and finance leading to their acquiring the ability to draft a project for self employment, calculate production costs, profits and to make projects of possible production, sales and profits.

4. To assess available resources and get support from family members.

5. To draft a project giving details of the activity, the financial details of investment and output, phased over a feasible period during which time commercial viability could be achieved.

The youths had to be motivated to systematically work out what they hoped to do in the project. It is necessary that the youths make their own decisions and draft their own projects.

 The Instructors at each Training Center were entrusted with guiding a few projects and were provided with transport to proceed to inspect the projects at week ends

 Deputy Directors of Youth Development knew the art of working with the youth and before long the self employment projects- drafting and establishing them became a youth movement.

 Investing savings in the self employment projects rather than investing in a bank or cooperative, enjoying interest and dividends was a new departure. When savings are invested productively in the working of the project-in chicks, hens and cows, the savings grew as the chicks, hens and cows grew and in addition, the chicks became hens and laid eggs while the cows provided milk which when valued amounted to far more than the interest and the dividend that could be earned on the savings in a deposit account held in a bank or a cooperative. Further the amount earned depended in direct proportion to the amount of effort they were prepared to put in to develop their projects in the care and handling of poultry, cattle or in trade, sewing etc.

 An interesting feature noticed in inspections as early as August 1983 was the growth of leadership among the youths who had established self employment projects. On a surprise inspection I found Yousuf Ali of Manik Farm Jamalpur, with 190 layer ducks, 50 hens, 1 milk cow and 2 goats earning a net income of Tk. 1496 a month, in December 1982, all achieved within eight months. Furthermore he was also found providing training at his farm to 20 younger boys in the 12 to 14 year range, the boys themselves having mini farms of around 20 ducklings each, developing them under the tutelage of Yousuf Ali.”

 As the Programme grew, it was officially expanded by two associated Programmes- The Upazilla Resource Development and Employment Project (URDEP) and the Family Based Employment Programme(FBEP). By this the older age groups in the villages were targeted. The aim of this in the words of the Ministry of Finance was

“to alleviate rural poverty the Ministry of Youth and Sports has implemented a poverty alleviation project”¦ This is to establish an institutional framework to help the rural poor, provide opportunity of self employment

 The strategy of import substitution was followed

 Forward and backward linkages required for the particular commercial activity were looked into by the youths themselves

 Diversification of activity was urged in order to minimize risk. Poultry farming was mixed up purposely with dairy production, poultry providing quick incomes. It was the Chinese concept of walking on two legs. Investment was directed at creating early incomes

 The Programme took place entirely within the rural milieu. The youths were not extricated out of the rural social system for purposes of instruction. Their parents and guardians were involved so that the youths discussed their projects with parents and guardians and this ensured a consistent flow of non formal education from parents and guardians to the youths. Thus the rural system with its experienced leadership was harnessed to educate the youths.

 The Programme was based on family support as the youths had to find savings and support from joint family members in labour and kind and when possible in cash. The trained youths thus created a family learning situation where the entire family struggled and strived to make the self employment project a success. This followed the concept that lasting progress would come to a village only when all members of a family were involved and influenced by new ideas, as stated by Muhammed Asaffudowlah, former Director of the Bangladesh Academy for Rural Development.

 Microcredit was obtained from banks but the loan disbursement was carefully supervised.

 Non Formal Education techniques were used to develop the initiatives and the abilities of the youth. Every problem that the youths faced was made into an educational exercise”¦ The aim was to make the youths responsible and self reliant as they worked on their own commercial ventures. This was the Akhter Hammed Khan concept of “ƒ”¹…”building people’.

 The concept of Community Development was followed. The basic factors within this concept was culled and adapted to a group of unemployed youths who were interested in planning and implementing their own projects and thereby develop the art of utilizing their skills and knowledge, develop their initiatives and abilities and become responsible and self reliant in the process.(From Professor Murray Ross)

 The role of the worker was that detailed by T.R.Batten: The worker’s purpose throughout is to help the people to come to an informed and therefore realistic decision”¦ He really involves people in a process of thinking and deciding for themselves, so also he is actively helping them to develop more freely their own potentialities as people. An endless learning process was thus created.

 The Programme implemented on the above lines was a great success. The Fifth Five Year Plan 1997- 2002 of the Bangladesh Planning Commission included a eight page slot on this Programme.

” The transformation of the colossal youth force of 20 million under employed or unemployed into a dynamic and sustainable human resource for its proper utilization in the development process”¦ creating an enabling environment to ensure the pro active involvement of youths in development by implementing a number of programmes with inter alia include organising the youth, motivating them, improving their state of education and skills, providing micro credit and other facilities to solve unemployment and other basic problems of the youth”

 This expansion shows the thrust of a youth movement from concepts of social welfare to economic development. The youth become in the process net contributors to the national economy in terms of producing what the nation requires instead of being a mass of consumers.

In this process a youth development department that once concentrated on the training of youth in vocations and providing welfare hand outs became a department that actually placed youths in employment. It transformed a youth that were consumers to become contributors to the national economy.

 The above detailed Youth Self Employment Programme has come to stay as a self sustaining programme that has made 1.6 million self employed upto March 2008, , possibly the only programme that can speak of such an intrinsic achievement in the annals of development history.

