Plugging the gaps in recovery efforts

Sep 7, 2017

In order to address the paucity of skilled workers in the country that has been blamed for the slow pace of post-earthquake reconstruction in the country, UNDP’s SKILLS is committed to helping the Government of Nepal expand the quality, scope and access of Technical and Vocational Education and Training, particularly as relates to construction

Large-scale natural disasters could strike any country in the world, but developing countries are especially vulnerable to the devastating effects of such events, given their potential to reverse hard-earned development gains.

Nepal, a country recovering from the massive 7.9 magnitude earthquake of 2015 that caused huge loss of life and property, is a case in point.

According to the UN, eight million people have been affected in some way or the other by the disaster, and nearly half a million homes and public infrastructure like schools, hospitals, government buildings and bridges—along with historical monuments such as temples and monasteries—were damaged. Two years on, however, thousands still languish in makeshift camps, and concerns that reconstruction and rehabilitation work has slowed down have been raised from many quarters.

Amidst all this, the National Reconstruction Authority, which is leading the recovery efforts to help the country rebuild in the wake of the earthquake, has blamed the sluggish pace of reconstruction on a severe shortage of skilled workers in the country. As concluded by the General Federation of Nepalese Trade Unions, such a mammoth undertaking necessitates the services of a large number of workers with construction-related skills.

The scarcity of skilled workers in the construction sector had been alarmingly high even before the earthquake, owing in large part to how huge numbers of the country’s able youth have long been heading overseas, particularly the Middle East, to find jobs, many of them on construction sites. So, despite the potential demographic dividend that could’ve resulted from the large youth population, Nepal has long been suffering a workforce crunch.

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The earthquake, then, served to deepen that shortage, with demand for skilled and semi/unskilled workers doubling. Reconstruction of houses damaged by the 2015 earthquake requires about 700,000 workers, of which 46 percent will need to be skilled. According to a study by the Council for Technical Education and Vocational Training (CTEVT), a government agency committed to the production of technical and skillful human resources required for the nation, considering the high demand for junior-level technicians such as welders, plumbers, masons, carpenters and scaffolders, among others, particularly in the post-disaster context, the number of short-term trainings being offered to produce these kinds of workers should be increased—by around two-fold, in fact.

It is precisely here that UNDP’s Support to Knowledge and Lifelong Learning Skills (SKILLS) Programme finds its footing, in helping the Government of Nepal to address thi paucity of skilled workers. In that vein, SKILLS has been facilitating a review of the existing Technical and Vocational Education and Training (TVET) Policy by the Ministry of Education, so as to expand opportunities and access as relates to TVET, with an eye on the specific needs of the country after the earthquake.

And now, in what comprises one of the biggest skill development programmes in the country’s history, the Government has plans to train 50,000 people to take up the mantle of carpenters, plumbers, electricians and masons, and through that, provide much-needed momentum to the reconstruction process. Not just reconstruction, this ambitious scheme, if realized, could boost broader economic growth in Nepal. With this in mind, SKILLS is committed to backing the Government in this endeavor, extending the necessary support that will help to bridge the gaps in TVET provisions and improve their access and quality, so that the country may more effectively recover from the devastation left behind by the earthquake—and indeed, any other natural disasters that might strike in the days to come. 

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