Skill development and enhancing opportunities


Punjab Skill Development fund has a unique business to finance training sessions organised by relevant organisation and training hubs to train unskilled, vulnerable and poor people of Bahawalpur, Bahawalnagar, Lodhran and Muzafargarh on different trades, to eventually let these people take charge of their destinies. The Government of Punjab has constituted Punjab Economic Opportunity Programme (PEOP) for the uplift of the masses mired in poverty. This venture is being launched in collaboration with the Department for International Development UK (DFID). The conceptual framework that led to the creation of this programme hinges upon capacity building and skill development. Towards this end a special component, Punjab Skill Development Fund is added in the project to provide skills to the unskilled people of the aforementioned districts that comprise 11 per cent population of Punjab but have the worst poverty incidences then the rest of the province. According to a survey conducted in 2008 by Bureau of Statistics, Planning and Development Department, Government of Punjab, Bahawalnagar, Bahawalpur, Lodhran, and Muzafargarh have 51.30 per cent, 55.07 per cent, 50.40 per cent and 51.75 per cent poverty respectively. Similarly the supply of skilled labour is as inadequate in these targeted areas as the provision of basic amenities, with Lodhran having 1 per cent skilled labour while Muzafargarh housing only 3 per cent of them. In this context Government of Punjab and DFID plan to contribute £12.5 million each for skill development to train approximately 250,000 people under the PEOP. The idea is to alleviate poverty through empowerment. The aim is to make people realise that they have the potential, the guts and the abilities to get ahead. It is all about reaching out to people, giving them power to write their own fate. Registered under the company ordinance 1984 PSDF has a board of directors selected by the Chief Minister Punjab, Mian Shahbaz Sharif. The combination of businessmen, economists, academics, NGO personal, media persons, government secretaries and private sector employee makes the BoG of PSDF a dynamic force that could think different about spending and making the best use of it. An independent management is working under the board to carry the business forward. The diversity of experiences and vision of the board members makes it apt at deciding the quality of human resource needed in the market. These views were shared by Ali Sarfraz CEO PSDF during an exclusive interview with Profit.


Telling us about PSDF Mr Ali Sarfraz said that “money makes things roll, that is what we are all about, giving money where it is most needed. We are not going to fund any capital expenditure, our methodology is to leverage on the existing infrastructure whether it is in the private, public or Not-for-Profit sector. Hinging upon the asset already in place, we will fund the training sessions carried out by companies bidding for our funds. The idea, as I have said, is to get the poor, uneducated and vulnerable segment of these four districts of Punjab to have a chance to improve upon their lot through community participation. We invite proposals through Expression of Interest from trainees, employers and trainers. We make sure that the company or the training institution getting the contract has proper facility, infrastructure, training staff and curriculum to carry out the training. We have our team of consultants to look after these modalities. We prefer companies that could help our trainees get absorbed in the system either by providing them employment opportunities or guiding them through self-employment opportunities. When we say we are funding organisations it does not mean that our job finishes once the money rolls out of our hands into the other. It actually means that, we are funding a mechanism by mean of which deserving people having the potential to add to their lives materially as well as mentally could eventually earn smart. Since it is a demand driven programme, we have made necessary provisions for need identification on scientific basis. We have engaged Centre for Economic Research Pakistan, which is a group of economic researchers from Harvard, Princeton and London School of Economics, to carry out three surveys: households, employers and trainer surveys. The trainer survey would include both formal as well as informal trainers, commonly known as the “Ustad Shagird” phenomenon in our society. The idea behind carrying out these surveys is to identify skills that have the maximum economic return. Through employers’ survey we would come to know the types and kinds of skills required by the market. On an equally important footing we want to know what is the requirement and perception of the household about training and skill development. The household survey will tell us why people shy away from training; much of the market failure in getting people trained for specific jobs has been the inability to remove perceptual barriers regarding training among the uneducated people. This issue needs to be addressed so that motivated and goal oriented people would benefit from the initiatives undertaken by PSDF. All these surveys will be carried out every two years for market and performance evaluation.

