Bangladesh University of Textiles started its journey on 22nd December 2010 upgrading from the College of Textile Engineering & Technology with a view to create new opportunities for higher studies, research and development in this sector. Bangladesh University of Textiles, from its inception is trying to create and nurture that environment where young generation would find a way to realize the hidden power within them with fullest possibility of development in an orderly way and walk along sequentially to become a member of the society and valued citizen of the country by utilizing their talent, potential and integrity and thereby glorify our national dream. Textile Focus technical team recently met Professor Md. Abul Kashem, Vice Chancellor, Bangladesh University of Textiles. Professor Md. Abul Kashem has a glorious contribution in up gradation of textile education in Bangladesh as he was the principal of Bangladesh College of Textile Engineering & Technology and he also successfully led the Technical Education Board, Bangladesh as Director General for a long time. M A Islam Riyadh, Editor, Textile Focus; Maeen Md. Khairul Akter, Managing Editor, Textile Focus & Md. Mostafa Kamal, Special Correspondent, Textile Focus discussed different issues of textile industry of Bangladesh & textile education system. Synopsis of the conversation is mentioned here for our readers-
Professor Md. Abul Kashem, Vice Chancellor, Bangladesh University of Textiles
Textile Focus: How do you see the textile and apparel industry of Bangladesh?
Professor Md. Abul Kashem: Firstly, you know that more than 80% foreign currency of Bangladesh comes from apparel & textile industry, directly or indirectly two to two and half crore people depends on the apparel & textile industry for their livelihood, especially in apparel, most of the workers are women which is approximately 80%. Among this workforce most of the women are illiterate or very less educated. So, RMG is a single and largest sector which is ensuring women employment and empowerment in the country which is uplifting their social and financial status. There is no other sector in private or government level that provides this opportunity.
The history of our textile industry is interesting. Actually the textile industry was evolved during the British period when the muslin cloth was very famous all over the world which was only made in today’s Bangladesh. Furthermore, our local products such as saree, lungi, panjabi etc. and other local products were made in Bangladesh from ancient times using handlooms. Even these handloom products have a huge market in our country which is also a major feature of our textile industry. Also, as a country with160 million people, the local demand of textiles and garments is also huge in our country and the major portion of the demand is fulfilled locally. So, this local and handloom sector also creates thousands of employment which is a big contribution in the socioeconomic condition of the country.
Additionally, as long as the jute sector is concern, it is also a part of our textile sector although for different reasons now the industry does not get much attention. But there was a time when the textile industry of Bangladesh was famous for its jute industries and jute based products. However, there are still there are some jute mills operated in the private sector who are producing goods and exporting in the global market.
So still textile is really a big sector in our country considering all the prevailing and potential industries and we need to sustainably retain in this market to survive in the global economy otherwise have to suffer for a long time. So to sustain this sector, government has to come forward to resolve the problem as usual industrialists have to play a lead role.
Textile Focus: As the guardian of Textile University, you have a big role in this sector, how do you see that?
Professor Md. Abul Kashem: I graduated from this university which was College of Textile Technology in 1978. And from then, I couldn’t get out of this premises. My whole life has been spent here working with textile education. My observation is, the textile and apparel sector requires skilled manpower in every position starting from operator level to top management. Textile University is working to provide top & mid-level skilled manpower in the sector for a long time. And operator level manpower is provided by various technical schools, training centers, and vocational institutes etc.
Apart from BUTEX there are other private universities and other diploma institutes who are providing manpower for the textile and apparel sector. Industries also recruit fresh candidates majorly in operator positions and train them with on the job training. From my experience & also you know that graduates who pass from BUTEX are regarded as the best among others candidates, there is no doubt. Not only in country, they are also going abroad for higher study & also doing job in various MNCs with maintaining a positive reputation. I’m trying to incorporate our academic syllabus to prepare the students for their job life by combining theoretical & practical knowledge.Professor Md. Abul Kashem: I graduated from this university which was College of Textile Technology in 1978. And from then, I couldn’t get out of this premises. My whole life has been spent here working with textile education. My observation is, the textile and apparel sector requires skilled manpower in every position starting from operator level to top management. Textile University is working to provide top & mid-level skilled manpower in the sector for a long time. And operator level manpower is provided by various technical schools, training centers, and vocational institutes etc.
Textile Focus: Obviously for operating the industries, BUTEX engineers are working with success, but still there is a huge number of foreign experts are working here in different positions. How do you see this?
Professor Md. Abul Kashem: To answer this question, I want to mention two points, first is about the foreigners in top management positions. A few industrialists say that local people can’t provide expert services like them but I don’t agree with this, it is totally wrong I believe. I have talked with several industry owners about this issue. Most of them admit that here performance is not the matter, rather many times we have to appoint foreigners as per our buyers recommendation and pressure. And sometimes they do this for strategical reason to expand business to certain areas. In fact, there are cases where foreigners are also working under BUTEX graduates. So what I believe is that our graduates have the ability to work in every position of the textile and apparel industries of the country and foreigners are here due to other strategical reasons. I have seen that most of the foreigners who are working in Bangladesh are single skilled whereas BUTEX graduates have proven to be successful in different positions in the industry. Many times the foreigners’ educational background are also not mentionable.
