- Overhaul sought as sub-optimal TVET sector weighs on SME revival
There could have not been a more opportune time for the SME sector in Sri Lanka than today with historically low borrowing cost, liquidity support, lower taxes and eased regulations but they could still be held back if the country’s technical and vocational education and training (TVET) sector fails to produce the required machine operators, technicians and other specialised vocations required to power those industries.
In a report highlighting the disconnect between the two sectors, the Central Bank said Sri Lanka’s TVET sector is plagued by a myriad of shortcomings resulting in lower efficiency in the sector in terms of meeting the country’s skill demand.
TVET sector was established to provide a springboard for those who could not gain university entrance to receive training on a vocation fitting the labour market and also to up skill the existing labour force with vocational training sought by industries.But the sector has fallen short of this objective continuously due to lack of qualified industrial staff to deliver training, less than satisfactory involvement of employers in designing courses and delivering programmes, stigma associated with technical jobs and lack of knowledge associated with job opportunities available with those with vocational training.
“Currently, the TVET sector is highly fragmented and poorly coordinated with a large number of State and non-State education providers, and numerous governing agencies with their own regulatory panels and procedures,” the Central Bank said.
Hence, the Central Bank stressed the need to match the training programmes at the TVET institutes with that of the needs of the labour market and emerging new industries and accredit the trainees with quality and recognised global standards to make them easily employable.
“Since there is no central planning mechanism for the TVET sector, the designing of training programmes, student enrolment, and quality standards and accreditations are not aligned with the country’s growth policies and labour market needs,” it added. By 2019,there were 1,290 registered TVET institutions in
“Although the National Vocational Qualification (NVQ) system has been introduced with the aim of defining training standards on the basis of occupational requirements, the quality assurance process in the TVET system is still not fully effective since many private TVET institutions are neither accredited nor registered,” the Central Bank noted.
Last week the Monetary Board tripled its refinancing scheme up to Rs.150 billion to offer loans at 4 percent interest rate to SMEs and also reduced its statutory reserve ratio by 2 percent releasing further liquidity to markets to facilitate lending at lower rates.
However, no amount of low cost capital could meet the manpower requirements in specialised sectors.
Any benefit from low cost capital could be offset by new SMEs having to headhunt people from existing organisations, sometimes paying double the salary and making their ventures non-viable.
Meanwhile, a recent attempt to route the youth who fail at the GCE O/L examination to receive NVQ level education through the ‘13 years of guaranteed education policy’, is still at the incipient stage due to shortage of qualified training staff, particularly in the rural areas where TVET system is most needed, the Central Bank added.