PSDF Interventions

Explaining the working mechanism of PSDF Ali Sarfraz said “we are working at three different levels. We are targeting trainers, trainees and employers. At the trainer level we have so far selected 5800 people for initial training with a host of conditions attached for the trainers to fulfil from skill identification to employment generation. At the trainee level we have selected randomly 17,000 people out of 34,000 households. These people would be from the most vulnerable and poor segment of the four villages we have chosen to serve initially. These trainees will be given vouchers to get admission into any public sector training institution. Since the probability is that this sample would have barely finished primary level, therefore, prior to giving vouchers we would, in collaboration with our trainers, educate these people to a certain level, so that they could relate themselves easily to the new environment. At the employer level we are asking employers for capacity building through on the job training facility funded by PSDF. Towards this end we are engaging sector association as well trying to find out about training gaps in organisations and industries.

Vocational training
service providers

Replying to our query regarding the difference between other training institution and PSDF Ali sarfaraz said that “Funding choices for Public sector is made at two levels, funds are either provided for organisational set up or they are given to capitalise on the existing infrastructure in both private and public sector to provide required training to people for skill development or skill enhancement. TEVTA falls in the former category while PSDF is following the later model. TEVTA, PSIC, Pakistan Army, women chamber of commerce etc are bidding for PSD funds. What makes us different otherwise is our ability to cover a large number of people otherwise impossible for any organisation. If we talk of TEVTA it has the capacity to train around one hundred and thirty thousand people, where as the need is somewhere around 1 million. TEVTA with the restriction of only using its given infrastructure can train as much people as it can accommodate physically as well as financially whereas with PSDF the training compass can extend to any number because of the involvement of different entities. Though we are getting bids from public enterprises, our main emphasis is to attract private companies which can only be possible if we give them an opportunity to make profit, which they would obviously get. PSDF is a multifaceted entity providing relief and developmental opportunities to varied market players.”

Success Ratio of PSDF

To a question of how far PSDF has fared in achieving its objective Ali said that, “so far in response to our floated EOI we have received 110 proposals from different entities. After technical evaluation we have selected approximately 54 proposals for final evaluation, of which 17 entities have been given a nod by us. These organisations have proposed to train 30,000 people. So far, since our survey is not completed, we are engaging the bidding firm to do the required survey for us. It is binding on the bidding entities to provide us details such as skill identification, market justification of the identified skills, employment potentials, past training experiences and finally the cost of training. In the initial phase we plan to train 5800 people from the chosen four districts of Punjab with the combination of 40 per cent women and 60 per cent men. The Fund has also signed an agreement with the college of Tourism and Hospitality Management and the Technical up gradation and Skills Development Centres and Pakistan vocational training centre to provide training to 680 residents of six model villages in flood affected areas of Muzafargarh. The CTHM will conduct training session in cooking and hotel management, the TUSDEC in masonry and plumbing and PVTC will train people on dress designing etc.”

Employment Potential

Talking about absorption of people trained under PSDF funds, Mr Ali told us that they are making sure that wage employment or business opportunities are identified by the companies bidding for training. “We have received training proposals carrying mobile numbers of potential employers requiring skilled people. We are making sure that our trainees either get employed or could start their own businesses. We have a number of other interventions in mind, we can work with, such as PBIT, we are seeing micro-finance options and overseas employment is also on our cards.”

Monitoring Mechanism

On replying, our apprehension over the right and correct allocation of PSDF funds Ali said “we are definitely concerned about the monitoring issue. Our plan is to outsource a monitoring consulting firm to see through our training sessions, track trainers and monitor attendance of students and the work plan of the course.

Ali Sarfraz

PSDF’s head office is in Bahawalpur, but Ali sarfraz its CEO sits with his small team at LDA plaza Lahore. Ali joined PSDF in April this year after having served as DCO Sheikhupura previously. He has to his credit writing a training report for ILO-Sponsored program, “Women Employment Concerns and Working Conditions” and a report on “ Improving the System of Local Government in the Punjab”, Institute of Public Policy, Beacon house National University.

Durdana Najam is a freelance financial journalist based in Lahore she can be reached at [email protected]


  1. Pakistan skills is a uk based company aligned with city and guilds to train students in industrial and managerial qualifications

    We are taking applications for courses starting in January based in the uk
    We hope to be training 100 students per month backed up by on the job training back in pakistan

    Should this success continue we hope to role it out across pPakistan in late 2012

Comments are closed.