Enhancing employability of the youth – Daily Frontline

Pakistan has one of the largest young populations in the world. People below the age of 35 account for 70 per cent of Pakistan’s population. For converting the youth into productive citizens and effective workforce, the PPP government in Sindh province is considering plans to engage the youth of Pakistan.

In this context, PPP Chairman Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari, himself 35 and the youngest leader to head any major political party of the country, had unveiled one such plan — the youth card — before the February 8 general elections, as part of the party’s election manifesto Choose your thought. He envisioned the youth card on the lines of Benazir Income Support Program (BISP), the largest single social security programme in the country.

The youth needs jobs; and since there are no jobs in the public sector in the required numbers, connecting them with the private sector is a sustainable solution. Thus, the youth card is conceived as a tool to engage the youth of the country through skills development programmes to enhance their employability on competitive grounds.

The youth card will provide one-year stipend for educated, deserving young men and women to transition to work; student loan opportunities for higher education; link-up with internships and trainee jobs in public and private sectors; and opportunities for youth-led startups in all sectors by providing the required IT infrastructure to guarantee high speed connectivity across the country. For this, Youth Centres will be established across the country, providing: access to libraries and digital libraries with free Wi-Fi; sports, culture, and recreational facilities; vocational training; skills and language development classes; and career and employment facilitation services.

The PPP leads the governments in Sindh and Balochistan provinces where it is expected to fulfil its election promises which also include youth engagement programmes. The plans for youth are all set to be unveiled with the announcement of the provincial budgets next month.

Some youth-focused programmes are already being run in Sindh by the provincial government or through its support. One of them is Benazir Bhutto Shaheed Human Resource Research and Development Board — a mega initiative taken by the Government of Sindh aimed to develop human resource in the province by empowering the youth aged 18-35 years with employable skillsets that will multiply work avenues for them.

Another one is Sindh Board of Technical Education (SBTE) meant to train and equip the youth with technical knowledge and skills through diploma in different disciplines — from commerce to aviation, etc. There are almost 40 government and private institutes of Business and Commercial Education in Sindh which are registered and affiliated with the SBTE.

Another successful initiative is SZABIST-ZABTech (iTVE) which has been dealing with technical and vocational education since 2000, and has a grassroots-level connection with people in 13 districts of Sindh.

Furthermore, there is an apex body of Sindh Technical Education and Vocational Training Authority (STEVTA) which also offers courses and diplomas to the youth of province in banking, insurance, automobiles, biomedical, salesmanship, etc.

The above mentioned youth-centred programmes need to be aligned under one-window operation at the district level through Youth Centres. Other provincial governments could follow this model of Sindh being run under the patronage of the Youth Development Department in coordination with the federal government and donor agencies.

Published in The Express Tribune, May 16th2024.

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