The pandemic cost countless jobs in Bangladesh. A novel initiative is helping hundreds get back on their feet

UCEP, in tandem with Standard Chartered Bangladesh, is helping to boost their job prospects with a technical training course

Published : 11 Nov 2022, 05:43 AM
Updated : 11 Nov 2022, 05:43 AM

Rasel Mia was among several employees who lost their jobs at Meghla Motors when the coronavirus pandemic struck Bangladesh. The workshop in Sylhet resumed operation with five workers when the pandemic eased. But Rasel and three others did not get their jobs back as the situation had yet to return to normal.

Now, Rasel is back at the workshop, and with a higher salary to boot.

Speaking to at a training centre of the Underprivileged Children’s Educational Programmes, or UCEP, Rasel recounted how he turned his life around. “I got an opportunity after two years without a job. After undertaking technical training at UCEP Bangladesh, I got back my job at a monthly salary of Tk 8,000,” said Rasel, who was receiving Tk 5,000 a month before the crisis.

“I spent my days in misery. I joined the training course in June. After one month of training, I returned to Meghla Motors.”

A survey by the Bangladesh Institute of Development Studies found that 57 percent of people in the informal sectors were laid off at the onset of the pandemic, while 32 percent saw their income decrease. In the formal sector, the rate of job loss was 13 percent.

At UCEP’s Sylhet centre, unemployed people aged between 18 and 35 are being trained in sewing, electronics and electrical engineering, automobile servicing, welding and other technical skills in several shifts.

Mohammad Kayum Molla, acting regional manager of UCEP in Sylhet, said they took up a programme with the support of Standard Chartered Bangladesh to train those who left jobless during the pandemic.

In the first and second phases of the programme, UCEP helped 300 people get a job in the Rajshahi-Rangpur region and 500 in Khulna. In the third phase, 800 people from these regions were trained.

In the fourth phase, 500 people from Sylhet, Habiganj and Sunamganj areas are receiving training. They also include people who were affected by floods.

During training, each beneficiary received 20 kg of food aid on four occasions, Kayum said.

At the BSCIC Industrial Estate in Sylhet’s Khadimnagar, several men and women trained under the UCEP-Standard Chartered programme are now working at Suntech Energy Limited, a battery manufacturer.

The workers, including Nargis Akter, Joly Begum, Shahajul Islam, Jubed Ahmad, Jahangir Alam and Md Sumon, said their salary increased by up to Tk 2,000 after the training.

Joly said: “We once worked at the factory for Tk 6,000 a month. We lost our jobs during the pandemic. I joined UCEP’s training course in June. Afterwards, I got my job back and my salary has increased by Tk 1,500.”

Kayum said the training programme focused on skills that will ensure jobs for the beneficiaries. “We also contact entrepreneurs to secure jobs for the trainees.”

Bitopi Das Chowdhury, head of corporate affairs at Standard Chartered Bangladesh, said the bank is more interested in engaging people in such training programmes as part of its social responsibility rather than helping them out with one-time funds. “This helps people stand on their own feet.”

“People may seek help from others after spending the one-time funds for special needs. We rather want to get involved in sustainable innovations that help a person become successful and solvent.

“Standard Chartered bank has long been doing the work related to social responsibility in this way.”

Toufique Imrose Khalidi
Editor-in-Chief and Publisher