Aisha, a 21-year-old has grown up in misery. Her father has always had to work hard to provide for their family. After completing SSC in 2019, when her parents decided to marry her off, she declined and chose to pursue higher studies.
She got enrolled at Dhaka Mohila Polytechnic Institute to get training for becoming an electronics assembling technician. She completed her degree and started looking for jobs to earn and support her family.
Unfortunately, her degree was not enough to land a job. At every job interview, Aisha was asked to showcase her theoretical and practical knowledge. She realised that practical competency adds more value while seeking a job along with a good academic result.
So, she started searching for an opportunity that would sharpen her skills and help her to acquire some practical knowledge.
Meanwhile, Aisha got to know about a programme called 'Giving Wings to Dreams for Youth Empowerment Programme', offered by the Underprivileged Children's Educational Programmes (UCEP) Bangladesh and sponsored by Standard Chartered Bank (Standard Chartered Bank).
This programme is under the Futuremakers project, which is a global forum of Standard Chartered Bank that enables the youth to learn, earn and grow.
Futuremakers initiatives bring together various relevant stakeholders, to build partnerships and create opportunities focusing on young people. It is an initiative to tackle inequality and promote greater economic inclusion.
Last year, in Bangladesh, the unemployment rate was approximately 4.15% but the youth unemployment rate was much higher at 11.56%.
According to the Labour Force Survey of 2016-17, conducted by Bangladesh Bureau of Statistics, unemployment percentage at tertiary level is around 15.1.
But this can be decreased by providing vocational training as the statistics of Skills Development Programme conducted from 2012 to 2019 showed that
74% of the youths have been employed after taking technical and vocational education in various sectors.
To attain its goal, Standard Chartered Bank has offered training to young individuals to gain new skills and expertise. Futuremakers has recently started another programme called 'Reintegration of the Jobless Workforce due to Covid', a reskilling initiative in Rajshahi and Rangpur, which is training around 300 students.
In 2019, Futuremakers started its journey in Dhaka specifically, with 243 participants. The program offered five different courses - Electronics Assembling Technician, Industrial Electrical Maintenance, Garments Finishing & Quality Control, Mobile Phone Servicing Technician and Consumer Electronics.
After completing the course, Aisha is now an assistant technician at a light engineering firm namely ME SOLshare Ltd. She bagged this job with the support of UCEP's Decent Employment and Entrepreneurship Development team, which helps each student get employed. This team has successfully helped 63 percent of graduates of the programme secure jobs.
Aisha was able to support her family throughout the pandemic when her father was laid off. She said, "Getting over this adverse situation would have been impossible if I did not have this job. Today, my dream is to become an entrepreneur and run my own electronics shop, which will support more girls like me.
In future, I hope to complete my graduation from a private university."
However, she believes in practical learning as opposed to acquiring academic knowledge before applying for jobs.
While selecting students, UCEP follows strict rules. It shortlists students from the submissions and calls them for an interview before the mentors select the participants. Once the selection process is done, they are helped to select courses. They are also provided career guidance depending on their area of interest, enthusiasm and employment scope of the trade.
"We support our students throughout the course. Even after completing the course, we keep on motivating them till they get a job. The salary scale is usually low in our country, which is why participants are reluctant to join an institution but it is important to start somewhere because this will help them to gain and apply their knowledge. This is why we make sure they join somewhere," said Sayeda Yeasmin, assistant instructor of UCEP.
Abul Bashar, a participant of Futuremakers, said that this programme has helped its participants to find careers, start from scratch and make them believe in themselves.
"Due to the financial crisis, I had to stop my education after completing HSC. Once I achieved this degree from UCEP with the help of Standard Chartered Bank, I secured a job. I must admit, this job has brought back respect to my family," he added.
Throughout the process, Standard Chartered Bank is always there as a support. Bitopi Das Chowdhury, Head of Corporate Affairs, Brand & Marketing at Standard Chartered Bank, said, "Our battle against Covid-19 has once again demonstrated the incredible resilience of the hard-working people of Bangladesh.
"Yet, to maintain our nation's growth momentum, successful reintegration of our workforce to the post pandemic economy will be crucial. Through this partnership with UCEP, we hope to prepare our youth for transformations that are rapidly rippling through our economy. By enabling our future makers to achieve their true potential, we hope to remain a constant partner in Bangladesh's journey of prosperity."
She added, "We take our focus on investing in our communities as a core responsibility and have been a partner in progress for Bangladesh for 116 years. We have been and will be supporting the people of Bangladesh in many ways, with the current focus being enabling the youth to learn, earn and grow."