Room for scaling up skill training

Dhaka,  Sat,  23 September 2017
Published : 25 Nov 2016, 21:23:38
Jobs abroad for women

Room for scaling up skill training

Arafat Ara
Alea Akhtar faced difficulty when she went abroad for the first time. She knew nothing about Arabic language, culture and other necessary issues, as she worked as a domestic help in Oman.

It had taken a long time to learn how to handle the household chores and also to learn about, Omani culture, food habit, law and order etc, she said.  

Sometimes she felt frustrated and wanted to come back home. But she was lucky enough as her employer's family members were very cooperative. They taught her all necessary things to help her do her job," recalled Alea.

If she got good skill training at home, she could overcome such challenges easily, she observed.

Bangladeshi women migrant domestic helps often face different types of trouble at their workplaces as they are not imparted adequate training before getting jobs abroad.

Unlike Alea, many of the women migrants face workplace exploitation, job refusal and lower wages because of inadequate training.  

The Bureau of Manpower, Employment and Training runs 70 Technical Training Centres (TTCs) across the country which provide training in 45 trades. Women are allowed for training in all trades. But most of them are seeking jobs abroad for housekeeping.  

The government has made mandatory 30 days' training for women seeking jobs in the Middle Eastern (ME) countries. During the period, women are provided training on language, household chores, culture, law and order, food habit, health, norms and manners in their job destination countries.  

But all lessons are lecture-based that can't draw attention of the trainees. Most of them are not able to understand the training instructions.  

At a number of TTCs trainees said they could gather only a little idea from training courses. Some of them said they could not recall what they learnt in classes.  

"I felt very bored taking part in a month-long training. If it isn't mandatory I could skip the course," said Hasnahena Begum (28), who is planning to go to Saudi Arabia.

Already 15 days over, she could not learn anything from the course except some rules, said Ms Hasnahena who is undergoing training at the Sylhet Technical Training Centre. Like her many others were having same experiences, she added.  

"I've forgotten maximum lessons which are learnt in the training sessions," said Kohinur, who is intending to go to the United Arab Emirates (UAE). She is also undergoing training at the Sylhet TTC.  

"Teachers instructed me to memorise some Arabic words. I read those but couldn't capture," she said.  

Jakia, another trainee, came to the Sheikh Fazilatunnessa Mujib Mohila TTC. She said they did not get any chance to use home appliances. Instructors only show them those.  

"If we could use the equipment practically, it could be helpful for us to operate those in need," she said.  

However, some workers said obtaining a certificate is not a tough job for them as teachers "make them qualify easily". Sometimes, recruiting agencies help them to get certificates in exchange for money.  

A study by a visiting team of the Ministry of Expatriates' Welfare and Overseas Employment (MEWOE) of Bangladesh revealed that many women workers in Saudi Arabia were subjected to torture by their employers for their inability to understand their instructions and languages for want of an effective training.  

Around 1,000 Bangladeshi female workers among a total of 64,000 domestic helps lost jobs in Saudi Arabia in the last one and a half years as they did not have proper training.  

On the other hand, a UN Women study on 'External Market Analysis for Women Migrant Workers of Bangladesh' found that Bangladeshi domestic helps receive Arab Emirates Dirham (AED) 750 in the UAE.  

The wages in other countries range from AED 800 to 1,000 while many of them earn much more.  

The wage is low for Bangladeshi domestic workers compared to other countries of origin as the training offered by the BMET is inadequate to develop the minimum skills expected by the employers.  

Lack of proper training also comes in the way of their grooming up to the level and so they lose the bargaining power for decent wages, according to the study.  

Skilled and semi-skilled workers earn higher wages and enjoy much better living, working and social conditions than the low-skilled ones, it also said.  

Shakirul Islam, chairman of the Ovibashi Karmi Unnayan Program (OKUP), said through application of the communicative method, training classes can be made more effective for the trainee workers.  

But the government's TTCs mainly follow lecture-based training which is not enough for the illiterate and less-educated women job seekers.  

First of all training should be residential for the women so they can be accustomed to living in an environment remaining away from their families, he opined.  

The course should be on practical work using necessary equipment, he suggested.  

He also emphasised country-specific training as language, culture and law and orders vary from country to country in the Middle East (ME). The selection process also has to be changed so the candidates who are truly fit and eligible can secure jobs abroad; rather than keeping the scope for "the un-smart and dull ones.  

"How is it possible to follow a skill training course by such candidates?" he questioned.  

