Human resource holds the key to growth and development for any sector, and the future of Bangladesh’s readymade garment sector – emerging as the second largest apparel producer globally with its ever-expanding manufacturing base – will depend significantly on its manpower.
Without an abundant pool of well-trained workers and professionals, evolving and upgrading to the next stage to realize the sector’s true growth potential (in terms of productivity and production of high-end apparels) would be an uphill task for the garment manufacturers.
Given the present dearth of skilled manpower (25 per cent according to some reports), garment manufacturers are left but with little choice to rely on the expatriates – whose numbers are said to be roughly around 15,000-20,000, employed in various positions in the sector.
As per Directorate of Textile (DoT) report published in 2015, apparel sector has been facing a shortage of about 0.11 million skilled manpower, from floor to executive level, which could well touch an astounding 1,82,000 by 2021 (the year earmarked by the country to attain US $ 50 billion from garment export) if adequate steps are not taken.
Apparel Resources spoke to the stakeholders – manufacturers and heads of training institutes, including the Pro-Vice Chancellor of BGMEA University of Fashion and Technology (BUFT) – to present a complete low-down on the manpower scenario in the garment industry and the way forward…
“Any investor can get new and upgraded machines, but what about the operators who would handle those,” points out Eleash Mridha, Managing Director of Chorka Textile Limited (a sister concern of PRAN-RFL Group), a strongly emerging player in lingerie, catering to the whole range of intimatewear, including bra, panties, swimwear, boxers, shapewear, sleepwear and vest in men’s, women’s and kids categories, adding, “… A lot of people are hiring technical experts from Sri Lanka and other countries. While being expensive, expats are also not a solution for long-term business growth and development.”
Aiming to address the issue of trained workers, Chorka Textile Limited has decided to come up with its very own training facility.
Says Inamul Haq Khan, Managing Director of the US $ 120 million-turnover Ananta Group, “We not only failed to invest enough on new technologies, but also do not have sufficient technical institutes to help in capacity building,” a sentiment which is reiterated by Afzalul Alam, Managing Director of ZAS Apparels Private Ltd.
“The scenario is same as before… There is an acute shortage of worker-level training institutes in Bangladesh. I would say there is no training institute to provide training to the workers,” adds Afzalul, underlining that the scenario is little different when it comes to management professionals.
“Of late there’s been a spurt in university graduates doing their internship with RMG companies. This is a positive sign… In my factory I’ve got around 15 students from a university who are doing six-month internship. But in terms of institutes, there are only a handful to provide training to the managerial people,” continues Afzalul.
The lack of technically well-heeled professionals was a reason why Md. Fazlul Haque, Managing Director of Plummy Fashions Limited, the highest ranked LEED Platinum knitwear manufacturing unit, had to bring in a Sri Lankan IE professional to take care of production in the initial days.
“That person had to go due to personal issues but he has trained the people here and has set work procedures accordingly… After his departure, the local guys are running the show now,” says Fazlul.
Maintains Syed Diganta Munir, Director of UH Trendz Limited (a buying house planning to foray into garment manufacturing soon): “In Bangladesh, the lower-skill level training institutes are available but the mid-level skill creating institutes are very few. It’s been very sad actually…” An alumnus of National Institute of Fashion Technology (NIFT) from India, Munir is hopeful of the scenario changing in the near future though.
“In the last four or five years, things have improved a lot. A number of good institutes from overseas have opened their branches here, including from India, which is very encouraging,” maintains Munir, who also praised the BGMEA University of Fashion and Technology for coming up with the first-ever merchandising course in Bangladesh.
Considered a major player in manpower training and development, the BGMEA University of Fashion and Technology (BUFT) started its journey as an institute in the year 2000 to turn into a full-fledged university in 2012, offering a host of courses approved by the University Grant Commission (UGC).
“This industry has been suffering a massive shortage of qualified and skilled manpower. That’s why the Government has decided to create fashion designing and merchandising departments in private as well as public universities. But it will take time to fill the gap because the demand is big. Students are gradually passing out and entering the industry. It will take another 4 or 5 years to fill this void…,” maintains Prof. Dr. Engr. Ayub Nabi Khan, Pro-Vice Chancellor of BGMEA University of Fashion and Technology (BUFT).
