Labour and Foreign Employment Minister Manusha Nanayakkara said his Ministry has been able to secure lucrative employment opportunities in several countries for skilled workers including caregiver jobs in Japan and Europe, hospitality industry jobs in England, Canada, Australia and Construction industry jobs in the Middle East.
But the Minister lamented it has been difficult to find workers with necessary skills to meet this job demand.
The Minister said that to secure these job opportunities, the necessary skilled workers should be produced, and that an agreement will be made with the Vocational Training Authority to provide vocational training for youth aimed at foreign employment.
The Minister was speaking on the occasion of signing a memorandum of understanding between the Sri Lanka Bureau of Foreign Employment and the Vocational Training Authority this morning (18) to provide vocational training for youth aimed at foreign employment.
The Minister speaking at the event further said;
In accordance with this Memorandum of Understanding, the Sri Lanka Vocational Training Authority will train professionals with necessary skills for foreign employment, provide them with the national vocational qualifications and provide other professional certificates according to the guidelines provided by the Sri Lanka Bureau of Foreign Employment.
Priority will be given to workers who have received training from the Vocational Training Authority when providing foreign employment opportunities in the future.
According to this Memorandum of Understanding, registration of students for vocational training, the standard of training, skills and certification process will be done subject to the guidelines of the SLBFE.
Under the SLBFE Act, which functions under the Ministry of Labour and Foreign Employment, there is an opportunity to train workers
targeting foreign jobs. But training is not our main task. The main task of this institution is to regulate the field of foreign employment. Also, the welfare of expatriate workers and their family members becomes a major responsibility of this institution. The primary responsibility for training workers for employment is assigned to the Ministry of Education and to the Ministry of Vocational Training. So we took a decision to leave such matters in the hands of the vocational training institutes in the public sector and the private vocational training institutes recognized by the government. It will be implemented as a policy decision. We are paying more attention to the welfare and protection of expatriate workers and their families.
The Vocational Training Authority spends over three billion rupees for vocational training. Although the Sri Lanka Bureau of Foreign Employment received a lot of income through vocational training, we are now working with the Vocational Training Authority to produce workers with the necessary skills for foreign jobs and to produce the kind of vocational training needed by the labour market. When sending workers for foreign jobs, we had identified problems such as lack of training and necessary skills.
According to the agreement made with the Vocational Training Authority, it will be possible to produce a worker with necessary skills for foreign jobs.
From here on, the Foreign Employment Bureau will deal with the welfare and safety of the expatriate worker and also intervene in streamlining remittances sent by the expatriate worker in the correct way through legally accredited channels.
By May of last year, the amount of foreign reserves had dropped to about 200 million US dollars. We have been able to improve foreign reserves significantly now. Our goal was to bring 500 million US dollars a month to this country from foreign workers. Last month, we were able to bring in an amount of 580 million US dollars from overseas workers alone.
Now the world's labour market is demanding Sri Lankan workers. We have not been able to supply workers according to the demand of the world labour market. Today, we have not been able to send the required number of workers with Japanese language proficiency requested by Japan. We have not been able to send the required number of caregivers that Japan has requested. We have not been able to send the required number of workers to the hospitality sector in countries like England, Canada and Australia. We have not been able to fill the job orders we have got from Europe for caregivers. By the year 2030, there is a demand of 3.5 million nurses in the world's labour market. We have not been able to meet the required numbers. There has been a great growth in the construction sector in Saudi Arabia. A large number of construction workers are needed for the Neom City project with an investment of five hundred billion dollars. There is a big demand for foreign workers in the IT sector in Japan.
There is a big demand for welders in South Korea. When we received these job offers, we faced difficulties in finding workers with necessary skills and experience. After working with the Vocational Training Authority and Korean Tech Institute, we have been able to send nearly four hundred people as welders to Korea. We will get job offers from Korea's shipping industry and Japan's shipping industry. During my visit to Japan last week, we were able to secure many job opportunities in the building maintenance service and construction industry. We will also get jobs in the aviation sector.
We expect the full support of the Vocational Training Authority to produce the workers with necessary skills for the foreign employment opportunities we receive.
Acting Chairman of the SLBFE Saminda Jayasekara and Chairman of Sri Lanka Vocational Training Authority Retired Air Vice Marshal Prasanna Ranasinghe signed the agreement on behalf of their respective institutions. Minister of Education Susil Premajayantha and Minister of State for Foreign Employment Promotion Jagath Pushpakumara were also present on this occasion.