On the third and final day of the Summit on the Global Agenda, I am struck by the cacophony of ideas, thoughts and reflections. My particular take-away from the Summit has been to crystallize ideas around employment for youth and women, where all stakeholders need to be involved. In the case of Pakistan, with 4 million job seekers entering the market per year, the economy simply cannot provide this number of jobs. Most individuals seeking employment will have to create jobs for themselves. This raises the issue of skill sets and the employability of new job entrants. Around the world, there seems to be a serious mismatch between the skills set and the demand for such skills.
As I write this blog, my dream is that every child in secondary school is educated in entrepreneurship. Current economic realities in most developing countries are such that many individuals will end up establishing micro or small enterprises – it is a question of survival. At the same time, adequate vocational training must also be provided so that the corporate sector can absorb these individuals. Vocational training programmes have to be designed on the basis of detailed analysis of skill requirements needed in various business sectors. The corporate sector should be involved in the design of curricula for different vocations. In terms of employability, the key ingredient must be evolving, demand-driven skill training programmes.
My own work in the field of women’s economic development has made me a strong believer in the need for providing women with skills not traditionally considered theirs – for example, I would like to see women plumbers, electricians, carpenters in Pakistan. This would also address issues such as education for girls, which can be conditioned by very basic needs. For example, it happens that parents don’t send girls to school because the school toilets are not functioning. They are not fixed because male plumbers are not allowed on school premises and there are no skilled female plumbers available to fix the toilets! Development teaches us that life is not simple – what may be taken for granted by some may not always correspond to reality for others.
The Kashf Foundation is Pakistan’s first specialized microfinance institution, pioneering new products and providing door-to-door microfinance services to the urban poor, especially women.