Skills competition inspires youth in Bangladesh

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A team of young female innovators receiving a prize from the Ministry of Education at the national skills competition. 

Skills education in Bangladesh has suffered from a social stigma, which is gradually changing.  Parents were unwilling to send their children to pursue technical education because they didn’t realize its value. Students themselves rarely aspired to be educated in the technical stream because they wrongly perceived it as a place for low-achievers. This presented a major problem for the government of Bangladesh in achieving the target of a skilled workforce. To face the challenges of the next generation job market and benefit from the demographic dividend, this mindset needed to change.

To address the situation, the Skills and Training Enhancement Project (STEP) of the government of Bangladesh supported by the Government of Canada and the World Bank took an innovative measure. The project initiated a Skills Competition in 2014. The competition planned to hold three levels of competition to encourage all students and ensure maximum participation. The first stage of the competition was held at the institutional level, and the winners went on to compete at the regional level. The winners of the regional level then competed in the national level competition to take home the prize of the Best Skilled.

One such innovation saw three students from Rajshahi Polytechnic Institute developing an innovative central nebulizer and suction machine, which is now being used in many hospitals across the country. This extraordinary achievement was a direct result of the 2014 initiative. 

One of the three students who invented the nebulizer machine, Dipok Kumar Shil, expressed his gratitude. Dipok said, “Skills competition provides a platform to showcase our innovations. This and the facilities and stipends provided through STEP have been transformational for me and many others like me. This has given me the courage and platform to showcase my creativity and skills. Hundreds of others are inspired by me to study in the technical stream.

The competition worked wonders. Students are now excited about studying in the technical stream and are actively pursuing innovative activities with the competition in mind , preparing months in advance. Students of polytechnic institutes are winning national level science competitions which was unthinkable previously. Bangladesh has now become a member of the World Skills Council and will be participating in the World Skills Competition 2019 in Kazan, Russia. The project is also helping to nurture these innovations and to link them with the industry so that the innovations are not only limited to a competition.

The Skills Competition is now in its fifth year with more than 200,000 participants. This not only shows the growing popularity of the enthusiasm to innovate but also a growing interest in the technical stream of education. The Skills Competition has been a successful initiative, inspiring students nationwide, and should be continued to foster Bangladesh's economic growth .   

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