Technology and progress have become synonymous in this new world driven by the advancements in science and technology. Other than engineers there are technologists, technicians, and skilled workers who are bearing the brunt of the frenetic pace at which the new challenges on the technological fields are emerging. While China leads the world now in terms of having the largest pool of high quality technicians and skilled workers; its industrial and manufacturing prowess keeps the world in thrall. According to a study by a US think tank; while in the US it would be difficult to fill a big auditorium with the real highly trained workers on any given day, it would be no problem filling a football field with the same in China. The world now gravitates towards China not for its labour’s low cost, but its quality! The Chinese economic miracle has in large measure been brought about by its highly skilled manpower and its expertise in the use of technology. There are two main global trends in the training and employment of the technical manpower, the veritable engine of industrial growth that contribute immeasurably towards sustained industrial growth. These include an increased reliance on automation and robotics for large scale manufacturing and a centrality of the role of technologists in enhancing the industrial productivity. Globally, the technically trained pool of industrial workers forms the bedrock of industrial manufacturing, led by capable technicians who have competent technical supervisors above them. As vocational training is the backbone of the industrial base of a country, the most vital components of the technical workforce of a country are the skilled workers and technicians that help drive the engine of industrial growth. In Pakistan, the government’s desire to fill the technical void at the vocational level spawned a mushroom growth of technical institutes in the public as well as private sector. Some of these institutes did very well, producing highly skilled technical manpower related to technical skills in high demand. A vast majority, however, fell short of the desired qualitative level, churning out diplomas and certificates without the commensurate practical skills. The mismatch in quality and quantity resulted in a large number of unemployable diploma holders.The country needs a balanced mix of quality skilled workers, tradesmen, technicians, technologists, engineers, researchers and development scientistsIn order to resolve the problem, the government embarked on an ambitious funding and development initiative to train the skilled manpower for ever increasing demand in the wake of CPEC and concomitant industrialisation in the country. Certain structural problems, however, that inhibited the employability of the skilled manpower still persist and need to be addressed at the national level for a meaningful integration of skilled manpower in the job stream. The sectoral composition of Pakistan’s GDP has changed substantially. The structure has moved straight from agriculture (its share declined from 30 percent in 1980 to 19.5 percent today) to services (whose share has risen from 49 percent to 60 percent) without adequate development of the more dynamic manufacturing sector. Whereas the share of agriculture has declined by 10 percent, its share of the labour force has dropped by only 13 points from 56 percent to 43 percent.The Pakistan Business Council’s recent report, titled “Pakistan’s rising imports, declining exports, and premature deindustrialisation” indicates three negative trends. These are declining exports, increasing imports and increased deindustrialisation. In light of its declining industrial base, Pakistan’s structural transformation has been in the direction of an expanding services sector, which now stands at 60 percent of the economy. An expanding industrial base means greater labour absorption and a workforce with greater productivity. However, more labour absorption is taking place in the commerce sector, which is characterised by informality, low remuneration and lack of higher skills. Skill development is an important area to be focused on in order to train the youth to meet the needs of emerging market dynamics. Currently, only 64 out of every 1,000 citizens in Pakistan have acquired some vocational training formally or informally. In the recent past, Pakistan’s poor law and order situation had hindered GDP growth by restraining both the Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) as well as domestic investment, which has adversely impacted income generation. With the improved security situation, economic growth and CPEC related growth more skilled jobs are expected to be created. There is a demand of approximately 950,000 skilled workers per annum vis-à-vis 300,000 — 350,000 skilled workers provided annually by various technical training institutions across the country. Pakistan is ranked sixth in terms of population and ninth in terms of workforce number. The competence level of the Pakistani workforce is too low to contribute meaningfully towards enterprise productivity and competitiveness. It also means that Pakistan is not fully unleashing the true potential of its youth for sustained supply of skilled labour force to the industrial sector. The country needs a balanced mix of quality skilled workers, tradesmen, technicians, technologists, engineers, researchers and development scientists. Without a good education system and need-based TVET institutions, quality skilled labour force for productive employment will not grow, resulting in continual rise in youth unemployment and shortage of skilled workers.National Vocational & Technical Training Commission (NAVTTC) was established in December 2005 as an apex body at the Federal level for Technical and Vocational Training and is attached with the Prime Minister’s Secretariat. Being a federal agency for TVET, NAVTTC facilitates, regulates, and provides policy direction for skill development in Pakistan. At provincial level there are authorities like TEVTAs of respective provinces whose main role is governing and implementing the regulations, imparting quality education (implementing syllabus approved by NAVTTC) and ensuring requisite infrastructure for the training institutions. As per economic survey 2015-16, there are 3,600 technical and vocational institutes with 18,157 teachers functional at national level. Despite the above training architecture the quality of technical training in Pakistan has remained below par. The main weaknesses include lack of Industry-Academia linkage, poor quality of teaching institutions, and outdated curricula. In order to address the above problems a major initiative has been taken by the Government in the shape of National University of Technology (NUTECH) at Islamabad. The idea of establishing the unique university was conceived to maximise need driven industrial output by revolutionising technology education in Pakistan. NUTECH has been established through an Act of Parliament and is going to be the country’s first ‘Technology University’. Being the first Public Sector University for higher education in the realm of applied engineering technologies, it is mandated to produce creative and technically sound engineering technologists augmented by a highly skilled work force. The university is a revolutionary step in the technical education field and is likely to bridge the gap between engineers and technologists that was bedevilling Pakistan’s industrial productivity. The university will follow a four tier regimen for training highly skilled manpower with the skilled workers at the first tier, technicians with three year diplomas at second, the technologists with four year degree in engineering technology at third, and technology leaders with masters and PhD degrees at the fourth tier.The problem with Pakistan’s technological education hitherto has been a surfeit of theory adept engineers, who lack practical skills upon graduation and are therefore of limited use for industry that demands hands on technologists, who could run industrial processes with the desired degree of competence. NUTECH seeks to fill that void through degree programs that will give both respectability and international recognition to the technologists who would undergo four year degree programs in different disciplines of engineering technology. These engineering technology graduates would be exposed to a curriculum geared towards practical aspects of technology that come in handy for an industrial employer. While the engineering degree holders would concentrate on designing and policy aspects the graduates of NUTECH would be focused on actual execution of technological tasks on shop floor. With a practical orientation these engineering technology graduates would already be adept in engineering practices on graduation unlike a normal engineering graduate whose learning starts upon graduation.The production of top quality engineering technologists accredited to top class international technology regimes like the ‘Dublin, Sydney, and Bologna Accords’ would be a big shot in the arm for our human resource starved industrial sector. As a pioneer technology university under the Ministry of Education and affiliated with the Higher Education Commission, the University is charged with forging a direct linkage with the industry. While NUTECH would be mainly conducting Degree Programs, it is capable of reaching out to less developed areas through its widespread network of technical and vocational training institutes, producing skilled workers for the industry. With more focus on hands on practical training and inclusion of the industrial sector as a stakeholder in designing of curricula, it would synergise the academic output for the benefit of industry.Pakistan that has suffered because it has completely bypassed industrial development by taking a shortcut to the services sector. Without industrial sinews, no country in the contemporary world can enjoy sustainable economic development. The time has come to correct that egregious flaw in our national development planning through sustainable initiatives. NUTECH is one such initiative, which was long overdue.The writer is a PhD scholar at NUST; e mail email@example.comPublished in Daily Times, May 30th 2018.