Sialkot grappling with skilled workforce shortage

Our Staff reporter SIALKOT - Sialkot is an export-oriented city of the country and possesses century old industrial heritage. It has developed a remarkable export culture over the passage of time and has been contributing more than US 1.30 billion dollars to national exchequer annually. Despite serious financial constrains and electricity crisis, the exporter community has been striving to double the export volume despite tough competition in the world market for fetching valuable foreign exchange for the country. Undoubtedly, the Small and Medium Enterprise (SMEs) were playing a significant role not only in strengthening the national exchequer but also providing employment to thousands of workers in Sialkot. Business community engaged with surgical, soccer ball and sportswear industries, has been confronted with acute shortage of trained and skilled workforce in this export-oriented city and hub of cottage industry in the country. Under the prevailing situation, there was great need for taking drastic steps to address the issue of lack of skilled and semi-skilled workforce. The Punjab government should take immediate action for setting up training institutes for males and females to impart training in different trade fields in accordance with the demands of local industrial sector. Timely action of the government will not only supportive in providing trained industrial workers but also help reduce unemployment in the area. Apart from this, there was a need for setting up SMEs industrial estate in Sialkot. In Sialkot, majority of the SMEs are running their business in their homes or in rental buildings situated in residential areas and creating multifarious problems for the dwellers. Keeping in view the problem, the government should take initiatives for setting up small industrial estates for SMEs in and around Sialkot to facilitate the SMEs. In order to develop true and secure Small and Medium Culture of Sialkot the government should formulate a special package of incentives and concessions for SMEs to increase export volume to manifolds and to redress their problems. The development of cottage industries in Sialkot has assumed a model status for the developing world. The city is sprinkled with thousands of small and medium enterprises, which are engaged in honouring their global commitments for export of value-added quality goods such as sports goods, Surgical Instruments, Leather Goods, Gloves, Badges and Musical Instruments etc. The city has developed industrial edge over other cities of the country especially in Sports Goods and Surgical Instruments. Over 1.20 lakh industrial workers only are engaged with both the industries and are earning their livelihood in a respectable way. Many researchers of different foreign universities are considering conducting research on the unique Export Culture of Sialkot, which is a hub of cottage industries and export-oriented city of Pakistan. The researchers would penetrate on ascertaining how Sialkoties are doing export business successfully where every third person is an exporter. The business community of Sialkot is playing a tremendous role not only in bringing boom in exports but also fulfilling the social responsibilities and the uplift of the city on voluntarily basis. Over 85 percent of total production of soccer ball of the world comes from Sialkot while all international brands are sourcing their supply of footballs from this export-oriented city. The success story of Sialkot based industries can be attributed to unmatched skill of local workers and their craftsmanship. The soccer ball industry had totally been purged from the menace of child labour and Sialkot has set a role model for others to follow to eliminate child labour. The business community had managed to develop the culture of Do it yourself in Sialkot under which the business community was playing a pivotal role for the development of the city and welfare of the people. For the construction of city roads and drains, Sialkot Chamber of Commerce and Industry (SCCI) initiated Sialkot City Package in collaboration with other trade bodies in the city. Under the programme exporters are voluntarily contributing 0.25 percent against their export invoices as a result of which many city roads and drains have been constructed. Despite of extra-ordinary contribution of the local exporters, the city was being ignored in many respects and deserved for a very special status. Keeping in view the importance and contribution of Sialkot, the city should be treated, as city of cottage industry and both federal and Punjab governments should announce special concessions and incentives for this export-oriented city for the larger interest of the SMEs.

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