A centre of excellence that provides training for Bangladesh apparel workers is not only helping the country remain among the world's top ready-made garment (RMG) exporters but also has an important role to play in developing skills for the future.

The Center of Excellence for Bangladesh Apparel Industry (CEBAI) was launched three years ago in November 2014 to address the skills gap in the RMG sector and establish a replicable model of industry-driven training and support services.

It is run by the Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association (BGMEA) and until last month was supported by the International Labour Organization (ILO), Sweden and fashion retailer H&M.

A review of the Centre's achievements yesterday (12 December) heard its actions have benefited workers and employers alike as it has helped create a firm foundation for future skills development in the sector.

"While much has been accomplished, CEBAI is still in its infancy," said Md Atiqul Islam, CEBAI president. "We must continue to nurture it so that it is able to provide the support industry needs to move up the value chain and gain further share in the world market."

Also speaking at the event, BGMEA president Siddiqur Rahman said: "For the industry to fulfil its true potential we need to upgrade the skills of our workforce. There is also a strong need for research that will guide the development of the industry. Looking forward, CEBAI should continue to play a key role to meet both these requirements."  

Achievements include the establishment of the CEBAI Training Centre in Ashulia where a variety of courses for basic sewing machine operators, supervisory and management skills are being taught.

Training methods and curricula that meet the demands of industry have also been introduced. And new competency standards and curricula developed as part of the National Technical and Vocational Qualification Framework (NTVQF) offer basic operator skills in knitwear, denim, lingerie and woven products.

Meanwhile, Recognition of Prior Learning has also been introduced, enabling workers to become certified by having the skills gained through work or past experience assessed.  

Industry needs are being met though the piloting of Enterprise Based Training (EBT) facilities in ten leading RMG groups, which have seen over 4,100 workers trained. Having an in-house EBT centre helps companies eliminate helpers, and develop the capacity of existing workers – resulting in increased productivity and higher wages.

Collaboration with Muslim Aid, UCEP and the Bangladesh-Korea Technical Training Centre has also seen 480 disadvantaged people in Dhaka and Chittagong gain access to training and RMG jobs.

The initiative has also supported three leading RMG companies  – Ananta, Bitopi and Shin Shin – to sign an Inclusive Business Policy to promote gender equality and create better access for persons with disabilities, a step which can be a model for other companies in the industry.

"Although prospects in this sector are bright, the Bangladesh RMG industry has enormous scope to improve productivity through skills development," added Srinivas Reddy, ILO country director.

"I call on the industry to look at what CEBAI has achieved and to build further on these efforts to achieve a more flexible, demand-driven and inclusive skills development system in Bangladesh."