Industry Leaders and Academicians Discuss on Educating and Building a Stronger Workforce for the Future

Industry Leaders and Academicians Discuss on Educating and Building a Stronger Workforce for the Future

October 3, 2017

Despite having a significantly young demography, Bangladesh faces the challenge of creating a robust and continuous pipeline of talent. Well, of course Bangladeshi youth are talented, but are they getting the proper guidance and supervision from their respective educational institution? Are they getting trained to take challenges that every new day is bringing to the world? If not, who is to be held responsible – the universities that prepare them or the industries that employ them? Some of the stakeholders from both parties tried to answer these questions in a panel discussion held recently.

The discussion was initiated by Bangladesh MBA Association, in association with Bangladesh Brand Forum at IBA Alumni Club, and focused on the theme “Academia-Industry Partnerships: Business Education Perspective”. Having some of the top leaders from industry and academia in the audience, the panel consisted of Abrar A Anwar, Chief Executive Officer, Standard Chartered Bangladesh; Shehzad Munim, Managing Director, British American Tobacco Bangladesh; M. Mahboob Rahman, PhD, Dean & Professor of Business, North South University; MD Ridhwanul Haq, PhD, Associate Professor & BBA Chairperson, IBA – University of Dhaka. It was moderated by Mehnaz Kabir, Group Chief Marketing & Communications Officer, Rangs Group.

Abrar A Anwar, CEO, Standard Chartered Bangladesh

The focus of the discussion laid on restructuring the nation’s education system and joint initiatives by the industry and academia that will play an important part in reducing the skill gap in the years to come. Moderator of the panel, Mehnaz Kabir started off with an introductory question asking about the interaction level of business groups, corporate houses and local entrepreneurs.

“It’s not up to the level,” answered Mr. Abrar A Anwar, “For the sustainability we look at foreign resources and slowly we are inclining towards local resources. We have 100+ Bangladeshis working abroad for SCB. We get raw talents and we have the required infrastructure to groom them up. There are certain structural issues. For example, we only have the traditional financial products. We do not have options, derivatives or the opportunity for interest hedging.”

No one can disagree on the fact that our financial market is primitive. Local companies need to step up their game by building up infrastructure and facilities to groom up the raw fresh graduates they hire.

There is evident lack of collaboration between regulatory agencies and private bodies. Universities and corporates need to integrate to form productive alliances. This brought the question: who should approach for the partnerships?

Mr. Shehzad Munim shared his opinion saying, “We get good talents. BAT has only 3 expatriates and the all the rest are Bangladeshis. We have our own training and development infrastructure. But there is a massive lack of T&D in the local companies. Thus we do not have enough people capable to take responsibilities. Education needs to expand beyond the boundaries of university leadership. Only then, leadership can be developed in employees. Thinking beyond the horizon is something that lacks in mid-level managers in Bangladesh.”

MD Ridhwanul Haq, PhD, Associate Professor & BBA Chairperson, IBA – University of Dhaka

Even technical people can be great leaders. But it is the responsibility of the organization to facilitate leadership and to create opportunities for displaying leadership in organization.

A prevalent problem in the industry is not getting the ideal candidate for a job. Ridhwanul Haq shared a valuable point. He said, “We are yet to address these problems. Education market is not an industry yet. But university education needs to be addressed as an industry. A three-month internship cannot be enough. Students need to engage themselves with the corporate environment from the first day. They should spend at least one week in corporate environment every semester. We need to work in content development which includes cases and facts. Students need to understand the difference between job and career.”

When asked about who should make the first move in this scenario, Mr. Mahboob Rahman believes that business schools should make the first move and approach corporates to collaborate. He said, “We need a systematic platform for universities and corporates. Why business schools? Because today, students are finding it more useful to watch a 10 minute video on YouTube than listening to a 90 minute lecture at class. Academicians and universities need to reinvent themselves in new ways that create value for students. Online learning is a taboo. Online MBAs of reputed universities is expensive worldwide.”

