‘Hunarmand Pakistan’ is a significant component of the Prime Minister’s Kamyab Jawan National Youth Development Program. The recent launching of this initiative is a definite proof of concept highlighting the importance of skills education (hunarmandi) in the country. Importantly, Pakistan being the only country on the Earth whose creation is tied with the tenets of Islam - the religion supporting peace, prosperity, and the importance of skills through a very famous Prophet saying, “one who earns by struggle is a friend of Allah (Al-Kasib Habibullah).” Skills enhance the earning potentials of people and, as such, bring them closer to Almighty ALLAH. According to another Prophet (Peace Be Upon Him) saying, “Seeking halal earning is the (next) Fardh (duty) after the Fardh (Salah).” Youth across the country have an opportunity to enhance their skills for their better earnings through the ‘Hunarmand Pakistan’ the program itself not only corroborates with Islamic values; instead, it brings us closer to the rest of the world.

It is also important to mention here that the promotion of skills education is a global phenomenon, and it crosses religious and geographical contexts. A careful look at the countries having the best gross domestic product (GDP), like the United States, China, Japan, and Germany, is due to the popularization of unique and high-value skills. The emergence of China and India having superiority in their GDP is due to targeted training of their workforce, youth in skills and massive industrialization. Neighboring India has gone a step forward through establishing Ministry of Skill Development and Entrepreneurship dedicatedly tasked with “co-ordination of all skill development efforts across the country, removal of disconnect between demand and supply of skilled manpower, building the vocational and technical training framework, skill up-gradation, building of new skills, and innovative thinking not only for existing jobs but also jobs that are to be created.” In the implementation of ‘Hunarmand Pakistan,’ the Ministry of Federal Education and Professional Training has a crucial role that was generously appreciated by the Prime Minister of Pakistan during the launch ceremony of this initiative.

The ‘Hunarmand Pakistan’ is no doubt a blessing in disguise for the youth across the country. However, initially, it will be able to cater to the interests of 170,000 youth according to an official statement by the Executive Director, National, Vocational and Technical Training Commission (NAVTTC), an apex federal body serving the cause of skills education in the country since 2005. Besides NAVTTC, there are several other bodies in the country, promoting skills education. A pertinent question yet to be answered is; do all federal and provincial skills education institutions have similar standards and syllabi aligning with contemporary global demands? Curricular reforms and uniformity of skills education aligning with international standards should be evaluated and implemented for result-oriented skills education. According to the Vice Chancellor, National Skills University, Islamabad, there is an urgent need to establish “Pakistan’s Skills Framework” precisely at the model of Singapore. We have to identify priority areas in skills education, reforming curricula starting from basic training to advanced at the graduate levels, and regular evaluation of skilled workforce assimilation in the national and international job markets.

For the success of the Government of Pakistan’s ‘Skills for All Strategy,’ there is an urgent need to establish and define Pakistan’s Skills Framework elaborately. Several developed nations have established their skills framework based on indigenous as well as contemporary global demands of the workforce. The Australian Government, Department of Employment, Skills, Small and Family Business identified fifteen skills domains under the umbrella of ‘myskills’ program. Prominent among these are agriculture & food processing, construction and mining, defense industry, manufacturing & engineering, science & technology, tourism and hospitality, and so on. The Singapore Skills Framework is more elaborate, having built-in flexibility and worth following for a country like Pakistan. This framework takes into consideration the sector-specific skills information, career pathways for students, relevant occupations/job roles associated with skills as the learners’ progress in a skill domain. It also provides a complete trajectory of related training programs, even for working professionals to enhance their skills and job-specific training. Currently, the skills framework in Singapore has 33 domains having elaborate information about each one. Importantly, the country has developed an editable HR templates based on newly emerging jobs to get them classified in preexisting fields or being the new one. In comparing the Australian and Singaporean skills framework, the agriculture and food processing is further divided into food manufacturing, food services, landscape in Singapore skills domains. Importantly, Singapore Skills Framework comprehensively defines vertical as well as lateral progression in the respective field of skills, including opportunities for skilled people. For example, in Singapore, for people adopting the food manufacturing track, there are four major types of jobs in production; quality assurance & quality control; research & development followed by business development. Importantly, based on the skills of workers, 22 job roles are also defined.

Pakistani youth is fortunate to have an impressive jumpstart through ‘Hunarmand Pakistan’. However, to move it forward, concrete and sustainable planning will be required. A newly established, first public sector university in the country, the National Skills University, Islamabad despite its infrastructural and governance challenges could be the most suitable higher education institute to host experts entrusted with the task of evaluating and establishing standards for skills education in the country through a collaborative effort with the NAVTTC, National Technology Council and several provincial organizations. This university, as a seat of higher learning in skills education, could be the most trustworthy partner with international organizations and academia having their focus on skills education. Moreover, every skill program should provide passage to progress further, culminating in the bachelor’s degree program a terminal qualification for most graduates as being envisaged by the Higher Education Commission of Pakistan.

Professor Dr. Muhammad Mukhtar

The writer is currently serving as Vice Chancellor, National Skills University Islamabad, and previously served as Vice Chancellor of four universities in Pakistan. E-mail: mukhtar.muhammad

@gmail.com