On the other hand, Shamim Ahmed Chowdhury Noman, a manpower recruiter who sent at least 100 women workers to Honk Kong, said Bangladeshi women who were going to the East Asian countries with housekeeping jobs were enjoying good condition as they have good training.  

They are getting well wages, working environment and their number of rejection is lower, according to sector insiders.  

They earn US$ 500 per month. Many of them have built new houses, invested in business and maintained family expenses after returning home. Some of them are also taking preparation to go for the second time to that country, he said.  

He said the training and selection process for Hong Kong-bound workers are quite different from that of ME countries.  

Under the programme women get a two-month-long training on housekeeping, English and Chinese languages imparted by experts from Hong Kong.  

He suggested considering introducing such quality training for ME-bound women workers. "It is the time for the government to take the decision whether they will send qualified workers abroad or not," he added.  

The government also should take initiatives to send skilled workers like nurses, caregivers, IT professionals etc.  

Skilled women workers are in a good demand, especially in European countries and also in the ME. They are offered good wages and benefits, he said.  

When contacted, Waliulla Mollah, vice principal of Sylhet TTC said, there is a vital problem that women overseas job seekers do not have formal education. So they can't capture lesson properly.

"If they have minimum educational qualification, it would be helpful to teach them," he observed.??  

The vice principal also admitted that they lacked adequate training materials. For example, he said a washing machine is allocated for 100 workers to teach its operating system.  

"It is a tough job," he said adding that if every five women get one machine, they could learn techniques properly. They can't buy necessary machines due to scarcity of funds.

Besides, every batch should be formed comprising 5 to 20 women workers. Presently 50 to 100 women are being provided training in a group, he also observed.  

However, Fouzia Shahnaz, principal at Sheikh Fazilatunnessa Mujib Mohila TTC, said her centre is providing a comprehensive training to women out-bound workers.  

She also denied the allegation that there is a shortage of equipment as well as trainers. About 2 0,000 women are being given month-long housekeeping training at her TTC a year, she mentioned.  

Some non-governmental organisations (NGOs) like OKUP and Bangladesh Rural Advancement Committee (BRAC) provided training for overseas job seekers. Workers can gather a primary knowledge from their courses.  

Women get a five-day pre-departure and one-day pre-decision orientation from BRAC in Manikganj district. The OKUP has a seven-day training programme for Lebanon-bound workers.  

Talking to this scribe, a number of women said they were able to capture the lessons which would help them perform their jobs abroad. But the duration of such a course is short.  

"We provide country-specific cultural adaptation and lifestyle skill training to women overseas job seekers," said Supriya Shahnewaz, a trainer of the OKUP.  

"We give them primary knowledge about their destination country through a seven-day course. We also provide Arabic food as it is very necessary," she said.  

Many of the women come back home only for not being used to Arabic food in the ME countries, she said. It is a residential course and workers know everything through practical work.  

"So far more than 2000 Lebanon-bound women got skill training under our programme," she added.  

"Despite its necessity we can't extend the duration as courses of this category involve higher cost," Ms Shahnewaz said. If the government's TTCs follow training modules for their 30-day training course, women can perform their work better, she observed.  

On the other hand, Shakirul Islam thinks that the government can give support to the NGOs which provide skill training to the women. Through such a move, a large number of women can get quality training.

"We are interested to work with the government. So we have started trying to reach the project from the public sector to run our training programme," he added    

Jabed Ahmed, additional secretary at the Ministry of Expatriates' Welfare and Overseas Employment said obviously smart women can tackle an unfriendly situation and they can perform their work perfectly.  

"But unfortunately our training courses still can't help make the women overseas job seekers efficient enough," he also said.  

"We have taken some steps to improve training curriculum and also selection process. I think those will help ensure quality training for the women gradually," he added.  

When contacted, Nurul Islam, director (Training standard and planning) of the Bureau of Manpower, Employment and Training (BMET), acknowledging the facts said there are multifarious reasons that the training courses are not becoming successful.  

They don't have available quality trainers and also sufficient logistics. But they are trying to overcome such impediments, he mentioned. The BMET director said along with domestic helps they have also a plan to increase sending skilled and professional women as they are in good demand in Europe and the ME and some Asian countries.  

"Unskilled are dominating Bangladesh's women overseas job sector. We want to come out of this status gradually," he said.  

According to the BMET data, some 77,424 unskilled women workers went overseas in 2015 while were 16545 semi-skilled, 9711 skilled and 21 professional.

More than 0.1 million women workers travelled abroad for jobs from 1991 to October this calendar year, the official figure showed.
Editor : A.H.M Moazzem Hossain
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