Bangladesh: courses to raise job prospects for the poor in the textiles and building sectors

Project completed
Three sewing machine operators in a textile factory receiving on-the-job training from three other people.
Many sewing machine operators in Bangladesh lack the necessary skills. A project supported by the SDC is working to redress this. © Sudokkho

The textiles and construction sectors in Bangladesh are recording high rates of growth, but many poor women and men lack the necessary qualifications for skilled jobs. By 2019, a project jointly financed by Switzerland and the United Kingdom aims to give 110,000 of them better prospects through on-the-job training. The results so far are promising.

Country/region Topic Period Budget
Employment & economic development
Vocational training
Employment creation
Vocational training
Tradepolicy & market system
01.04.2015 - 31.03.2021
CHF 5'825'000

Bangladesh is a densely populated country with a population of 165 million people, many of whom earn their living in industry. The textile sector in particular is booming, with over 5,500 companies and four million employees: in 2017, Bangladesh was the world's second biggest textile exporter after China. The industry has proven to have contributed to reducing poverty – even though its history of accidents and poor working and production conditions have repeatedly made headline news. 

There is a shortage of skilled labour, however: most of the mainly impoverished population have no education whatsoever. This is where the 'Sudokkho' project (Bangla for well trained) comes in, jointly financed by the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC) and the UK's Department for International Development. The implementation is carried out by Palladium, a globally active development organisation, in cooperation with Swisscontact and the British Council. The aim of the project, which runs from 2015 to 2019, is to provide 110,000 poor women and men with initial training courses in the textiles and construction sectors. This is intended to improve their chances of finding skilled jobs – for example as sewing machine operators, painters or carpenters – and thus also their prospects for a higher income. 

Success through partnership with the private sector 

To achieve this goal, Sudokkho is working with the private sector. On the one hand, the project supports private providers that offer affordable and high-quality training courses for the target group, especially women and members of disadvantaged groups. On the other hand, it works together with companies from the two high-growth sectors to set up on-the-job training. No fewer than 35 textile companies – including suppliers of well-known European labels – have already begun to invest in the systematic training of their employees. 

The Sudokkho approach seems to be working, as an overview of the results achieved so far shows. By the summer of 2017, 10,005 graduates from the courses supported by the project had found a job. This total number includes 4,486 female and 339 male sewing machine operators who had undergone in-house training, and 5,180 graduates of courses run by external private-sector providers (including 1,736 women). Thanks to their jobs, they were able to earn additional income totalling GBP 4.26 million.


An instructor shows a group of men wearing hard hats how plastic pipes are processed.
As part of the project, training is also provided for jobs in the construction sector, which principally employs men. © Sudokkho

Businesses are increasingly realising that it is worthwhile to invest in well-trained employees, as this can also increase a company's productivity. Eight groups of local textile companies and one construction company have entered into partnerships with Sudokkho and invested a total of GBP 1.2 million in in-house training. A further 36 partnerships have been concluded with private providers of training courses. 

Lukas Lüscher, the SDC's programme officer in charge, believes that this model of industry-based training shows great promise – even though wages are still very low. During a visit in the autumn of 2017, he was particularly impressed by the modern standards of the textile company in question, which produces for a European label. "Staff even have access to additional services such as advice on various areas of life, such as finances or family planning," says Lüscher. "Let's hope that the trend continues and that working conditions improve for the long term."