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Kyrgyzstan – Action needed to halt skills exodus

17 October 2013

Kyrgyzstan needs to revive its vocational education and training system to quell a labour exodus that threatens to drain it of a skilled workforce, analysts warn, reports Central Asia Online. 

Kyrgyz State Technical University Rector Turatbek Duishenaliyev told Central Asia Online. "We've lost too many workers. To boost the economy, we need large numbers of qualified engineers, as well as foremen and labourers. Construction of most industrial facilities will be [financed] by foreign investors, but the labour force has to be ours. That's why we have to worry about training personnel for our economy."

Officials and concerned civic organisations want to fix the problem, but doing so means both opening new schools and rehabilitating a training system closely linked to production.

Oleg Sernetsky, CEO of the Bishkek-based Yedinstvo, an NGO that runs job fairs, agreed with the need to revamp the vocational system. "Importing even engineers – let alone technicians and labourers from abroad – would be too expensive, so we'll have to train them at home. This will create new jobs for Kyrgyz citizens and will help stem labour out-migration."

Yedinstvo and other NGOs have co-operated closely with the vocational training agency at the Ministry of Labour, Migration and Youth.

The international community has actively supported Kyrgyzstan's efforts to train workers and develop the country's vocational education system. For example, the EU launched a 20-month project to modernise the system and boost the employment and income prospects for residents of rural Kyrgyzstan.

The project, which ended in August, allowed more than 1,500 Kyrgyz to enrol in vocational courses. It also trained vocational school teachers, and provided vocational schools with €270,000 (USD 366,000 or KGS 17.9 million) worth of equipment.

"We needed to give the vocational system a boost to continue developing independently, handled by specialists who have undergone re-training and learned the programmes and methods of teaching developed for the purpose," Tolkun Monoldor-kyzy, the Central Asia programme manager at the Interchurch Organisation for Development Co-operation (ICCO), the organisation that carried out the EU project, said.

The International Labour Organisation (ILO), meanwhile, has been monitoring what Kyrgyzstan is doing to curb unemployment and sent delegates to Bishkek in September. Delegates and Kyrgyz officials discussed unemployment, particularly among the young.

Kasym Chargynov, the Kyrgyz Labour, Migration and Youth Deputy Minister told Central Asia Online. "We discussed measures to promote employment and agreed on the need to regularly survey the labour market and to hold seminars for job-seekers.”

International financial assistance is helpful, "but organisational and consulting aid is more important still", Taalaibek Cholponkulov, director of the vocational training agency at the Labour, Migration and Youth Ministry, said. "We have to learn how to teach," he added.

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