Academy of Work (AoW)



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Sayada Jannatun Naim
Assistant Director – EDC
BRAC Institute of Governance and Development (BIGD), BRAC University


The Academy of Work (AoW) is a certified, residential and fully-funded 3-month cross-sectoral education program for trade unionists in the country, with the aim of strengthening a new generation of trade union leaders who will be better skilled at facilitating effective social dialogue, negotiating with employers and state representatives and therefore, be stronger advocates of the trade union movement.

About the Program

Academy of Work (AoW) is a pioneering initiative in Bangladesh for emerging young leaders from the trade union movement to participate in an intensive cross-sectoral, residential and fully-funded 3-month training program in the fields of industrial relations, the economy and decent work. It is an initiative of the Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung Bangladesh in collaboration with Bangladesh Institute of Labour Studies (BILS) and BRAC Institute of Governance and Development (BIGD), and was formed to create an all-inclusive representation of workers’ interests and to foster a more effective social dialogue. Participants come from various sectors, such as the ready-made garments (RMG), transport, construction and the public sector.

Since its launch in 2017, more than 40 young trade union leaders have completed the intensive training that covers courses in industrial relations and labour policies, globalisation and trade, global supply chain and workers’ rights, health and safety, project management, and leadership skills. The modules not only bring together theoretical material and practical knowledge, but also draws comparison between local and global context.


Ever since the Rana Plaza factory collapse that cost over 1,100 lives, the significance of a functioning social dialogue and harmonious industrial relations has been far more pertinent than ever before. Although there were a number of training courses available for trade unionists in the textile sector, most of these were only a few days long and could only impart partial knowledge on specific topics, and failed to provide a comprehensive view of national and global debates on labour rights and social standards. Moreover, there was a rising need to equip second-tier trade unionists, with only a few having a bachelor’s degree, and even fewer having English language and general communication skills needed to constructively converse across the boundaries of individual unions and union federations.

To address this gap, BILS, BIGD and FES developed the AoW program which was closely aligned with the needs of current and potential future union leaders.


By up-skilling young, mid-level trade union leaders to develop their expertise and practical skills, and enhancing their knowledge in the areas of management and organization, Academy of Work ensures the development of stronger trade unions that are better positioned to foster rigorous exchange, and thereby inculcate solidarity and unity in the trade union movement.

Who It Is For

The AoW is designed for active and talented mid-level trade unionists from low-end manufacturing industries (basic unions, federations, union centres) who have completed a formal education (SSC) and have already gained some experience in trade union work representing various sectors, such as the ready-made garments (RMG), transport, construction and the public sector, and are aspiring to develop a career in the trade union movement as permanent staff of sectoral or national union federations or other organisations.

Career & Outcomes

A total of 47 young trade unionists have successfully graduated the AoW programme since its inception in 2017, along with the most recent batch consisting of 15 students. With enhanced knowledge in the trade union movement in the global lens, our graduates have gone to becoming stronger advocates and negotiators.

Program Duration

3 months

Course Curriculum

The Academy of Work Program consists of 6 modules, broken down into 17 courses.


  • Trade Unions and Industrial Relations
    • Theory & Practices of Trade Unions (10 hours)
    • Introduction to Industrial Relations (20 hours)
  • Law
    • National Labour/Industrial Law (18 hours)
    • International Labour Standards (20 hours)
  • Economics
    • Introduction to Labour Economics (12 hours)
    • International Trade Agreements (8 hours)
    • Business Administration (10 hours)
  • Global Supply Chain and TU Strategies
    • Theory of GSC & Development (18 hours)
    • Workers’ Strategies in GSC 1: Using existing and new governance instruments (14 hours)
    • Workers’ Strategies in GSC 2: Organising & Campaigning (10 hours)
  • Management & Organization
    • Basic Communication (20 hours)
    • Analytical Thinking & Writing (8 hours)
    • Project Management (10 hours)
    • Leadership Skills (10 hours)
    • Media (10 hours)
  • Gender, TU and Decent Work
    • Safety, work and health protection (16 hours)
    • Gender, TU and Decent Work (16 hours)



  • Active trade union member
  • Minimum SSC pass/equivalent from any reputed educational institution
  • Maximum 45 years of age


Photo by Chris Slupski on Unsplash