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Govt to play matchmaker for school drop-outs



Deputy Minister Duminda Dissanayake

Youth Affairs and Skills Development Deputy Minister Duminda Dissanayake, a young aspiring politician, in an interview with the Sunday Observer said the decision to make vocational training mandatory for all school dropouts leaving before GCE Ordinary Level will be implemented shortly by the Government as it aspires to elevate Sri Lanka's image from an unskilled, cheap labour exporting country to a skilled manpower generator.

The Deputy Minister who will celebrate his thirty second birthday tomorrow said the President was sound in his decision to appoint two young members of his Government to head the Youth Affairs and Skills Development Ministry, an area involving the youth of the country. "I believe we are in a better state of mind to understand their aspirations, desires and drawbacks and help them find their place in society."

The Government with the initiative of Minister Dallas Alahapperuma is in the process of implementing a program targeting school dropouts. The program yet in development stage was partially inspired by the F3 team.

The F3 team comprises students who failed all three subjects at the GCE Advanced Level exam last year. Among the F3 group, there were students who obtained ten As at the GCE Ordinary Level.

They can never be classified as ignorant or disqualified.

The formal school system did not fit them in but they ought to fit in somewhere. Evaluation of a three-hour examination, at the end of a lengthy two-year education span must not be allowed to cast them as obsolete and useless.

A good portion of these AL drop outs enter the job market as unskilled employees. Our aim is to end this tradition.

The Government has come forward to find ways to turn these youth into skilled labour.

We invite the F3, F2 and F1 groups to come to us, make use of the vast opportunities available in the vocational training sector to add value to themselves as job seekers so that they can market themselves better and secure better jobs.

Under the proposed school-dropout program the Government will take up the role of matchmaker and find potential school leavers placements in the technical education sector so that these students will be trained to become active contributors in the development process instead of joining the queue of the jobless.

The proposal is to make six months training at a State-run vocational centre or a technical training institute compulsory for school dropouts who will leave school before national examinations - GCE Ordinary Level or GCE Advanced Level. Without this six month training certificate the students will not be issued their leaving certificate.

The objective is to equip the dropouts with skills to secure placements in the alternate job market. The present school system drives students and parents for white collar jobs whereas more lucrative jobs are available elsewhere. We are currently making an effort to enhance recognition to blue collar jobs and popularise technical training. This is not just masonry or carpentry.

Technical education involves motor mechanics and information technology, beauty culture, hairdressing, etc areas where there is a high demand but a dearth of skilled manpower.

Construction is an area that can be more lucrative than a doctor's profession considering the industry's boom.

This was the first time the two important ministries-Youth Affairs and Skills Development were brought under one roof, under a minister who is a youth himself. I am happy to make my contribution to find solutions to the burning problems of our youth.

I believe as young ministers we are in a better position to read their aspirations and deliver better results. In the past Youth Affairs and Skills Development were two seperate ministries and were pulled in opposite directions.

We invite the young members of our society to join hands with us and take advantage of the numerous training programs available to them via the vast network of technical colleges and vocational training centres islandwide.

We revise our syllabi from time to time to suit the changing needs of the job market.

Hence it is a great opportunity for our youth to equip themselves and raise their value before stepping in the direction of the job market. Our aim is to revise Sri Lanka's image overseas from a cheap unskilled labour provider to a skilled labour exporter.

All programs offered at our institutions are internationally accredited to boost recognition.

They are recognised worldwide and almost all the students passing out from these institutes secure jobs before they attend the convocation.

In future the labour force passing out from these institutes will be particularly recognised since the Government is contemplating making it mandatory for skilled workers like plumbers and electricians to get certified by the State.

This is a proposal that has been given serious consideration.

In other countries you will not be allowed inside a house or a construction site unless you are a registered plumber or electrician. This is not the case in Sri Lanka.

We are planning to introduce such a system in Sri Lanka. This will be an added advantage for our youth trained in State vocational and technical training centre.

In addition, we have planned to set up special units of certified skilled workers at the Ministry. This will provide easy access for people to find and get in touch with a certified technician, carpenter or plumber. At the moment there is no such contact mechanism. There is only word of mouth.

The people found this way, will neither guarantee a job well done, nor can they be held accountable for anything gone wrong. This is a big flaw in our system.

With the end of the conflict, the youth in the North and East areas have become more and more independent. In this light the Ministry has planned for the year 2011, establishment of a Ceylon German Technical Training Institute in Northern province and a branch of National Institute of Business Management (NIBM) in Jaffna district. There are more proposals in the pipeline.

We hope to increase the intake to our institutions to nearly 140,000 this year. The intake for 2009 and 2010 were 114,137 and 99,736 respectively.

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