Second point is the industry 4.0, actually it is a new term for us. And most of the developing countries are in a position like ours; but it’s also true that they are moving fast. So it’s our responsibility to work according to the new industry needs. We are also not sitting idle. But problem is that the new technologies and machineries are so expensive & also requires high skilled operators & for that increasing the cost of production which is another big threat for us. For using robotics system, unemployment problem arises. So, it is still not 100% clear what will be future of I4.0 incorporation in textile and apparel industry. But obviously, we are working to know the details about the IR by arranging various seminar, symposium & workshop. We are also involving our faculty members and as well our students. So when awareness is developed & it will be quite easy to adapt this revolution. So for adapting that at first required trainer & that’s why we are working with our faculty members, then they can train up our students. And we are also in the process of incorporating our curriculum about this IR for training of existing manpower because it’s not possible to make an expert overnight, it’s a gradual process. We are in preparation stage, after a certain time, I believe we will be also to implement it in industry. We have a plan to develop the infrastructure, lab facilities but needed funding. And in order to grab 4.0 IR, we are providing new project to the government. So we are not sitting idle. We are working to adapt the changes of time even already started some initial works such as faculty training, seminar etc.
Textile Focus: Are you getting the support from the government as needed?
Professor Md. Abul Kashem: Obviously, we are getting all support as required, even I would like to share that our prime minister is more concerned about the textile and apparel sector than us because it is directly related to the national economy. This sector provides the largest contribution to the national GDP. So government is always with us.
Textile Focus: Transformation from college to University, as the VC, how do you see changes in such a short period? And what do you think about the obstacles in this journey?
Professor Md. Abul Kashem: In 22th December 2010, the college of textile engineering and technology was transformed into a University, inaugurated by the prime minister. You have to remember that the University started with its existing college facilities. In 2014, government allocated a 183 core taka development project in which the new academic building is included. The project is all set to be finished by December next year. So, if you expect University outcomes with college facilities, it is not justified. The real performance of BUTEX as a University should be assessed after we develop the primary facilities that the students and teachers require. Hope it will be finished in December 2020. And on that time, as a university, our activities will be more smooth & productive. In a government institute there are lots of obstacles you know that we cannot mention everywhere, we have to consider these things. Our students are not getting sufficient facilities as like other public universities. Teachers are also optimizing and performing their duties without any expectations. So, we are not sitting idle, it takes time, hopefully we are going towards our as soon as possible with our capacity.
Textile Focus: Of late our exports are declining, many RMG industries already shut down, amid this situation is it a wise decision to increase number of textile engineering students in different institutions?
Professor Md. Abul Kashem: This is a question I have been asked by many students. Even in 2008 when the college was transformed into a University, I was asked this type of question. So, students are always confused when they are starting their studies here. But the matter of fact is that students are even getting jobs before completed their graduation & no one was left unemployed, everyone got jobs. And still now, many students are frustrated although I am sure, all of them will get job in the industry. Because I know the tough situation the industry is going through is only temporary and there will be always a huge demand of textile engineers in the market. Especially, for BUTEX graduates I think there will be no job crisis at all because they are regarded as the best products in the industry and they are always highly demanded by the industry owners. However, I am not sure about the other institutes, but as I am concern with BUTEX, I don’t think there will be any unemployment issue.
Textile Focus: BUTEX can be a center of excellence for the textile sector and many industrialists hope that BUTEX could certify their products which are now done by third party companies. How do you see the possibilities?
Professor Md. Abul Kashem: I already admitted that, though BUTEX is around 10 years old, it’s still new in compared with other established universities like BUET or DU. Most importantly, still we are running with the facilities that were existent in college times. The only development project that is going on was started in 2014 which is still incomplete. So, being a center of excellence is our vison but it cannot be done overnight. It will take time but important thing is we are relentlessly working for it.
Another is the matter of certification; in this regard we have already taken some steps. We have already developed a modern testing lab equipped with all the testing facilities of textile and apparel items and we also applied for the accreditation. The assessment from the BAB is done, hopefully we will get positive results very soon. After the accreditation we will be able to provide testing services continuously to the industries. And it’s our pleasure that the government also wants BUTEX as a reliable quality inspection and testing center for different textile products used in different government offices. l think it is only a matter of time.
As a University, we could not reach the standard but I believe it will be achieved after 2 or 3 years. I want to take this opportunity to share another information about our faculty members; approximately 36 teachers are in abroad in different world leading Universities for completing their PhD program. After two to three years, most of them will come back to the University & our academic environment will be changed completely. You will see BUTEX engaged in more research works and industry will start getting benefits of it. So it’s a transition period for us, we need a certain time to reach the standard. So when all primary development activities will be finished and available in operation, everyone will see that BUTEX has changed in a positive way. Industry will get the flavor of real BUTEX & realize that BUTEX is being able to meet our demand in all aspects.
Another point is about maturity. You gave the example of BUET. We are just in our 10th year whereas BUET is in peak of maturity, so comparison between BUET & BUTEX is not fair comparison. So after a while, you have to judge us. And surprisingly you will see that it’s dramatically improving due to dedication of faculty members as well as students. And I believe that we will reach our desired position in less time than other university.
Textile Focus: It’s a big responsibility for you as a VC of a new University, it is very challenging, how do you balance all things?
Professor Md. Abul Kashem: Yes! As a chief of this administration, I have to manage everything and it is not easy. I ‘m working to reach my target by handling everything in a fair and transparent way. But still there will be people who are criticizing talking negative things. But for me it doesn’t matter. Because, I believe if I am working sincerely and as long as I do not commit to corruption, I have no fear. In spite of these criticisms I am working relentlessly to achieve the target of the University and I have the confident that I will be successful if Allah wills.
Textile Focus: To end, do you want to give any special message to the textile graduates & the community?
Professor Md. Abul Kashem: I want to say to all the textile graduates whether you are a BUTEX graduate or not, if you utilize your valuable time to do effective works to reach your desired goals you will be successful in your practical life. If you utilize your time, obviously you will succeed where institution doesn’t matter. And I would request to the textile engineers to work in the industry as if it is our own industry, and the consequence of your work will have an impact on their company as well as their family, society & also the country. So whatever is your position, everyone is requested to serve his responsibility strictly which helps to build the desired Bangladesh.