A new centre of excellence to provide training for Bangladesh apparel workers was officially opened today (7 December).

The initiative, which is backed by Swedish fashion retailer Hennes and Mauritz (H&M), will help industry "overcome challenges relating to recruiting and retaining skilled personnel while empowering the workforce and contributing to the development of the country," says Jenny Fagerlin, the retailer's sustainability manager in Bangladesh.

The Centre of Excellence for the Bangladesh Apparel Industries (CEBAI) is also supported by the International Labour Organization (ILO), the Swedish government, and the Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association (BGMEA).

Based in Ashulia, a ready-made garment (RMG) cluster area close to Dhaka, it aims to train workers to nationally recognised standards - giving them the skills to increase employability and earn higher wages. It will also help guide the sector towards higher productivity, value addition and the use of new technology.

"In a hugely competitive global market the skills and productivity of the Bangladesh RMG workforce must be strengthened," explains said Atiqul Islam, president of BGMEA. He added that similar centres are expected to be replicated to serve the needs of the RMG sector across Bangladesh.

As well as training workers, the project will also train supervisors and managers on occupational safety and health (OSH), disability inclusion, worker rights and responsibilities. The skills level of existing workers from the RMG sector will be formally assessed through Recognition of Prior Learning (RPL), and certified as the basis for improved wages. The project will also deliver training and certification for instructors, industry trainers and assessors and briefings for managers and executives.

The Centre of Excellence was officially opened by HE Sheikh Hasina, Prime Minister of Bangladesh, during a ceremony held at the Dhaka Apparel Summit which opened today (7 December).