A new agreement between the International Labour Organization (ILO) and the Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association (BGMEA) will see a range of activities implemented to enhance garment worker skills in the country. 

Signed on Friday (13 December), the deal will see the Centre of Excellence for Bangladesh Apparel Industry (CEBAI) step up its operations. CEBAI, which was opened at the beginning of this year by the ILO and BGMEA, with funding from the Swedish Government and Swedish fashion giant H&M, has provided basic sewing machine skills training to workers while promoting training within companies.

"This agreement will pave the way to more comprehensive operations aimed at boosting skills at many levels throughout the RMG [ready-made garment] sector," said Tuomo Poutiainen, RMG programme manager at the ILO. 

BGMEA president Md Siddiqur Rahman added: "By focusing on the skills, productivity and research areas most important to the Bangladesh RMG industry, CEBAI will play an important role in the development of the sector and will greatly benefit those who work in it."

The activities, which will take place until the end of 2016, include training and assessing 3,500 workers and 110 industry trainers/assessors as per the national technical and vocational qualification framework (NTVQF) for the RMG sector.

New demand-driven training packages will be developed and launched including supervisors' training, cutting and design. 

CEBAI's Enterprise Based Training (EBT) activities, which work with RMG factories to provide training on their own premises, will also be upscaled. An additional ten companies will be recruited into the EBT scheme, while the existing companies participating in EBT will be further supported.

The ILO said emphasis will be placed on 'Recognition of Prior Learning' (RPL) which seeks to assess and certify workers based on skills they have already learned. The use of training logbooks and/or service books will be promoted to both workers and employers. Meanwhile, advice will be offered to help enterprises employ people with disabilities as well as to promote more women to supervisory and managerial grades.

CEBAI will also establish a Coordination Cell and information unit in Dhaka city to market CEBAI among brands, donor agencies and the private sector. Trade unions will conduct workshops on worker rights, collective bargaining and freedom of association.