The economic breakthrough, enabling shift of the country to upper segment of middle-income countries according to methodology of international development organizations will largely depend on the quality of manpower that are available on labor market. Workforce shall be able to work with the most modern facilities, offer and implement innovative ideas and solutions.
President Islam Karimov set a target to increase industry’s share in the country’s GDP. Nowadays, as well as in near future there will be a greater demand for technical personnel. A diagram below shows forecast for industrial sector’s demand for personnel. The diagram confirms accuracy of the chosen path to implement the professional colleges system. At the same time, educational system faces new challenges caused by rapidly changing conditions of market economy. In this regard, technicians must not only be produced by colleges but also meet expectations of employers in the private sector.
Meanwhile, in order to meet requirements of industrial demand, it is necessary to take additional measures and change the training process, primarily professional college students.
There are, on average, 500,000 pupil graduating from the secondary school annually in the country, of which 90% continue their studies at professional colleges. Currently, every pupil is obligated to obtain a secondary education and study 3 more years, that is, to finish academic lyceum (high school) or college and acquire a certain profession or improve academic skills. As a result, even if pupil is not diligent, has not good academic progress or has poor attendance, the pupil will obtain a graduation diploma. This is sort of equalization of pupils with high academic grades and those with satisfactory level of knowledge, since both receive a graduation diploma. Despite provided incentives, such as higher stipends, academic rating, diploma with honors, measures can barely cover a large mass of pupil and provide professional skills in accordance with requirements of private business. It is also true for higher educational institutions. However, this does not mean that the curriculum does not meet the market needs. It simply is not always able to respond in time to rapidly changing market economy conditions. As a result, business is not willing to recruit graduates since a graduation diploma does not guarantee the availability of required skills.
In this context, the issue has long been the center of attention of the government. At the end of 2014, Mr. Duk Ho Kim, a professor at Korea University of Technology and Education, along with Chamber of Commerce and Industry of Uzbekistan explored the situation in the framework of study tour to South Korea, organized by “Business Forum of Uzbekistan (Phase 3)” project. Experts from Korea advised not changing the current system of education but to introduce a voluntary vocational training and to provide professional certificate upon successful completion. That is, in the final year of college, students may take a supplementary examination in a certain specialty, to assess their real professional skills. The certificate of vocational training might be a guarantee that job seekers really meet the requirements of private companies. Moreover, at the end of training there shall be an examination based on criteria required for a particular category of professionalism, which shall be close to practice and business requirements.
Independent commission, consisting of representatives from private sector and the government, shall administer exam. It is necessary to ensure that private sector trust certificate issued upon results of exam, similar to certificates of foreign language proficiency (TOEFL, IELTS, HSK, DALF, DAF, etc.) or the GMAT, GRE, and so on. Such approach may greatly increase interest and motivation of young people to get the real knowledge and skills in their specialty, as it will also increase their competitiveness in labor market.
When training «the nearest future» personnel it is important to consider their ability to retrain and acquire additional skills, competency or even professions. According to some criteria, when level of economy is assessed the stability of jobs is taken into account. However, market conditions change and some specialties might be on demand and some are not. The speed of satisfaction of demand also influences development of economy as a whole. Alvin Toffler, an American sociologist, who said, «the illiterate of the 21st century will not be those who cannot read and write, but those who cannot learn, unlearn, and relearn», confirms that thesis.
Another important aspect is promotion of innovation. Today, companies willing to compete in both domestic and foreign markets have to work on innovation. One of the ways is support start-up projects, which successfully compete with large corporations. Practice shows that our youth has a huge number of interesting and innovative ideas. However, young people do not have sufficient skills to commercialize them, test their viability, relevance and scalability.
A joint project of Chamber of Commerce & Industry and UNDP “Business Forum of Uzbekistan (Phase 3)” within the framework of developing inclusive business models, engaging young people onto entrepreneurship and promoting employment in order to test above proposals, is supporting establishment of a garment design center in Namangan and launching “Startup Initiatives” project to pilot mechanism for selection, testing and commercialization of startup projects based on the “lean startup” methodology, which implies minimal cost to start a business idea.
Project Manager, UNDP and Chamber of Commerce & Industry of Uzbekistan joint project
“Business Forum of Uzbekistan (phase III)”.