Around 46% private employers in the country find difficulties in filling job vacancies, as most applicants do not possess the skills required, according to a latest study.
Lack of work experience (35% employers) and required qualifications (32%) are two other major obstacles employers have identified in their efforts to find the best suitable candidate for a job vacancy, found the study which was released on Saturday.
The findings came out in a study titled "Skills Gap and Youth Employment in Bangladesh: An Exploratory Analysis"– jointly conducted by Center for Policy Dialogue (CPD) and the Bangladesh office of the German social development organisation Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung (EBS).
Findings of the survey, which was conducted between October and November this year, were presented at an event held at the capital's Brac Centre Inn and also streamed virtually.
Total 100 non-government employers, from various sectors of the economy, with highest respondents from manufacturing, and information and communication sector, which was 22% and 26% respectively- were surveyed to understand and identify the skills that have value in the Bangladeshi labour market.
Based on the feedback received from the employers, CPD then developed a skills assessment test to evaluate at least 500 students and recent graduates from 41 universities.
The findings from the online skills assessment of graduates showed that the highest average score was obtained for "creativity" whereas the lowest average scores were obtained in "Communication, English Language skill, Numeracy and Mathematics."
"There is a gap between the market demands and supply of graduates. The passing graduates are not being able to utilise their skills," said Dr Fahmida Khatun, executive director, CPD.
"The demand of the labour market is changing gradually to adapt with modern technology. However, we do not have sufficient numbers of vocational training centers," she added.
"The governments' 8th 5-year plan sets a target to create around 11.3 million jobs, but are our graduates ready to get the jobs?" she asked.
The research finds that the employers considered three most important factors while making a hiring decision—soft skills (83% employers), hard skills (65%) and work experience (51%).
The most important soft skills, according to employers, include communication, time management, problem-solving, teamwork and leadership, critical thinking, professional networking skills and creativity.
Most important hard skills according to employers are computer skills, technical skills and subject-specific knowledge, English language skills, Operational skills, Business skills, Numeracy and mathematical skills, General knowledge and awareness about current affairs.
"The study reveals that employers considered communication and English language skill as a filtering tool. They think if a graduate is good in English, his other skills may also be good. But the reality is not like that," said A K M Fahim Mashroor, chief executive officer, Bdjobs.com.
"I am surprised why they (employers) need English as a major skill as we need Bangla in majority cases," he added.
He also said that the main problem of our graduates, now-a-days, is attitude as they are more inclined to get a government job since the national pay scale 2015 was declared.
"So, most graduates are preparing them for the BCS exam, not for the private sector," he added.
The study finds three most important skills that employers expect to see from job seekers are, communication skills (61%), problem-solving skills (46%), and teamwork and leadership skills (37%).
40% of employers responded that their employees may need new skills due to advancement in technology.
However, the major constraints that may prevent employees from producing the best output are lack of motivation (51%), insufficient training (46%) and lack of skills (38%), inability to use new technology (35%), mental health (33%) and poor work environment (29%).
"Though the study finds more demands on soft skill, I would say hard skill is a big problem now. On an average, factories do not have skilled mid-level management," said Syed Nasim Manzur, managing director, Apex Footwear Ltd.
"A linkage needs to be created between our education system and the economy. And the intervention must be ensured in the secondary level, not in tertiary level," he added.
He also said that English language skills will no longer be a requirement for jobs at Apex Footwear.
Barrister Nihad Kabir, president of Metropolitan Chamber of Commerce and Industry, said, "Our education system is faulty. Students do not get sector-based education and everyone wants to do get a government job."
As the chief guest, Planning minister MA Mannan, said, "We want the changes in skill generation as global market demands it. The government is working in increasing skilled manpower through technical education, universities specialised in science and technology."
He commented that the number of universities should increase.
The study made some recommendations for employers, educational institutions and the government including reform the education system so that students develop sufficient soft skills along with hard skills.
Among others, Shirin Akhter, MP, spoke at the event while Syed Yusuf Saadat, senior research associate, CPD presented the study findings.