LONDON - The speakers at the South Asia Policy Dialogue on Skills organised by the British Council and RSA here at London observed that with a potential demographic dividend emerging in South Asia skills development has the capacity to improve the lives of millions of people and to transform economy.

The event had participants from Afghanistan, Bangladesh, India, Nepal, Pakistan and the UK.

The speakers included Peter Upton, Country Director British Council Pakistan, Matthew Taylor, CEO of RSA, Paul Comyn, ILO, Allah Bukhsh Malik, Federal Secretary, Ministry of Commerce, Pakistan, Ajay Mohan, Sir Geoff Hall, Rakesh Basant and Nosheena Mobarak. The policy dialogue brought together the key policy makers and experts in London to debate the challenges and opportunities facing the South Asia skill development. It was a facilitated dialogue between governments, universities and industry with contributions and fresh perspectives from the whole network of leading thinkers. The event provided space and time for participants to explore the shifting international skill development landscape.

The South Asia Policy Dialogue featured the latest thinking in its area with new research and input from government and industry leaders.  The speakers said that skill development is one of the defining issues for South Asia and unlocking the talent potential of millions of young people entering the workforce is the key challenge for all governments.

They said that over four million students are enrolled in skills programmes in South Asia, including Pakistan but demand far exceeds supply.They suggested that vocational education should be in the curriculum for every child between the age of 16 to 18. Some expert called for imparting skilled training from the age of 10. The said that the businesses should be in the driving seat while formulating vocational training programmes.

Skill mismatch is rampant in South Asia where engineers are working in financial institutions, IT and other fields. Doctors are performing duties in civil administration.

There is quality mismatch in South Asia as right people for the jobs are not available to the businesses.

The skills are imparted at workplace which may lack the knowledge about the skill but the job is get done due to on job training. India is ahead of other South Asian economies in imparting skill training as it trained 500 million workers in skills in last decade.

They said that British Council and RSA are working together on the South Asia policy Dialogue on Skills, as both organizations bring extensive knowledge and understanding to this dialogue helping to define policy through creating a convening space for active discussion.

Qualification apart specific requirements of the skills imparted on employees should also ensure that they become capable of transferring these skills to youths in the society that have lost confidence.

Innovation skills should developed in youth so that they could take the technology and business ideas in the market. Market failures are high in innovation skills.

In any developing country need for skills changes as the economy grows. The challenges in Asia are to work on all types of skills. There are three kinds of skill gaps in the region. The first is the use of over qualified people for jobs that do not require tertiary education. This is because of over supply of university qualified persons that have no other skills.