Sarathi Extends its Focus to Address the Dire Need for Upskilling RMG Workers

Upskilling and Reskilling
A two-month skills development program was piloted by Sarathi to upskill 120 Ready-made Garments (RMG) workers.

As the nation continues to prepare for the fourth industrial revolution (4IR), the RMG industry has also buckled up to face the challenges and opportunities that it will bring along. While it will open doors of possibilities for a skilled worker, the lesser skilled workers are likely to fall prey to it. It is evident that only skilled manpower can sustain this surge of technological advancement. In such circumstances, the Government of Bangladesh (GoB) alongside the RMG industry regulators such as Bangladesh Knitwear Manufacturers and Exporters Association (BKMEA) and Bangladesh Garments Manufacturers and Exporters Association (BGMEA) have also started to stress the need for upskilling and reskilling the existent workforce.

Sarathi- Progress through Financial Inclusion, a project mutually funded by MetLife Foundation and Swisscontact, which was previously just focused on financial inclusion of the RMG sector, has acknowledged this burning need. Hence, for its upcoming phase, it intends to extend its focus to upskilling RMG workers alongside its emphasis on financial health improvement. In order to understand the current scenario and implement a successful intervention in future, the project piloted a two-month skills development program with support from BKMEA, during the end of their bridging period in 2021.

Training to improve skillsets

During the inauguration of the program, respected members of BKMEA such as Mr. Md. Akhter Hossain Apurbo, Vice President, Mr. Md. Mostofa Monwar Bhuiyan, Director, Mr. Mostafa Jamal Pasha, Director were present alongside other representatives from BKMEA, Sarathi and factory management.

"The RMG sector can soon no longer be considered a completely labor-intensive sector due to the advanced machineries that are being incorporated now. For instance, a simple auto cutter is reducing the demand for 80% helpers previously required in that area. So, in order to cope with this advancement, RMG workers need to get the appropriate training to improve their skillsets."
Mr. Md. Akhter Hossain Apurbo, Vice President Bangladesh Knitwear Manufacturers and Exporters Association

Moreover, it was highlighted that it is not just the technical skills, soft skills play a pivotal role in a worker becoming capable of acquiring and maintaining a supervisor role, especially for women. One of RMG factory management representatives said “the main problem with hiring women supervisors is the existent mindset and societal barriers. Even if a woman is skilled, the majority of men seem to suffer inferiority complex in her supervision, while other women exhibit the infamous crab mentality. I believe, for every 25% technical skill development, we require 75% soft skill development just to utilise it.”

As the goal of the pilot was to assess the current scenario and develop a successful intervention in future, feedbacks were considered, training sessions were designed based on need. Total 120 RMG workers from four factories in Sarathi’s targeted locations received training on soft skill development. 30 RMG workers from each factory, who had the necessary technical skills and were considered eligible for supervisor roles, were chosen by the factory management, to participate in the 16 sessions that were designed to prepare them for the desired role.

On 30 December 2021, the pilot program was brought to an end by presenting each participant with a certificate of completion and awarding each factory as a token of appreciation for their support. During the award ceremony at MB Knit Fashion, respected members of BKMEA such as Mr. Mohammad Hatem, Executive president, Mr. Md. Morshed Sarwar (Sohel), Vice President (Finance) and Mr. Mostafa Jamal Pasha, Director were present alongside other Representatives from BKMEA, Sarathi and participants. Mr. Mohammad Hatem delivered a heartfelt speech in appreciation of the skills development program and even offered to reward the workers who are going to acquire supervisor roles due to it. Such words of support and gratitude are motivational not only for projects like Sarathi but also for the RMG workers as it will encourage them to excel in their career path.

The Sarathi project is financed by the MetLife Foundation. It is part of the Swisscontact Development Programme, which is co-financed by the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC), Federal Department of Foreign Affairs FDFA.

Upskilling and Reskilling
Sarathi – Progress Through Improved Financial Health
Bangladesh is the world’s second largest garment exporter, with the ready-made garment (RMG) sector accounting for over 83% of the country’s exports and contributing approximately 16% to the GDP. This industry encompasses more than 4 000 RMG factories and provides employment to approximately 4.2 million workers of which almost 60% are women. Even though the RMG sector plays a pivotal role in Bangladesh’s economy, only 34% of it was integrated into the formal financial system when Swisscontact started to work towards the financial inclusion of RMG workers and their community members in 2016.