How Sustainable are the Impacts of Vocational Training? Evidence from BRAC’s Intervention

A country’s economy is only as good as its human resource is. Unfortunately, the quality of human resources in Bangladesh is very low, as disadvantaged youth drop out of school and remain unemployed or get involved in a low-quality job. In this context, BRAC, in partnership with the Bureau of Non-formal Education (BNFE), piloted a project titled “Skills Training for Advancing Resources (STAR)” in Dhaka, Chattogram, Sylhet, Rajshahi, and Khulna in 2012. We assessed the sustainability of this project’s impacts using three rounds of quantitative data (collected in 2012, 2013, and 2015). We estimated the impacts on employment, income, savings, early marriage, etc. of adolescents, and on household welfare. Findings show that the positive impacts on the adolescents’ labour market participation and monthly income are sustainable and higher in the long-run. In particular, the participants significantly shifted to the skilled labour market. The impact on employment has been found to be higher for female participants. The program also significantly reduces early marriage (for females). Additionally, positive impacts are found on empowerment, self-confidence, and the workplace environment.

Researchers:  Rehnuma Rahman; Zion Rabbi Samadder; Atiya Rahman; Anindita Bhattacharjee

Partners: BRAC, Behavioural Insights Team

Timeline: 2012- 2016

Status: Completed

Contact: Atiya Rahman;



Family insolvency forces children to leave school at an early stage; consequently, the school drop-out rate is higher in developing countries. In Bangladesh, a large number of students drop out of secondary school and engage in the informal economy, which is characterised by hazardous and exploiting working conditions. Vocational training, in this case, can bring positive changes.

Researchers and scholars examined the significant role of vocational training and education (VET) policies in determining labour market participation of young people in developed and developing countries. Evidence from Sweden shows that VET programs’ main outcomes include a higher rate of labour market participation, creating more opportunities to acquire the qualification for all categories of skills, which the participants did not previously have, and also building the chance for them to advance in a professional hierarchy. However, there still remains a knowledge gap in terms of addressing the contribution of skill training on the lives of the youth in terms of economic, social and psychological aspects in the long-run.


Realizing the importance of skill development of the youths, in 2012, BRAC piloted a project titled “Skills Training for Advancing Resources (STAR)” in Dhaka, Chattogram, Sylhet, Rajshahi, and Khulna. During this pilot phase, the program provided livelihood skills training to 1,000 urban adolescents aged 14-18 years, who completed five years of schooling under the Basic Education for Hard to Reach Urban Working Children (BEHTRUWC) project of the Bureau of Non-Formal Education (BNFE). The program offered theoretical and practical training to develop trade-specific skills based on local market demand. The participants were provided practical training through attachment with relevant entrepreneurs involved in the local informal sector, referred to as Master Craft Persons (MCPs). The duration of the training was six months. The MCPs were selected using the following criteria: i) experienced as a skilled craftsperson in the particular trade; ii) sufficient space in his/her workplace to accommodate apprentice; iii) high demand for the particular trade in the market (to increase the participants’ chances of finding decent employment upon completing the training); iii) short distance between his/her shop and the participants’ residence; and iv) previous successful experience in managing apprentices. During the six months long training period, relevant Competency-based Skills Logbook was followed for each trade. Additionally, STAR staff provided lessons on various issues, such as financial literacy, market assessment, basic communicative English, etc., once a week. After the training period, the program staff assisted the participants to avail decent employment opportunities through proper information and guidance.


The objective of this study was to assess whether skills training generates long-term impacts on economically vulnerable youth in terms of economic, social, and psychological aspects.

This study is relevant to SDG 4 (Quality Education), particularly to ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all.


To assess the impact of the STAR program, we drew a sample of 1,000 adolescents (including both the participants and non-participants). Participants were randomly selected from 13 BRAC branch offices scattered in seven districts from five divisions where the program was implemented.

A baseline survey was conducted in 2012 and two rounds of follow-up survey were conducted in 2013 and 2015, respectively to collect information on adolescents’ labour market participation, savings, work environment, knowledge of health-related issues, among others. At the household level, information was collected on detailed demographic characteristics, housing condition and asset holding, etc. To gain a better understanding of the reasons behind the success and/or failure of the STAR program participants, we have also applied the qualitative method, which involved in-depth interviews and case studies.

Findings and Recommendations

Our findings reveal that the impact on employment is higher in the long-run than that is in the short-run. The magnitudes of the impact are found to be higher for girls than for boys in both the short- and long-run, indicating that the absence of program intervention leads to a great loss for girls in terms of employment opportunities. Program participation also significantly increases the skilled labour supply and monthly income of the adolescents. This increased income of adolescents is found to be transformed into household welfare. In the long-run, the program also has positive impacts on adolescents’ confidence, empowerment, and work environment. Highly encouraging and sustainable impact of program intervention is also found in early marriage for girls, reducing early marriage of girls by about 62 per cent.

Trade wise analysis of employment indicates that in the long-run adolescents with training in trades like motorcycle repairing and electric work have a higher employment rate, followed by tailoring, beauty care, and refrigerator repairing. This is something that needs to be monitored continuously so that the program can provide training for trades that actually have good career prospects for participating adolescents.

Furthermore, qualitative findings demonstrate that STAR program participants can successfully avail employment opportunity with a decent monetary return and that the temperament of success varies from adolescent to adolescent and depends on an individual’s ambition, perseverance, prudence, future plan, and determination. Additionally, the findings indicate the need for setting an age range of targeting by trades and providing post-training support to the participants.