In recent years, the Ready-Made Garment (RMG) sector has positioned Bangladesh as a key player in the global apparel manufacturing industry. The industry’s growth, employment generation, foreign income contribution, and social impacts have significantly shaped the economic and development trajectories of the country.
II. Current State of the Apparel Manufacturing Workforce
With approximately 4.2 million workers, the RMG sector in Bangladesh is a significant source of employment. Notably, 60% of this workforce comprises women, primarily from low-income, rural backgrounds. The industry’s product offerings span from shirts, trousers, and T-shirts to jackets and other woven garments, mostly cotton-based. The production centers are mainly located around Dhaka, Gazipur, Narayanganj, Chittagong, and other nearby industrial clusters.
Despite this impressive industry setup, the RMG sector grapples with a shortage of about 25% skilled workers, particularly in technical and mid-level management roles. The industry has a high turnover rate, signaling a crucial need for employee retention strategies.
III. Challenges in Skills and Training
Most workers enter the RMG sector with limited pre-job training. A survey revealed that while 68% of new hires receive some form of training, 44% get only a one-day orientation. On-the-job training mostly comprises informal apprenticeships, with only 56% of workers reporting receipt of specialized skills training post-recruitment.
The lack of proper training manifests in several operational challenges, including issues with job understanding, performance, and skill development. These problems affect 84% of untrained new workers, highlighting a pressing need to address the training gap.
IV. Current Training Initiatives and Programs
In response to the glaring skills gap, several industry-specific and government-backed training initiatives have been implemented. A notable endeavor is the BGMEA-ILO partnership Centre of Excellence. This Centre aims to enhance the skills and wages of the working poor, offering market-responsive, industry-driven training. Since its inception, it has provided skill-enhancing training to over 500 women, majority of whom found subsequent employment in RMG factories.
Another significant initiative is the Manusher Jonno Foundation’s 2-month residential RMG skill development training program. This program, specifically designed for unskilled, unemployed rural women, arranges job placements post-training completion. So far, it has successfully trained and placed over 360 women in RMG factories.
Additional initiatives include collaborations with the Bangladesh Skills for Employment and Productivity Project and the IFC-ILO Better Work Programme. Despite these efforts, the scale of these training initiatives remains limited and needs expansion to meet industry demand.
V. Policies and Plans for Skills Development
The government has prioritized skills development in the RMG sector as reflected in its policies. The National Skills Development Policy emphasizes competency-based training, trainer skills upgrading, and collaboration with the industry for skills standard setting. Similarly, the Industry Skills Councils are geared towards reducing skills gaps, improving workforce skills, and enhancing training quality.
Several government initiatives aim to expand training outreach. These include the formation of the National Skills Development Council (NSDC), inclusion of RMG skills training in youth programs, and plans to establish a Bangladesh Textiles University. While these initiatives are still in the development stage, they signal the government’s commitment to address the training gaps in the RMG sector.
VI. Path Forward: Recommendations and Suggestions
Despite the ongoing initiatives and policy-level changes, more needs to be done to improve the skills and training landscape in the RMG sector.
- Expanding training outreach: It is crucial to ensure more workers have access to training programs. This includes strengthening collaborations with local organizations and employers, and enhancing the capacity of public training institutes.
- Improving the relevance and quality of training: To meet the evolving labor market needs, training programs should be regularly evaluated and updated. Furthermore, training providers should receive adequate support to deliver quality training.
- Fostering industry-led training centers: The government and private sector should partner to create training centers that directly address industry needs.
- Upgrading pre-job and on-the-job training: The duration and content of training programs need to be enhanced. Employers should be encouraged to provide adequate on-the-job training to boost productivity and job satisfaction.
Bangladesh’s RMG sector’s thriving trajectory is deeply rooted in the cultivation of a proficient and well-trained workforce. Even though the current training initiatives and policy adaptations paint a promising picture, there remains a pressing need for more pronounced investment, closer collaborations, and renewed innovation in the realm of skills development. With deliberate and strategic actions, the RMG sector holds the potential to not only drive Bangladesh’s economic surge but also create lasting employment and empowerment avenues for countless individuals. For businesses keen on tapping into this burgeoning industry, a seamless fusion of quality control, affordability, timely delivery, and commitment to environmental and worker welfare is indispensable. At Brandex Sourcing, we pride ourselves on epitomizing these very tenets. To understand better how we can be instrumental in realizing your apparel manufacturing aspirations, reach out to us for a quote. Also, for a comprehensive dive into the techniques and technologies steering Bangladesh’s apparel industry, don’t forget to revisit our main article titled “Manufacturing Techniques and Technologies in Bangladesh’s Apparel Industry”.