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Shan govt keeps brain drain at bay with vocational grads

Myanmar Times (online), 15 November 2017 - VOCATIONAL schools don’t just give people a leg-up, they improve the employment rate, facilitate entrepreneurship and help sustain the value chain within the region.

U Tun Linn Oo, assistant director of Shan government Small-scale Industries Department (SSID), U Ko Ko Thet (SSID staff officer) and U Min Kyi (SSID assistant engineer) spoke to The Myanmar Times on how their department works to develop the skills-level of Shan’s younger population.

The department has opened vocational schools which offer courses in bamboo handicrafts, agriculture-based value-added products, baking, wineries and textiles.

“We have also set up two weaving schools in Taunggyi and Kyaung Me which focus on traditional fabrics,” U Tun Linn Oo said.

Apart from agriculture and handicrafts, vocational workshops cover handmade cosmetics -- thanakata, cosmetic lotions -- baking, culinary skills, motorcycle repair and more, while organising trade fairs for those small manufacturers and linking them up with Yangon and Mandalay’s markets.

“We organise short-term courses and workshops in different cities in Shan. For example, we conduct a one-month workshop for motorcycle repair, while handicraft workshops last for 15 days, food industry for about 10 days and handmade cosmetics for seven days,” he added.

U Ko Ko Thet said that the target is to run 25 different courses annually as well as inviting government organisations to organise 35-40 training courses as well. So far since the department’s establishment, 87 courses have been conducted and 1962 students have been trained.

Small-scale industries and economy

The SSID was established on January 1, 2015. Its portfolio covers setting up vocational training, supporting local household industries, arranging course training with other organisations and encouraging local entrepreneurship in small-scale industries.

The SSID programmes target young people who cannot pursue further education in tertiary institutions, allowing them to acquire some skills to make a living, such as being mechanic.

“Most of these industries are in the food manufacturing sector, such as producing jam and juice. These small-scale industries in food manufacturing are vital for Shan’s economic development because we produce a lot of agriculture products.

“During harvest, tomato prices fall due to the increase in supply. We export them out of Shan to manufacture the raw materials. If we can generate value-added products within the state, we’ll be able to maximise revenue,” U Ko Ko Thet explained.

While SSID offers the training, the region relies on microfinance institutions, including the SME Bank, to provide the capital. The SME Bank offers loans to graduates of the SSID workshops who have two years of experience.

The interviewees added that the department first looks at the data from UNDP on the level of interest in individual villages concerning different courses and then goes on to design the programmes.

For them, human capital is the single biggest obstacle for the development of small-scale sectors.

The department also offers technology assistance, for example, in testing consumer, agri products and cosmetics. The assistant director said that there is a market demand for better quality so the SSID is supporting businesses to improve theirs. This ranges from food safety and standards to cosmetics quality.

“With sufficient vocational training, young people can start their own businesses, contribute to our economy and facilitate entrepreneurship,” the officials remarked.



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