Federal Minister for Planning Ahsan Iqbal Wednesday said that access to higher education is one of the keys to growth and development, and the incumbent government is committed to providing access to education to underprivileged segments of our society.
The minister made these remarks while addressing the International Summit on Higher Education and Workforce Development organized under the auspices of $19 million USAID funded by Higher Education System Strengthening Activity) Project. (HESSA).
The HESSA project is providing technical assistance to 16 Pakistani universities distributed across all provinces in improving their institutional and technical capacities in delivering market-relevant education and research, with an overarching goal of enhancing the employability potential of graduating students.
The summit is a timely initiative within the context of Pakistan’s development priorities as US support for Pakistan’s Higher Education System has a long history which ranges from primary and basic education to establishing Centers of Excellence to strengthening overall higher education systems, said the Minister, while addressing the participants of the summit.
The event was attended by US Ambassador to Pakistan Donald Blome, Senator of Utah State Dr. Keith Grover, Chairman of the Higher Education Commission (HEC) Dr. Mukhtar Ahmad, and others.
Speaking on the occasion, the minister further added that youth in Pakistan are not only concerned about their future education, but also about their livelihoods, their mental health, and well-being. The Planning Ministry has already developed a Mental Health Psychosocial Support Handbook. Therefore, mainstreaming this group and its energy into the socioeconomic development process will be critical to the overall socio-economic development of Pakistan, said the minister.
Pakistan’s estimated youth unemployment is between 8.5 to 10 percent, with 80 percent youth workforce having a low level of education and poor skills base__ primarily due to the gaps in quality, access, and relevance of the skills vis-à-vis what is needed in the market, he said.
We as a nation face key challenges as to how to equip our youth population with the knowledge and skills required to support the national development agenda and priorities. On the other hand, it will be the biggest missed opportunity if we fail to harness the potential and capacities of our youth in the right direction, remarked the minister.
The International Summit is the first among a series of policy dialogues, symposiums, seminars, and expert consultations on issues related to higher education for advancing sustainable development.