Engaging the youth in productive activities and encouraging them to become entrepreneurs is the best thing we can do to boost the economy. If the youth decide to be entrepreneurs, they will be able to provide livelihood opportunities to the unemployed people and contribute to the economy. Access to finance, technology and skills training are crucial for the light engineering sector to attract the youth.
Experts made these observations on Tuesday, on the final day of the two-day ‘Light Engineering Trade Fair’ organised by BRAC at Bangabandhu International Conference Centre in Dhaka. Director of BRAC Skills Development Programme, Brig Gen Aftab Uddin Ahmed (Retd) chaired the day’s discussion event. The fair was held under BRAC’s ‘PRo-poor Growth of Rural Enterprises through Sustainable Skills-development’ (PROGRESS) project funded by European Union. A total of 58 small businesses participated in the fair from 41 districts and received work orders worth BDT 20 millions.
The three-year PROGRESS project began in February 2017, to support the growth of the country’s light engineering sector by developing dynamic and competitive micro and cottage enterprises.
Inaugurating the event on Monday, Salman F Rahman, Private Industry and Investment Adviser to the Prime Minister, lauded BRAC’s gender-inclusive strategy and stated that public-private partnership is one of the reasons the light engineering sector is flourishing.
“The basic weakness of our economy is our excessive dependence on the readymade garments industry. We have to diversify our export capacity and products in which the light engineering sector will play a crucial role,” he said.
Addressing the event today, Secretary to the Ministry of Industries, Mr Abdul Halim emphasised engaging the youth in productive activities and said that encouraging the youth to become entrepreneurs is the best thing to do to boost the economy.
“Access to finance is a significant area and we need whatever you want in written form so that we can work on the issues entrepreneurs face. I want to thank BRAC for bringing approximately 5,000 light engineering entrepreneurs under the same project. I would request them to keep these people under their umbrella so that they can avail benefits through BRAC. I would also request Bangladesh Small and Cottage Industries Corporation (BSCIC) to enlist these 5,000 entrepreneurs in their database,” he said.
Also present at the event, Mr Mokammel Hossain, Additional Secretary (SDGs) to the Prime Minister’s Office, echoed the chief guest and said if the youth decide to be entrepreneurs themselves rather than running behind jobs, they will be able to provide jobs to the jobless and contribute to the economy.
“Women constitute half of our total population and if they lag behind, the country cannot move ahead. BRAC’s gender policy, women’s inclusion in skills development training, inclusion of women in mainstream employment and disability-inclusive policy is exemplary and praiseworthy,” he added.
President of Bangladesh Engineering Industry Owners Association, Mr Abdur Razzak, pointed out that the government has taken significant initiatives for the light engineering sector and that those are being implemented through the BSCIC.
“Our association, from its experience, has identified five areas that need to be improved in the light engineering sector. Access to finance, technical updates, sustainable training, policy support and a planned industrial park will help the light engineering sector to flourish and help other sectors with its products,” Razzak added.
Speaking on the occasion, Bangladesh Bank General Manager Lila Rashid noted the fact that several of the experts identified access to finance as the decisive factor that is affecting the growth of the light engineering sector.
“This sector is also very important to us and that is why banks allocated 21 percent of their total loans to the SME sector last year and the cottage and small industries received a significant amount of the total disbursement. We believe the light engineering sector has a huge potential to attract finance from the financial institutions,” she said.
A study by the project shows that the business productivity of light engineering workshop owners increased by 29 percent after the project intervention. A total of 500 people received training and support facilities to start their own businesses and among them 223 were female.
Approximately 9,865 youth received apprenticeship-based training, 98.65 percent of them were placed in jobs. 5,182 light engineering workshop owners received technical upgrade training. Besides, 5,289 workshop owners received training on fair work conditions and health and safety at work. 700 market committees received gender awareness and access to finance training.