PESHAWAR -- Thousands of youth in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP) and the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) are participating in a free technical and vocational training programme aimed at raising income potential and countering terrorism.
Developing job skills is an effective counter-recruiting tool and helps vulnerable youth achieve their potential, according to authorities.
The Technology Upgradation and Skill Development Co. (TUSDEC), working under Pakistan's Ministry of Industries and Production, launched a programme in 2011 with EU financial assistance to give young Pakistanis technical and vocational training.
"Skill development brings prosperity to helpless families," TUSDEC Project Manager for KP and FATA Faiz Muhammad told Central Asia Online. "We want to equip deserving youth with various skills so they can earn a living for their families in a respectable way."
"Our efforts are enabling unskilled youth to become skilled workers," Faiz said, adding that TUSDEC not only provides training to needy youth but also ensures employment opportunities after completion of the course.
"We have made contracts with 32 training and vocational centres in KP and six in FATA, where youth receive training in 50 different skills free of cost.”
Men may receive training in welding, carpentry, electronic repair, tailoring, electrical motor repair and other fields, Faiz said.
Women may take courses in fashion design, make-up application, cooking and other fields, he added.
New courses that reflect economic changes might be coming, Faiz said.
"TUSDEC is seeking to provide training in new skills according to market demand," he said. "They include solar panel installation courses due to the [on-going] power sortage."
Teaching youth skills also "keeps them involved in healthy activities", he said.
"Someone with skills and a good job will never turn to terrorism," he added.
"TUSDEC also offers interest-free loans from Rs. 20,000 to Rs. 70,000 (US $200 to $700) to those who complete the training for starting their own business," Faiz said. "There is not even one case of someone who failed to pay back his or her loan on time."
TUSDEC has operated EU-funded training sessions since 2011. Three sessions since last December educated 6,324 youth, TUSDEC spokeswoman Zeenat Bibi told Central Asia Online.
TUSDEC is on track to train 12,000 youth by the end of 2016, she added.
Anybody aged 15 to 35 is eligible for TUSDEC training, she said, adding that training phase 4, which began in May, is scheduled to end in October. Phase 4 is "providing technical training to another 3,450 youth", she said.
Bibi explained the company's plan to ensure the project's success.
"We create awareness .. in far-flung areas of KP and FATA through various NGOs about the ... advantages and financial benefits of technical education," she said.
"We select appropriate and deserving candidates for different technical training programmes," she said, "We send them to various training cenres."
"TUSDEC has teams that monitor the quality of training," she said. "They also provide youth with opportunities for on-the-job training after the completion of courses. Our monitoring teams visit different industrial units and workshops to ensure they have jobs for trained youth."
The directors of vocational schools praise TUSDEC for turning jobless youth into skilled labourers.
"Some students can't afford the fares to travel to [our] college," Tahir Quryshi, principal of the Imperial College of Technology in Havelian, Hazara Division, told Central Asia Online. "Thanks to TUSDEC, they receive Rs. 1,000 (US $10) per month for transportation."
"Parents come by to thank for us giving their sons technical training," he said. "These trained students ... share their income with their parents."
Nilofar Sami, chair of Honey's Academy, a vocational school for women in Hayatabad, Peshawar, agrees.
"Needy women who cannot pay the fees of [our] institution are able to attend various courses in make-up, computer skills, embroidery ... etc., because of TUSDEC," Nilofar told Central Asia Online.
"Female trainees are very satisfied to be here and learning different skills," she said, adding that the 25 women presently enrolled in her school are already earning money.
One of those trainees is Tasleem of Peshawar, now a fashion designer.
"I was in eighth grade when I got married," she told Central Asia Online. "After marriage I graduated from high school. I gained admission through TUSDEC and completed a course in dress design."
"Now I charge Rs. 350 [US $3.50] per dress and help my husband meet the expenses of our home," she said. "I am happy that we can easily afford the school fees for our three children."