Upskilling the workforce and education in Pakistan

This is a great step to enhance the skills of people at all levels and help those who might be interested in switching their careers or simply upskilling.

Upskilling the workforce and education in Pakistan

By Dr. Ajaz Ali

Upskilling The Workforce And Education In Pakistan.

The British government has taken an initiative to offer almost 400 courses free of cost to the general public with the help of various industrial and educational partners.

The ‘Skills Toolkit’ offered by the government includes courses covering general and specialist skills in Business and Finance, Machine Learning, Mathematics, Computer Essentials and Marketing etc.

This is a great step to upskilling of people at all levels and help those who might be interested in switching their careers or simply upskilling. The courses are offered in partnership with Google, CISCO, The Open University, Future Learn and other educational institutions.

Short courses that can range, in terms of duration, from 2 hours of study to 120 hours or perhaps even more. These are courses that can provide both, a glimpse into a profession for a complete layman or in-depth studies for professionals who wish to upskill themselves.

These online courses are designed to be completed around one’s own lifestyle, during employment or unemployment,around work, studies and other commitments. Often they require less than 24 hours of study per week and can also provide certifications to benchmark learning and progress.

In Pakistan, there is a huge gap in quality of education between different institutions, cities and provinces. For example, a person studying at a top university in Islamabad can easily have access to some of the best lecturers and resources available.

But someone in AJK, Baluchistan, KPK, Gilgit Baltistan or Sindh will have a quality of education that is significantly lower. One way to bridge the gap between the two is within the concept of these short courses.

Nowadays, internet access is reasonably available across the country and this is the key to sharing resources and skills.Imagine an up-to-date course comprised of lectures, articles, notes and resources from a leading university being made available for people to explore or learn from.

Not only would this be relevant to the latest industrial requirements and academic demands, it would be developed by leading lecturers and specialist and it would be as accessible to students living in Islamabad as it would be to other students in different parts of the country.

Pakistan has a great potential to benefit from such an initiative.This would not only provide updated content and a bench marked education across the country, but would also benefit people across various industries.

These short courses could also complement the existing modules for a degree course which many students might be attending at a college or university providing invaluable resources to teachers and students alike.

The industry can also immensely benefit from such courses and their implementation could form part of Continuous Professional Development (CPD) programme.

People may get promoted based on the undertaking of specific courses. A national resource of required skillsets could bring a revolution in knowledge sharing and economy.

Technology and research are continually developing and it is important for businesses, employees and workers to keep themselves updated with the latest developments to allow efficient application of knowledge and expertise.

Industrial powers can enrol their employees into such courses so that, alongside work, the employees are learning and adapting using resources that may even be nationally or internationally accredited.

Coivd-19 has given another dimension to learning and teaching. Such courses can provide invaluable access to knowledge and skills which otherwise wouldn’t have been possible for many living in a deprived situation or working from home. It has proven to be possible to provide quality online education.

Industry links could be established where readily available courses from CISCO, Microsoft, Google and The Open University maybe included in the portfolio.

Complete units of study could be replaced or complimented with these short courses which will significantly improve the standard of education in Pakistan in a very short span of time, with a comparatively lower budget.

These courses can provide assessments and information for the more determined individuals to absorb and develop and provide them with insights into prospective careers. Suddenly it is not so difficult to learn or acquire skills that would otherwise only be taught away from home at a very high cost.

These courses are still far from a formal degree programme but they offer nuggets of information that are either very broad based or in-depth for a single module.

In current times degrees are not as necessary in the industry but skills are. And these skills can be acquired for a much lesser cost, or even free but at an acceptable level of quality and competence. It doesn’t undermine the formal degrees but rather gives an alternative means to education and professional development.

These courses will improve the knowledge economy, provide exposure to international standards, improve the employability chances locally and globally and will provide long term benefits to the country.

It is time to take onboard lessons that can help Pakistan develop in terms of education, knowledge acquisition, upskilling and also adaptability to the everchanging path of learning.

Originally published at Business recorder