Schools fail to fill skills gap
UK educational institutions and training providers are being urged to explore new opportunities in Myanmar as a large gap has opened in the market for skilled labour.
In the report "Education is Great", UK Trade and Investment (UKTI) highlighted that in the manufacturing sector alone, the numbers employed could rise from 1.8 million to 7.6 million by 2030 in line with the country’s economic growth.
Based on analysis by the International Labour Organisation, Asian Development Bank, McKinsey and Food and Agriculture Organisation conducted during 2012-13, it also projected that employment demand would grow from 0.5 million to 2.3 million by then.
“From a business perspective, the demand stems from the day-to-day impact of the skills shortage seen in lengthy recruitment processes, distorted salaries and the need for micromanagement. Companies registered through the Foreign Investment Law have to meet the national employment quota of at least 75 per cent local staff within five years so investing in skills is a high priority,” UKTI said in the report.
According to the Myanmar Business Survey by the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific and the OECD released in 2014, the skills shortage is recognised as the second most severe barrier to progress after corruption.
Nearly 60 per cent of all respondents find skill shortages a major problem, with the highest shares of respondents in hotels and restaurants, other services industries and manufacturing.
Extractive industries and traders, in contrast, face the least severe issues in finding the right skills. The share of respondents concerned about the skills shortages in agriculture, forestry and fishing is similar and closer to the average. Sectors suffering from the most acute recruitment problems include telecommunications, air transport, electrical, gas and water supplies, information technology, metal ores mining and electrical, auto, petroleum- and chemical-product manufacturing.
The survey also showed that overall, little investment is made in workforce development as over a half of the respondents allocate no funding to training the workforce. The majority of the respondents only provide in-house training to deal with skill shortages, providing a minimal US$215 per employee per year.
In this scenario, UKTI foresees multiple opportunities in the short-term across the different sectors where UK institutions could meet the immediate skills gap.
They can establish a stand alone training centre; supply training content or resources either to training organisations or direct to customers; or partner with international companies looking to develop in-house training facilities, UKTI says.
The report says UK operators could partner with domestic educational institutions looking for either international quality assurance or delivery partners; deliver training programmes; share expertise to identify skills gaps; provide sector-specific knowledge; advise on career options; or support the learning environment through the supply of student loans and other products.
“You need to have a clear proposition, especially if you intend to work with government. There are many players exploring the market so it is important to be clear on how your service or product will offer benefits,” it said.
The suggestions were drawn upon the fact that private-sector involvement in education has been limited. It was prohibited under military rule but is now promoted by the government. UKTI praised the government for increasing the education budget, from 0.7 per cent of gross domestic product in 2011 to 2.1 per cent in 2014. International assistance is welcomed. Last week, the German government pledged grants worth 17 million euros for projects to be carried out by the German development agency, GIZ, and by the German Federal Institute for Geosciences and Natural Resources, also to improve vocational training.
Though Myanmar has large workforce of more than 30 million, of which 40 per cent are between the ages of 15-29, the majority are under-skilled and undereducated.
Despite the high basic literacy and numeracy of 95.13 per cent, this does not reflect “functional literacy” which is the capacity to apply knowledge. Though 63.5 per cent of children enrol in secondary school, completion rates are below the regional average. The average years of schooling are 3.9 years, well below the East Asia and Pacific average of 7.2 years. Notably, only 11 per cent of the population enrol in university.