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Serving Sri Lanka

This web log is a news and views blog. The primary aim is to provide an avenue for the expression and collection of ideas on sustainable, fair, and just, grassroot level development. Some of the topics that the blog will specifically address are: poverty reduction, rural development, educational issues, social empowerment, post-Tsunami relief and reconstruction, livelihood development, environmental conservation and bio-diversity. 

Saturday, October 15, 2005

Manpower master plan, needs survey vital to address unemployment

Sunday Observer: 09/10/2005" by Surekha Galagoda

Sri Lanka has no manpower needs survey, a manpower master plan or a suitable education path which are fundamental requisites to address the issue of unemployment, said Director, Human Resource, National Chamber of Exporters, Nihal Rangala.

He said countries such as India and even the Middle East have done manpower needs surveys and the policy makers know the country's requirements in each area which has helped them prepare the education path accordingly.

Therefore at any given time they know how many IT graduates they would need and how to cater to the demand based on the human capital available in every sector as children have been guided in the education path according to their abilities and the needs of the country based on the manpower masterplan.

We in Sri Lanka, however, do not know what the requirement is in each field and therefore even if an investor wants to acquaint himself about the manpower availability in the country we are not in a position to answer such a question as we are not armed with a manpower master plan.

Though we were an agricultural economy 50 years ago primarily exporting tea, rubber and coconuts the country has shifted towards the manufacturing sector within the last 30 years with the latest trend being the service sector. The policy makers of the country did not change the curriculum of the schools and universities to suit the needs of society.

At present there is a huge demand for jobs in the IT, Banking, Marketing and Tourism sectors, but how do we cater to this demand. The policy makers did not identify the changes that were taking place globally and continued with the old curriculum which has resulted in a great mismatch between the available jobs and job seekers.

In this scenario career guidance plays a vital role. According to Rangala career guidance is defined as a vital component of Human resource development and a mechanism through which you identify a person's knowledge, attitude, skills and talents and guide that person to a work environment where these qualities can be applied.

Career guidance is important for schoolchildren, school drop outs, O/L and A/L failures, unemployed graduates, disabled soldiers, non school-goers due to economic reasons and the informal sector. There are about 1,500 Vocational Training Centres.

At present 100,000 opt for tertiary and vocational training and according to statistics the employability rate at most of these institutes is not more than 35% while just one institution has a success rate of more than 70%. Most students cannot find employment after following these courses as they do not cater to the needs of the society.

According to a survey the country does not have sufficient people to fill the IT vacancies for the next five years. The country has a labour force of around 6.5 million excluding the North and East. Although the overall unemployment figure has reduced to 8.8% from 14% in 1992 unemployment is the highest in the educated categories such as those with O/L, A/L and higher education qualifications.

Unemployment among those with O/L and A/L are 10.3% and 14.8% while the country's labour force will increase at a rapid rate in the next two decades before it settles at a comfortable level. According to a survey 50,000 vacancies were advertised during a year and there were only 3,000 vacancies for graduates.

First we have to do a manpower needs survey, and based on that the policy makers must draw up a manpower masterplan. The curriculum and the education path must be adjusted to suit the needs of the industry to be market oriented and futuristic, he said.

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