The Centre of Excellence for China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) Thursday organised an international conference titled ‘CPEC Skill Development: Challenges and Way Forward’.The initiative aims at projecting the future labour demand on different trade levels in the upcoming CPEC SEZs for each province. The study is not restricted to estimate the number of jobs only but also identifying the technical and vocational skill sets required for the potential industries to be established in the SEZs. On the basis of abundant natural resources and manpower in Pakistan, the preferred industries include iron and steel, mines and minerals, textile, petrochemicals and agriculture. Addressing on the occasion, a diverse range of experts highlighted the role of technical and vocational institutions and job projections of technical and vocational workforce under CPEC’s SEZs inclusive job growth and skill gap evaluation.China’s Ambassador to Pakistan Yao Jing was chief guest on the occasion while First Secretary Development Norwegian Embassy Jorn W Pedersen was guest of honour. Vice Chancellor Pakistan Institute of Development Economics Dr Asad Zaman presented the welcome note. He said the development of the nations is largely dependent on the skills training and management. “Therefore, the current disconnect between academia and job requirements are the major impediments for lower employment in the country. However, SEZs under the CPEC have the huge potential to proliferate jobs for the young population of Pakistan. Thus, it is mandatory to devise the right policies so that maximum jobs can be created through the SEZs,” he said. The chief guest spoke about the importance of technical skills and stressed that Pakistan can learn from the Chinese practices as to how it developed the skills of the bulk of its population to reduce poverty and unemployment.Jørn W Pedersen, Executive Director Centre of Excellence for CPEC Abdul Jalil, Executive Director NAVTTC Dr Nasir Khan and Hassan Daud Butt deliberated and unfolded the different facets of inclusive employment strategies under CPEC and appreciated the timely initiative taken by the Centre of Excellence-CPEC. In the panel discussions, eminent speakers like Li Xin, Vice President Sahiwal Coal Power Project; Ambreen Shah, Vice President Legal & Corporate Affairs China Power Hub Generation Company (Pvt) Limited; Kashif Ahmed Soomro, Director HR Engro Energy Limited; and Sher Ayub Khan, CEO SMEDA, discussed at length the lessons from early harvest CPEC projects and the way forward to a demand-driven skill development.The second panel discussion was moderated by Abdul Samie, Director CPEC BOI and the notable speakers were: Saeed Ahmed, CEO KPEZDMC; Huzefa M Ali, Advisor (Dhabeji SEZ, SEZMC) SEZA Sindh; and Ghous Bakhsh Marri, Chief Economist Balochistan. They deliberated upon the potential of industrial relocation in CPEC SEZs.The third and final session was chaired by Dr Nasir Khan, Executive Director NAVTTC, and the panelists included Abdur Rasheed Solangi, Secretary Labour Sindh; Sheraz Khan Lodhi, Zonal Manager (North) Punjab-TEVTA; Shah Dina Magsi, Chairman Balochistan TEVTA; and Sana Durrani, Chairperson Balochistan Women Business Association. The discussed the role of NAVTTC and TEVTAs in delivering demand-driven skills for CPEC SEZs.In the end, Dr Aliya H Khan moderated the technical session in which research methodologies were identified to streamline the related research in this area. The conference concluded with the objective of identifying the qualitative and quantitative dimensions of methodology required in employment projection at different professional and trade levels.Published in Daily Times, February 22nd 2019.