Despite having a significantly young demography, Bangladesh faces the challenge of creating a robust and continuous pipeline of talent. Are the youths getting the proper guidance and supervision from their respective educational institutions? Are they being trained to face the challenges? Some of the stakeholders from both parties tried to answer these questions in a panel discussion held recently.
The discussion was initiated by Bangladesh MBA Association, in association with Bangladesh Brand Forum, at IBA Alumni Club, and focused on the theme “Academia-Industry Partnerships: Business Education Perspective”. Having some of the top leaders from industry and academia in the audience, the panel consisted of Abrar A Anwar, Chief Executive Officer, Standard Chartered Bangladesh; Shehzad Munim, Managing Director, British American Tobacco Bangladesh; M. Mahboob Rahman, PhD, Dean & Professor of Business, North South University; MD Ridhwanul Haq, PhD, Associate Professor & BBA Chairperson, IBA, University of Dhaka. It was moderated by Mehnaz Kabir, Group Chief Marketing & Communications Officer, Rangs Group.
The focus of the discussion was on restructuring the nation's education system and joint initiatives by the industry and academia that would play an important part in reducing the skill gap in the years to come. Moderator of the panel, Mehnaz Kabir, started off with an introductory question asking about the interaction level of business groups, corporate houses, and local entrepreneurs.
“It's not up to the level,” answered Mr. Abrar A Anwar. “For sustainability, we look at foreign resources and slowly, we are inclining towards local resources. We have more than a hundred Bangladeshis working abroad for SCB. We get raw talents and we have the required infrastructure to groom them up. There are certain structural issues. For example, we only have the traditional financial products. We do not have options, derivatives or the opportunity for interest hedging.”
The lack of collaboration between regulatory agencies and private bodies is evident. Universities and corporates need to integrate to form productive alliances. This brings in the question: Who should approach for the partnerships?
Mr. Shehzad Munim shares his opinion by saying, “We get good talents. BAT only has 3 expatriates and all the rest are Bangladeshis. We have our own training and development infrastructure. However, there is a massive lack of T&D in the local companies. Thus, we do not have enough people who are capable of taking responsibilities. Education needs to expand beyond the boundaries of university leadership. Only then, leadership can be developed within employees. Thinking beyond the horizon is something that lacks in mid-level managers in Bangladesh.”
A prevalent problem in the industry is to not get the ideal candidate for a job. Ridhwanul Haq shares a valuable point. He says, “We are yet to address these problems. Education market is not an industry yet. But, university education needs to be addressed as an industry. A three-month internship cannot be enough. Students need to engage themselves with the corporate environment from the very first day. They should spend at least one week in corporate environment every semester. We need to work on content development that includes cases and facts. Students need to understand the difference between job and career.”
On asking about who should make the first move in this scenario, Mr. Mahboob Rahman shares that, business schools should make the first move and approach corporates to collaborate. He said, “We need a systematic platform for universities and corporates. Why business schools? Because today, students are finding it more useful to watch a 10 minutes video on YouTube than listening to a 90 minutes lecture at class. Academicians and universities need to reinvent themselves in new ways that create value for students. Online learning is a taboo. Online MBAs of reputed universities is expensive worldwide.”
Mr. Abrar A Anwar was not hesitant to point out some shortcomings either. He says, “Case studies are missing. Teachers need to be challenged and continue developing themselves. Teachers are teaching 15 year old books in primitive ways. These things need to change.”
Mr. Shehzad Munim shares that they took a course on communication to prepare for job interviews. He compares the situation to light and darkness. On one hand, there is light of potential and prosperity for Bangladesh. On the other, the education system is age old and it has failed to cope with the dynamic innovation in academic industry. Even in this darkness, some glimpses of hopes are ignited when a number of bright young minds come out from this rugged education system. But, the number is very low compared to the thousands of Business graduates that are produced every year.
MD Ridhwanul Haq sights an example of ICT ministry of Bangladesh and North-South University collaborating to develop managers for IT sector. He says, “Indian market regularly updates their syllabus. Effective rural marketing and language barriers are problems every consumer goods manufacturer faces today. We need new syllabus and new modules to address these issues. Along with sharing knowledge, we need to create knowledge.”
Shariful Islam, Managing Director of Bangladesh Brand Forum, then took the floor to conclude the session by saying, “We need to think 10 years down the line. Are machines going to replace our jobs? What skill-sets do we need five years later? We need to find out and develop those skills. The key skill-sets are: problem solving and creativity. We need to incorporate them in our education industry. How will retail change ten years down the line due to e-commerce? We need to find out the skills we need among tomorrow's leaders and nurture it among today's students.”
Everyone agreed on the fact that, we need to raise the quality of our MBAs to a great extent in order to reach global standards. Making MBA a strictly post-experience degree will surely be the first step in the path towards attaining the global standard.