by Shiran Illanperuma
COLOMBO, Feb. 13 (Xinhua) — Sri Lanka is planning to produce more skilled workers and technicians in order to meet the growing demand for labor in sectors like construction, partially fueled by the development of Colombo Port City, according to Chairman/CEO of the Vocational Training Authority of Sri Lanka (VTA), Damitha Wickramasinghe.
Wickramasinghe told Xinhua that the state-owned VTA is planning to double the intake of trainees from last year’s 35,000 to a maximum of 70,000 students this year. Plans are also underway to increase the VTA’s capacity in the next three years so that annual intake can be increased up to 200,000 students.
“President Gotabaya Rajapaksa is clear in his manifesto that he wants to make 90 percent of Sri Lanka’s workforce into skilled labor. The VTA is planning to meet this target by having joint-ventures with foreign governments and the private sector to develop more programs and training centers,” Wickramasinghe said.
According to Wickramasinghe, local construction industry leaders expect a demand for 350,000 workers in the coming years, with a large number of these required for completing the vertical development of the Chinese-funded Colombo Port City.
“This is an opportunity lying beneath our feet which we have to somehow harness,” Wickramasinghe said.
With tourism and hospitality being highlighted by the government as a key sector for growth, Wickramasinghe said that the VTA plans to partner with the Sri Lanka Tourism Board to expand capacity for training tour guides.
The VTA is also preparing Sri Lankan workers for the fourth industrial revolution, with state-of-the-art training facilities offering workers courses in robotics and mechatronics.
“We hope to replicate this model in 10 districts and revamp our existing training centers and curriculums in order to be fourth industrial revolution ready,” Wickramasinghe said.
The VTA was established 25 years ago and provides 1,600 programs covering 22 different trades.
Colombo Port City is a flagship project under the China-proposed Belt and Road Initiative to develop a world- class South Asian city on over 260 hectares of land reclaimed from the sea.