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The Triangle Conference: Righting the government-academia-business mismatch

Pratik Ghimire

Pratik Ghimire

The Triangle Conference: Righting the government-academia-business mismatch

Are our businesses and industries not investing enough in human resource development? Or is it the state’s failure to come up with the right policies, programs, and incentives?

Sanothimi, Bhaktapur is dotted with many governmental offices, mainly related to education and training. A particularly colorful three-storey building in the area belongs to the Council for Technical Education and Vocational Training (CTEVT), which falls under the Ministry of Education, Science, and Technology. Oddly though, the colorful office seems impervious to outsiders.

The motto of this office is: ‘Skilling Nepal for People’s Prosperity’. The education minister is the chairperson of CTEVT while the vice-chair is appointed by the Cabinet. In other words, it’s pretty much filled with political appointees. According to the government of Nepal, “CTEVT is a national autonomous apex body for technical and vocational education and training committed to the production of technical and skillful human resources required for the nation.” This is exactly why we wanted to contact them.

We could not. There was no one to pick up the three different phone numbers listed on CTEVT website, during office hours, but all lines were busy, all the time. This is just an example of the kind of dysfunction and unresponsiveness that characterise our academic and vocational education establishments.

The number of ‘educated unemployed’ in Nepal is increasing by the day. Graduates are struggling to land good jobs while organizations, both public and private, fail to fill vacancies. Our academia appears incapable of producing qualified human resources.

Are our businesses and industries not investing enough in human resource development? Or is it the state’s failure to come up with the right policies, programs, and incentives? But there is no good answer on offer. The education ministry is largely out of reach. Just like at the CTEVT, all your attempts to contact ministry officials will be futile.  

Also read: The Triangle Conference: Let’s discuss the future of Nepal 

Yes, the government is unresponsive, says Shekhar Golchha, president of the Federation of Nepalese Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FNCCI), but the private sector is doing its bit to improve things. For instance, the FNCCI is undertaking a research titled ‘Ilam’, which is now in its final phase. “We were researching the type of human resources the industry needs and the kind the academia is capable of providing,” he says after agreeing that there is indeed a lot of job-skill mismatch.

Lok Raj Baral, a political scientist, blames the political parties and politicians for the mess. “Both the universities and the private sector are badly politicized,” he says.

For Golchha, the solution to this crisis is not far-fetched. Only if the education ministry, CTEVT, and other concerned bodies took their research seriously, the private sector would get qualified and sufficient manpower, he says. And for Baral, politics is primary, so it should be purified in the first place.

With all these problems in the country, the youth either end up in no-prospect jobs or head abroad.

Even as the country faces all these problems, stakeholders are mum. In the absence of meaningful dialogue between them, the government, the academia and the private enterprises are each pursuing their own goals. But only when all these sectors align can the country develop, while even a little non-alignment can disrupt the entire system.

‘The Triangle Conference: Let’s discuss the future of Nepal’ (November 25-27) is a platform initiated by The Annapurna Express to get these stakeholders talking and hasing out their differences so that they can work in mutually beneficial ways.

Panelists

During the seven sessions spread over three days, politicians, bureaucrats, academics, private sector representatives, student leaders and other representatives from the three sectors will discuss the gaps in their communication, their future vision for Nepal, entrepreneurship, leadership, and policy issues. 

“We lack the blueprint of planning”

Shyam Shrestha, former member of the High-Level National Education Commission

We lack proper nationwide planning on the quality and quantity of human resources we need in each sector. This is largely due to the inaction of the National Planning Commission (NPC) whose job it is to coordinate with all sectors and plan for them. 

When I was at the education commission, I found that our national needs and the manpower we produce are poles apart. We informed the government about this, but nobody cared. We lack a blueprint for proper planning.

We produce educated manpower of international standard, but due to mismanagement they end up going abroad. This is a substantial loss for us, both economically and psychologically.

We think we are more developed than Bhutan, but Bhutan is miles ahead in terms of planning for the human resources it needs.