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RMG sector has over 60% skills gap: Study

Job-specific training needed for sustainable growth
Staff Correspondent
19 May 2023 00:00:00 | Update: 19 May 2023 00:16:29
RMG sector has over 60% skills gap: Study

The readymade garment (RMG) sector, which accounts for the highest share of export earnings, has more than 60 per cent skills gap among employees, especially machine operators, a study by Bangladesh Institute of Development Studies (BIDS) has found.

For sustainable growth of the sector, the study suggested organising job-specific training for employees through the Skills for Employment Investment Program (SEIP), professional bodies concerned, and employers.

Discussing the study findings on Thursday, the last day of the two-day BIDS Research Almanac 2023 held in the capital, BIDS Research Associate Rizwana Islam said the study was conducted to determine the current labour skill situation in the garment sector and the required skill set the industry will need in five to 10 years.

She said RMG is one of the 10 sectors included in the study. “It was initially supposed to be a general study on RMG. But considering that separate work skills are required for operating woven and knit garment machinery, it was segmented.”

The study was conducted in early 2021 among 476 workers and their employers in around 119 small, medium, and large factories in Chattogram (50), Dhaka (43), Gazipur (9), and Narayanganj (17). It focused on three aspects – skill shortage, skill mismatch, and skill gap.

According to the study, skill shortage is not a major problem as employers can replace workers within a week or a few more days while skill mismatch does not cause much trouble either.

Rizwana said over 90 per cent of RMG employers think labour demand will grow in the next 10 years but they fear a wide skill gap will also appear while attempting to meet the new forms of demand.

“Twelve sub-categories of occupations under four broad categories were included in the study. It was found that the skills gap is over 60 per cent in every aspect.

“Interestingly, employees recognised their shortcomings and over 50 per cent of them agreed on the need for profession-based training, especially those working with automated machinery,” she said.

Employees want the training to be arranged by employers as they do not have enough money to get themselves trained, she added.

According to the study, 33.26 per cent of knit factories are willing to provide training for their employees while 24.65 per cent are willing to give appraisals and performance reviews.

Besides, 33.23 per cent of woven factories are willing to provide training while 18.87 per cent are willing to give appraisals and performance reviews.

Moreover, 25 per cent of quality control workers and 26 per cent of finishing operators said they are willing to pay partially for training.

“Most employees said they want training related to their roles while some opted for gender-related training, especially managers or supervisors. Many also wanted health and safety training,” Rizwana explained.

“As employees cannot pay for training, they said training should be provided through SEIP in collaboration with employers and apparel organisations like Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association (BGMEA) and Bangladesh Knitwear Manufacturers and Exporters Association (BKMEA),” she said.

Besides, to reap the benefits of the fourth industrial revolution, workers said computer-based technical training and programming are needed

so that the industry can go for product diversification and manufacture high-value items, the researcher added.