 This Programme can stand comparison to any other, particulary because there is no other programme that guides entrepreneurs on their employment projects till they become commercially viable. In 1978 to 1982, the ILO tried to establish a self employment programme in Tangail in Bangladesh and though a great deals of effort was made it ended in a miserable failure. That failure, in itself, has brought great prestige to this Youth Self Employment Programme.

 The Divisional Development Councils Programme of Sri Lanka was one of the few programmes that actually provided training and guidance for the trainees to become self employed. Here trained youths were selected to work as cooperators in industrial projects and guided them in their work till the enterprises were successful. Community members were also involved in the planning and implementation of the projects that were established as cooperatives. Youths who were vocationally trained as well as untrained youths were selected and guided when they commenced work on the employment creation cooperatives in agriculture, livestock and various industries. Non Formal Education processes of discussion, non directive communication, participation, conscientization, sequences in decision making to enable the trainee participants to think and arrive at their own decisions, peer learning and learning by doing etc. were used intensively to enable the capacities and initiatives of the trainees to develop as they worked on the employment projects. Many industrial and agricultural cooperatives were successfully established in the period 1971 to 1977. Among the successful industries were a hand made crayon factory that turned out around a tenth of the country’s requirements, saving valuable foreign exchange, a mechanized inboard boat yard that made deep seaworthy ishing boat, a manioc starch factory, paper making etc.all based on import substitution. However, with the change in the Government in 1977, the programme was side lined and the cooperatives were allowed to die a natural death. The baby was thrown out with the bath water. The new regime of President Jayawardena purposely painted every achievement of the former regime as black as possible. This was the evils of the system of party politics that has been to the detriment of development. If this Programme had been allowed to continue, with the dead wood being removed it could have turned out to be a great success. I am certain of this because I was daily involved in running the programme.

 This paper deals at length with the successful attempt to fuse the task of utilizing the education that has been imparted in vocational training for the cause of economic development. This may be of importance to Unesco and to other institutes of education- to Universities, that have thought it fit to impart knowledge and leave the graduands to fend for themselves. What has happened today in the field of education is that education has not equipped the graduates to become skillful users of tools; instead they have become tools.

 The Youth Self Employment Programme has illustrated to the world that there is a method of making the graduates of vocational training skillful users of tools and therein lies its greatness to the world at large.

 It is perhaps a travesty of fate that Unesco has failed to make the graduands skillful users of the knowledge that has been imparted and this paper tells the Unesco that there is a method of ensuring that the education that is imparted can be made complete by equipping the graduands with the ability to use the knowledge they have gained in study. This is a difficult task but the Youth Self Employment Programme conveys the salient message that it can be done.

 It may be of importance to institutes of tertiary learning to hear about the Land Grant Universities of the USA, how the State Universities contributed to bring about the greatness of the economy of the United States of America. . This is something of great importance to Sri Lanka today in the attempt of the Ministry of Higher Education to elevate the standards of our Universities to an international level. It is my opinion that Universities have to make a contribution to the economy of the country in definite terms and not be relegated to teaching. The Universities have to forge a link between imparting knowledge and the development of the country.

 Once the premier Universities in the world played a major role in economic development. The professors at Michigan State University guided the famous Comilla Programme of Rural Development. In the matter of less than a decade the professors working with Dr Akhter Hameed Khan developed the Kotwali Thana to a situation of full employment and doubled the yields of paddy. This was a great achievement without par in the annals of development history. The Youth Self Employment Programme detailed in this paper is another such attempt.

 As the first step, it is necessary to equip the graduands of various disciplines- be they studying history, or geography or languages, with a grounding of the history, geography and culture of the country. They also should have a knowledge of development. The history of development of the modern era beginning from the time the self reliant economies of the Third World were constrained during colonial times to suit the economies of the conquerors, should be turned into an interdisciplinary course of study, with details of the major programmes, policies etc.how success was achieved and in the case of failures “”…” why they failed. It may be of importance to note that a few decades ago Michigan State University taught Non Formal Education as a subject and the University of Manchester taught Community Development. The savant who spearheaded Community Development was Professor Murray Ross of the Ohio State University. These disciplines teach the art of how development can be brought about, how the abilities and capacities of people can be enhanced for them to become self reliant. Such a knowledge will enliven the graduates and equip them to become contributors to the economy of the country in whatever vocation they get involved in later life.

 If such a course of study is ever attempted it will help the weary world to be an economic success. It will be a feather in the cap of any University and undoubtedly provide leadership to the rudderless universities of today that concentrate only on teaching. When I was directing the Divisional Development Councils Programme in Matara Sri Lanka, commandeering the Science lab at Rahula College in the evenings for experiments aimed at finding the process of manufacturing crayons, we faced some problems and my Planning Officer, a chemistry graduate knocked on the doors of his Faculty lecturers at the University of Colombo, those who had taught him chemistry a few years earlier, only to be chased away, However we were a determined team that continued to burn the mid night oil for months in repeated experiments, till we succeeded. The Universities should become contributors to the economy instead of being consumers.

 The message of the Youth Self Employment Programme of Bangladesh lies in that the knowledge imparted in training and study can be utilized for the economic development of the country, to create production, incomes and employment and in that process alleviate poverty. That ideal will always stand in good stead.

 Garvin Karunaratne,

Colombo, Sri Lanka



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