Besides 4-year Undergraduate courses (B.Sc. in Knitwear Manufacture & Technology, B.Sc. in Apparel Manufacture and Technology, Bachelor in Apparel Merchandising & Management, etc.) and 1 to 2 years course of Masters in various disciplines (1 year MBA in Apparel Merchandising, 2-year MBA in Apparel Merchandising, M.Sc. in Textile Engineering, M.Sc. in Fashion Design, etc.), BUFT also offers host of Diploma/Short-term/Certificate courses (Diploma in Apparel Engineering and Production Planning, Postgraduate Diploma in Apparel Merchandising, APM – Woven, Knitwear & Sweater, Certificate course in ERP Solution & Computer Application, Certificate course on Quality Control in Apparel Industry, Short-term course on Computer Aided Pattern Cutting , etc).
“Though majority of the students are graduating in merchandising and fashion designing, we also have MBA courses in Apparel Merchandising…,” adds Dr. Khan, a firm believer in uniform standard for all the institutes (private and Government-run) to maintain the quality of education and training. “…Yes, that’s a problem. I personally think that we need a uniform course. I am taking up this issue at various forums and urge the Government to apply the uniform course code as early as possible,” reiterates Dr. Khan.
BUFT in association with BGMEA also runs a number of training centres in different parts of the country to help train the workforce. “In those centres, we provide training to the workers only…,” maintains Dr. Khan, underlining his institute’s emphasis on another important aspect, namely business communication.
Negotiation is the main part when dealing with the foreign buyers and this is a big problem we are facing in terms of business communication and as such we are focusing on soft skill development in English and computer operation.
“In real time, many fail to understand the buyers’ requirements. In my institute, I’m trying to apply the knowledge I gathered during my working days with different CEOs, CFOs and top-level managerial people as to what they want from a QC, a merchandiser or from a supervisor,” maintains Sheikh Md. Nizam Uddin, Principal of College of Fashion Technology & Management (CFTM), who likes to call his institute ‘an education-cum training institution’.
“Actually we’re combination of both… We provide education to the students. Training offer comes from factory’s side or from development partners. It’s occasional and not on a regular basis,” explains Nizam adding, “Bangladesh garment industry has been struggling to find the right people for mid-managerial jobs. When BGMEA founded its institute BUFT in 2000, I was involved with it. I worked there for 7 years; I know how difficult it was to identify the right area to work on. After spending 7 years in BUFT, I realized that mid-level management is the core crisis Bangladesh industry has been facing. I started this institute mainly focusing on mid-level management. We’re working to build a strong mid-management for the Bangladesh apparel sector.”
CFTM offers various Bachelors’ and Masters’ programmes in Manufacturing Technology, Fashion Design Technology and Management (B.Sc. Hon’s in Apparel Manufacture & Technology, B.Sc. Hon’s in Knitwear Manufacture & Technology, B.Sc. Hon’s in Fashion Design & Technology, Professional Ex-MBA in Apparel Merchandising, etc.) besides Certificate (Certificate In Apparel Merchandising, Certificate in Work Study & Production Planning, Certificate in Pattern Cutting , Making & Grading) and short-term (Social Compliance and Standard, Quality Control Management, etc.) courses. CFTM also conducts various need-based training programmes for the RMG/Textile sectors.
As per Nizam, Bangladesh’s dependence on expats is coming down slowly but surely. “I think Bangladesh has already become self-sufficient except for in some areas. The number of foreigners is also coming down, but still there are some, and which will always remain… The number is not overwhelming now,” winds up Nizam on a positive note.
Started in April 2011, Bangladesh-Japan Training Institute (BJTI) is an initiative of Bangladesh AOTS-HIDA Alumni Society (BAAS) aimed at Human Resources Development in the country through Japanese approach.
BJTI offers a host of programmes for working professionals in many sectors, including RMG.
“Considering the socio-economic condition and the population of the country, the need for human resources development in alignment with Japanese approach is relevant and essential for economic growth of Bangladesh. We aim to transform BJTI into a Centre of Excellence by the year 2021, offering Japanese Management and Cutting-edge Technology Courses, Graduate & Postgraduate courses and regional programmes,” concludes Md. Mahfuzul Haque, Assistant General Manager, BJTI.