Uttoron – "Skills for better life" is a skills development project that aims to create gainful employment opportunities for 1,400 community members in three eastern districts of Bangladesh (Sylhet, Moulavibazar and Habiganj). The three-year project, commenced in 2016, is funded by Chevron under the Bangladesh Partnership Initiative (BPI) and implemented by Swisscontact. The project supports community members to qualify for industry-driven training's and positioning them for new or improved employment opportunities. On receiving market-valued skills and rewarding jobs, these community members are getting the opportunity to increase their income and improve their living standards.
Recently, Uttoron had reached out to its training graduates and learned about their journeys: from enrolling in the skills training to gaining employment. Based on their stories, the project has launched a book entitled “Karigor” (Meaning in English: Artisan). The book is a collection of transforming stories of the training graduates that provides a unique perspective on the lives of the Uttoron trainees. This article contains a selection of stories from the book.
Amina’s family comprises her mother, two sisters and a brother. Her father passed away three years ago. Her sister does tailoring work to run the impoverished family. Amina too wants to educate her younger siblings and earn for the family. It was with this dream that Amina went to the UCEP training center in January this year and was admitted to the machinist (lathe machine operation) training course under the Uttoron project.
She says, “Some of the neighbours make fun of me for taking a training course that is not conventional for a girl.” But Amina is determined and says with self-confidence, “I do not differentiate between a man’s work and a woman’s work. I am fully focused on my training. I have to go far in life, I have to take care of my family and myself. The Uttoron project has given us an opportunity and I must use this opportunity at any cost.”
Amina says that training in the Uttoron project is imparted with much care. She is confident that after this training she will be able to get a job on her own merit. She says, “On the very first day of our training we were told that if we can successfully complete the training, it will be very easy to get a job. Perhaps, initially, it won’t be a very high-up job, but with that modest job and my own merit, I want to carve a niche for myself in society.”
Like any other unemployed young man, Ziaul was looking for a job. The eight members of his family were all looking towards him to get a job and run the family. But where were the jobs?
He had applied to so many places but in vain. Then one day he saw a banner about the Chevron-supported Uttoron project – a chance for free training. He wasted no time in coming to the UCEP training institute in Sylhet. The two-day motivational class filled him with hope. He chose to take the electrical trade course. Within two months of completing the training he got a job with a monthly pay of BDT 8,300 as a machine operator with the Pran-RFL Group.
Speaking about his work experience, Ziaul says, “When I joined this training course, I realised that there is a much higher demand for technical education than conventional education. I picked up work at the company must faster than my co-workers who had no training. The Chevron-supported Uttoron project brought me here in such a short span of time and at no cost. I wouldn’t have had to face the pains of unemployment if I had taken this training earlier.”
After failing the secondary school exams, Metaly was despondent and depressed. Her father tried to get her to take the exam again, but she refused. She imagined herself to be useless, a burden to her poverty-stricken family. It was then that she had the opportunity for a two-months long training in garments machine operation at the TMSS training centre under the Chevron-supported Uttoron project. Not only was this free of cost, but she received travel costs too as an added incentive to complete the training.
Upon completion of her training, Metaly got a job at the JIC Suit Ltd. factory in Aushkandi with help from the project. Metaly says, “The training experience has given me self-confidence. I am endeavouring to earn well and help my family. My family is now proud of me. I shall be ever grateful to Chevron and Uttoron.”
Shahnur couldn’t continue studies after passing the higher secondary certificate examination in 2012. Being the eldest son in an eight-member poor family, he had responsibilities. He helped his family with the meager wages he earned as a helper to a local electrician. He was constantly thinking about ways to increase his income.
One day a friend told him about free training being provided with support from Chevron. He turned up at the Uttoron project training camp. He registered in his favourite subject, the electrical trade. He underwent four months of hands-on training at the TMSS training centre in Habiganj.
Shahnur excelled in the training and successfully completed the course. In hardly any time at all he got a job at the L&T Power Plant. The training had turned his life around. Shahnur says, “I didn’t realise how important proper training, skills and a certificate were for a job. This job has given me and my family dignity.” He looks forward to a promotion and eventually becoming an engineer. He is extremely grateful to Chevron and Uttoron for creating such an opportunity for so many others like him.
Uttoron is setting examples in skills development sector for its unique trainee selection process, facilitation in post-training employment, managing partnership with local government to pursue the community people, and setting example of private sector contribution in skills development sector of Bangladesh. The project is funded by Chevron, implemented by Swisscontact.