Bangladesh is a densely populated country with a population of 165 million people, many of whom earn their living in industry. The textile sector in particular is booming, with over 5,500 companies and four million employees: in 2017, Bangladesh was the world's second biggest textile exporter after China. The industry has proven to have contributed to reducing poverty – even though its history of accidents and poor working and production conditions have repeatedly made headline news.
There is a shortage of skilled labour, however: most of the mainly impoverished population have no education whatsoever. This is where the 'Sudokkho' project (Bangla for well trained) comes in, jointly financed by the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC) and the UK's Department for International Development. The implementation is carried out by Palladium, a globally active development organisation, in cooperation with Swisscontact and the British Council. The aim of the project, which runs from 2015 to 2019, is to provide 110,000 poor women and men with initial training courses in the textiles and construction sectors. This is intended to improve their chances of finding skilled jobs – for example as sewing machine operators, painters or carpenters – and thus also their prospects for a higher income.
Success through partnership with the private sector
To achieve this goal, Sudokkho is working with the private sector. On the one hand, the project supports private providers that offer affordable and high-quality training courses for the target group, especially women and members of disadvantaged groups. On the other hand, it works together with companies from the two high-growth sectors to set up on-the-job training. No fewer than 35 textile companies – including suppliers of well-known European labels – have already begun to invest in the systematic training of their employees.
The Sudokkho approach seems to be working, as an overview of the results achieved so far shows. By the summer of 2017, 10,005 graduates from the courses supported by the project had found a job. This total number includes 4,486 female and 339 male sewing machine operators who had undergone in-house training, and 5,180 graduates of courses run by external private-sector providers (including 1,736 women). Thanks to their jobs, they were able to earn additional income totalling GBP 4.26 million.