Pakistan

In Pakistan, cultivating young entrepreneurs

By A. Sami Malik

A vocational training programme supported by Barclays and UNICEF gives a young motorcycle mechanic in Pakistan just the start he needed.

OKARA, Punjab Province, Pakistan, January 2015 – “I have my own motorcycle repair shop and am earning enough for my family to have a decent life,” says Mohammad Tanvir, 19. “Circumstances forced me to give up education after middle school. I started working in a motorcycle repair shop just to learn some skills. I did not get paid for my work since I was a novice and the owner of the shop was teaching me.”

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© UNICEF Pakistan/2015/Naqvi
Mohammad Tanvir, 19, completed a 14-month course on motorbike mechanics at the Vocational Training Institute in Okara, Pakistan, and is now an entrepreneur with his own motorbike repair shop.

Poverty, along with limited access to both quality education and employment opportunities, is often a major factor hindering young men and women from fulfilling their potential. Through learning demand-driven skills and getting guidance on employment or entrepreneurship opportunities, young people can have the opportunity to brighten their futures. This is precisely the objective of Building Young Futures, a project implemented by UNICEF Pakistan, with funds from Barclays UK.

While working in the shop, Mohammad heard about a course on motorbike mechanics for young people, offered at the Vocational Training Institute (VTI) in Okara. “I thought, Why not do it the proper way and be a certified motorbike mechanic from a reputable organization? I joined the course and am enjoying the benefits now.”

After completing a 14-month training course at the VTI Okara in 2013, Mohammad had enough confidence as a mechanic to start his own business, rather than work for someone else. On the basis of his certificate from the Institute and pledging the land of his modest family home, he secured a bank loan of PKR 80,000 (about US$760).

Hard work and confidence

With capital in hand, Mohammad rented a shop in one of the bazars in Okara and bought all the tools he needed. His hard work and confidence paid dividends, and in a little over 18 months, he managed to establish his shop as a reliable and professional repair point for all types of motorbikes.

“I earn between 20,000 and 25,000 rupees [$190 to $240] per month from my shop,” Mohammad says. “Sometimes I buy a motorcycle that needs major repairs and sell it at a good price after overhauling it. This helps me make additional money, which I invest in purchasing another bike or covering an unexpected family expense.”    

In 2012 in selected districts of Punjab province, UNICEF initiated the second phase of the Building Young Futures project. Its goal is to improve income-generating opportunities for socially excluded and vulnerable adolescents by enabling them to access training in life skills, financial literacy and enterprise management. To support the implementation of the project, UNICEF partnered with the Punjab Vocational Training Council (PVTC) and the Department of Youth Affairs, Sports, Archaeology and Tourism.

At the VTI Okara, Mohammad was trained by Zahid Iqbal. For many years, Zahid worked at the Atlas Honda Motorcycle factory in Lahore, but with a passion for teaching, he switched jobs and joined VTI Okara.

UNICEF Image
© UNICEF Pakistan/2015/Naqvi
Mohammad works at his motorbike repair shop, which he set up with a bank loan after graduating from the VTI Okara. He now earns between PKR 20,000 and 25,000 ($190 to $240) per month.

“I always wanted to teach and transfer my knowledge about motorbikes to the younger generation,” Zahid says. “It gives me a great deal of satisfaction to help young people progress in life. Some of them become entrepreneurs; some move abroad. But whenever they return, they come to see me and pay a lot of respect. It is a wonderful feeling to see my students do well in life.”

Prosperity and encouragement

Around 850 students are enrolled in the VTI Okara at one time, receiving vocational training in two shifts. Nearly 40 per cent are girls and young women, who often take up embroidery, cutting and stitching, dress-making or beautician courses.

Talking about the benefits of vocational training, Liaqat Ali Khan, Principal of the VTI Okara says, “The verifiable rate of employment of our students is around 80 per cent. There are no serious issues that students face during the training, except that some of them are from very poor families and the stipend of PKR 500 ($4.70) per month which they receive is just not enough. Some of the students travel from distant villages, and commuting is expensive.”

Thousands of youth like Mohammad have benefitted from the Building Young Futures project, says Sarah Coleman, UNICEF Pakistan’s Chief of Child Protection. “Many more will benefit in the future,” she says. “Collaboration between the two organizations and the PVTC network of institutes has given young men and women not only a decent livelihood, but also the hope for a brighter future. Acquiring a skill which helps a young person find a decent job or start a business benefits not just the individual, but the entire family. It brings prosperity and encourages other young people to follow suit.”


 

 

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