Badrul Ahsan and Shah Alam Nur
Demand for executives to deal with compliance-related matters has witnessed a sharp increase in export-oriented industries at a time when the major export earner, the ready-made garments (RMG), is facing shortage of skilled manpower, industry people said.
Demand for such executives increased both in RMG and non-RMG industries after the Tazreen fire incident, the concerned business circles told the FE.
According to exporters, almost all types of export-oriented factories across the country are in a rush to appoint 'compliance experts' to their factories following continuous pressure from their buyers for ensuring standard working conditions at the factories.
Besides, both local and international buying houses are also in the race to appoint these executives to their offices to oversee whether the factories from where they are sourcing goods are maintaining compliances with the standards.
Following a sudden increase in demand for such executives, Bangladesh Knitwear Manufacturers and Exporters Association (BKMEA) and Bangladesh Garment Manufactures and Exporters Association (BGMEA) have introduced new courses in their respective 'educational institutions'.
"Despite the continuous pressure from the buyers, we have hardly been able to appoint a qualified 'compliance executive' as demand for such officials has sharply increased in the industry," Abdul Halim, managing director of Saiko Fashions Ltd told the FE.
Mr Halim said the buyers were assigning their own workforce to check the workplace conditions at the factories where their goods are being made for shipment.
He also said capitalising on the sudden increase in demand, 'compliance experts' have been demanding unjustified salaries from the factory owners.
Syed Ibrahim Gazi, owner of 'Pritily', a local buying house, which deals with a number of foreign buyers, said that he had to pick a 'compliance expert' from a garment factory with a higher compensation package.
"Our buyers have been pushing us to appoint 'compliance executives' to inspect the factory standard regarding the compliance issue," Mr Gazi added.
Vice Chancellor of BGMEA University of Fashion and Technology (BUFT) Dr Syed Masud Husain said the university had introduced a short course on compliance-related subjects to provide prompt support to the factories after the recent fire incidents including that of Tazreen's.
"Following the sudden rise in demand, we have offered a short course to the mid-level executives of the garment factories so that they can ensure minimum standards about working conditions in their factories," the VC said.
Besides, the BKMEA also introduced a six-month course on compliance issues at their own institute.
"Previously we used to recruit students and would send them to different factories to know about compliance-related standards, but we have recently introduced a six-month diploma course on the issue for the sustainability of the industry," secretary of BKMEA Sulav Chowdhury told the FE.
"The subject of compliance at the educational institutions is relatively new and the number of graduates, having proper understanding of, and knowledge about, compliance is also few in the country," Mr Chowdhury added.
Meanwhile, vice president of BGMEA Md. Siddiqur Rahman said the demand for 'compliance executives' had shot up at a time when the industry was already facing over 25 per cent shortage of skilled manpower.
Mr Rahman also said the shortage had compelled the industry to recruit experts from foreign countries like India, Sri Lanka etc.
President of Exporters Association of Bangladesh Abdus Salam Murshedi urged the government to let the authorities of Jubo Unnayan work together with BGMEA to train up people from rural areas of the country 'to back the industry' in this regard.
"If the government instructs the authorities of Jubo Unnayan to concentrate on imparting training to the people for the export-oriented industries, then the country might be able to address the problem relating to scarcity of skilled manpower in the industries," Mr Murshedi added.