Innovation in education needs to start from universities. Universities need embrace online culture and redesign their modules which create value in the lives of the students. Once universities lead the paradigm in shift in academics it will create a chain reaction which will inspire the corporate houses to collaborate and create a brighter future.

Mr. Abrar A Anwar was not hesitant to point out some shortcomings either. He said, “Case studies are missing. Teachers need to be challenged and continue developing themselves. Teachers are teaching 15 year old books in primitive ways. These things need to change.” He shared that he gave only three guest lectures in different universities because he wasn’t approached more often than that.

M. Mahboob Rahman, PhD, Dean & Professor of Business, North South University

Everyone agreed on the fact that we need more networking and coaching sessions. Internships need to be more productive. These challenges can be overcome by close collaboration.

Mahboob Rahman shared a few valuable insights from an academician’s perspective. He pointed out that we have duplications of work. He also shared that he wanted to develop case studies and the cases were full of despicable errors like grammar and spelling mistakes. Our country needs good knowledge workers and we have to innovate new curriculums. He also stressed, “We need the right partners in place. Entrepreneurship should be inspired. This public vs. private institutions debate must end.”

Mr. Shehzad Munim shared that they took a course on communication to prepare for job interviews. He compared the situation to the light and darkness. On one side there is the light of potential and prosperity for Bangladesh. On the other side the education system is age old and it has failed to cope with the dynamic innovation in academic industry. Even in this darkness, some glimpses of hopes are ignited when a number of bright young minds come out from this rugged education system. But the number is very low compared to the thousands of Business graduates that are produced every year. Mr. Shehzad compared the rising number of Indian CEOs to scoring goals in an empty net. He said, “Success should be measured in future by the number of overseas CEOs from Bangladesh. Bangladesh needs to include ‘Bangladeshi’ knowledge and local case studies in university curriculums. We need to create talent for South Asian scenarios.”

Shehzad Munim, Managing Director, British American Tobacco Bangladesh

MD Ridhwanul Haq sighted an example of ICT ministry of Bangladesh and North-South University collaborating to develop managers for IT sector. He said, “Indian market regularly updates their syllabus. Effective rural marketing and language barriers are problems every consumer goods manufacturer faces today. We need new syllabus and new modules to address these issues. Along with sharing knowledge, we need to create knowledge.”

The revered panel members shared their concluding verses at twilight of the event. Mr. Abrar A Anwar said, “We need to come forward as enterprises to conduct research and help universities. We need to develop research questions and involve universities.” Shehzad Munim said, “If you put through a mission, vision and execute it you can create exposure for talents from Bangladesh. Our regulation needs to be more innovation friendly. We need to create examples. Geniuses are not just found in Dhaka. We need to help the geniuses beyond Dhaka to come out of the shadows.” Mr. Ridhwanul Haq said, “The potential market is huge. If we don’t maintain close relation with the corporates we will not be able to contribute. As lecturer, we should have tendency to learn from people and learn from corporates. I humbly request everyone to give us research questions.” Mr. Mahboob Rahman said, “We need to embrace innovation in education. We need to maintain a path of continuous innovation. Universities need to be co-creators of knowledge.”

Shariful Islam, Managing Director of Bangladesh Brand Forum then took the floor to conclude the session, saying, “We need to think 10 years down the line. Are machines going to replace our jobs? What skillsets do we need five years later? We need to find out and develop those skills. The key skill sets are: problem solving and creativity. We need to incorporate them in our education industry. How will retail change ten years down the line due to e-commerce? We need to find out the skills we need among tomorrow’s leaders and nurture it among today’s students.”

Everyone agreed on the fact that we need to raise the quality of our MBAs to a great extent in order to reach global standards. Making MBA a strictly post-experience degree will surely be the first step in the path towards attaining global standard.


Written by

Izbath Tarik

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