We ought to promote the concept of made-in-Pakistan

Made in Pakistan, the only way out since the independence of Pakistan, our nation has never been able to overcome its economic problems. In terms of GDP, Pakistan’s service sector contributes the highest, then comes agriculture, and the last is the Industrial/ manufacturing sector. This is the main difference between us and countries like Germany, Japan, China and many others. These war-torn countries developed after they invested heavily and brought reforms in their educational and industrial sectors.

Time and again, Pakistan had to go to donors, IMF and other financial institutions to get a breather. This will continue unless we address the root cause of the problem and bring some basic changes to our industrial and educational approach.

Academicians and industrialists have brought up the issue repeatedly of bridging the gap between industry and academia. However, reality speaks for itself. Over some time, universities have become allegedly money-making machines, and the quality of education has declined drastically. Many young students enrolled in different university programs don’t even know what they are doing and why they are doing it. I am not saying that universities should not charge hefty amounts; rather, in my opinion, the money is not smartly spent by the student.

On the other hand, the industrial sector is also not showing a bright picture but rather a very gloomy one. Brain drain happening these days is an eye-opener for our policymakers. There are other factors for this brain drain, but our industries have also played a negative role in this loss. They have failed miserably to give our youth skills, professionalism and, most importantly, hope. All is not lost. We can still get on the right path. Academia and the industrial sector must get out of their comfort zone.

An apologue for the boiling frog fits perfectly here. If a frog is put suddenly into boiling water, it will jump out, but if it is set in normal water brought slowly to warm and then to boiling, it will not perceive the danger and will be cooked to death. Our inability or unwillingness to change will slowly and surely end in catastrophic disaster. Our educational system believes in quantity, not in quality. We have to stop living in a fool’s paradise. Sooner the better we should come out of it.

Our academia is producing forced labour. Youth are forced to do jobs which are being provided to them rather than doing what they are good at. Hardly have we seen the right man for the right job. Engineering graduates start dropping CVs to every technical job vacancy related to the course outline they studied in universities. The moment they get a job offer, they join without knowing the outcome of what it will lead to. On-job learning starts, and that becomes their career. In most scenarios, the potential of attaining excellence is lost because of initially choosing the wrong career path.

Our universities fail to polish the hidden skillset and even kill the seed of entrepreneurship many youths possess. Instead, they are tailored to job seekers. Often, we see and read about MOUs being signed between different universities and chambers of commerce. Engineering universities regularly take students on industrial visits. At the same time, these visits are important but are not sufficient alone. Our educational system needs experienced industrialists, and they should come forward and join hands with academia. Setting up a small to medium-sized industry requires nearly one to two years of planning. Instead of importing machinery directly and putting pressure on the exchequer, industries can collaborate/ask universities to provide a better or equivalent solution. Enterprises have to come forward one step, and academia has to accept open-heartedly that they have forgotten the meaning of the Final Year Project (FYP). If proper requirements are provided to universities, they could develop solutions, and these final-year projects can become the required products.

Universities and industries need to join hands for the “Final Year Project” in a way that not only fulfils a student’s educational needs but also caters to industrial requirements. University focus should not only be completing the required credit hours for the degree. They should also work on the professional development of young minds and build confidence and self-belief. Changing the final year project to last year’s PRODUCT would slow our free fall; rather, it could be a reverse gear for the declining educational and industrial sectors.

The student should create or re-engineer something based on the market’s demand, which they could sell; if not, their degrees should be withheld for some time. It does not mean that they should re-invent the wheel. The wheel was already invented a long time ago. The approach should be to think creatively and make it efficient. Universities should place spotters in 4 and 5th semesters to find a potential entrepreneur. Mostly, at the end of the 6th semester or the beginning of the 7th semester, universities are allocating FYPs. This is the right time to find and invest in the potential entrepreneur. Courses on Entrepreneurship should be offered to engineering students. Universities should teach an Interdisciplinary approach to their final-year projects. The final year project is developed as a product by a technical team; & managed and marketed by a management team. A startup is born before graduation. Products produced by these young entrepreneurs will gradually decrease our import bill and increase our exports. This is how we can make way for a new industrial revolution; let us all join hands and believe in “Made in Pakistan”, which is also the need of the hour and probably the only way out.

The writer is Engr. Jawad Janjua Al-Qawi Steel – www.alqawisteel.com

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