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ComBank supported VTA graduates find gainful employment

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The Commercial Bank of Ceylon has helped 210 school leavers find lucrative employment after completing Vocational Training Authority (VTA) training programmes and obtaining National Vocational Qualification (NVQ) certifications.

The Bank has been a part of the VTA’s initiative to train students who drop out of school after Grade 10 to equip them with skills necessary to thrive in the country’s construction industry since VTA first launched a specialised intervention titled ‘120 Days Training’ in 2015 to address the skills gap in the construction sector.

The programme entailed providing students with theoretical and hands-on training in the fields of masonry, carpentry, and plumbing. Trainees that successfully complete their 120-day course are awarded the NVQ Level 3 certificate. The syllabus also includes English language training specific to the construction industry, which would enable students to be eligible for foreign employment.

Commercial Bank supported the initiative between 2015 and 2020 by funding the resource personnel who conducted motivational training at these programmes and printing and providing training material pertaining to the course.

Further, in collaboration with the VTA the Bank also helped find employment opportunities for these students at reputed companies including Maga Engineering, Nawaloka Construction, Sripalie Construction, and Access Engineering with an entry level salary of Rs 50,000 upwards. Officials of the VTA and the CSR Unit of Commercial Bank met with the management of these companies on many occasions and requested them to persuade the new recruits to continue their pursuit of NVQ Levels four, five, and six and ultimately earn the seventh and last certification which is a Civil Engineering Degree offered at the University of Vocational Technology, Ratmalana.

Commenting on its role in VTA’s training initiative, Commercial Bank Managing Director Mr S. Renganathan said: “We recognise that the country’s labour force is one of the most important factors in development, irrespective of the sector. A skilled workforce is critically important to the construction industry and by supporting VTA’s programme we hope to contribute to the sector’s development while helping build young Sri Lankans find rewarding careers.”

He noted that most of the students belonging to the first batch that completed VTA’s 120 Day Training programme are now NVQ Level 5 certified professionals who pursued their training while at work. “It is heartening to note that if one is enthusiastic in this field, he or she can become a qualified and experienced Civil Engineer at the age of 23,” Mr Renganathan added.

Notably, the VTA programme is the only option available to those who leave school after Grade 10, to earn a Civil Engineering Degree or an equivalent, without going to university.

VTA was established in 1995 with the intent to provide skills for employment, especially to the rural masses of the country which constitutes 72% of the total population, and equip them with skills necessary to find employment opportunities both locally and internationally.

Sri Lanka’s first wholly carbon neutral bank, the first Sri Lankan bank to be listed among the Top 1000 Banks of the World and the only Sri Lankan bank to be so listed for 10 years consecutively, Commercial Bank operates a network of 268 branches and 932 automated machines in Sri Lanka. The Bank’s overseas operations encompass Bangladesh, where the Bank operates 19 outlets; Myanmar, where it has a Microfinance company in Nay Pyi Taw; and the Maldives, where the Bank has a fully-fledged Tier I Bank with a majority stake.



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BP sees biggest profit in 114-year history after oil and gas prices soar

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(picture BBC)

Energy giant BP has reported record annual profits after oil and gas prices surged last year following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

The company’s profits more than doubled to $27.7bn (£23bn) in 2022, compared with $12.8bn the year before.

Other energy firms have seen similar rises, with Shell reporting record earnings of nearly $40bn last week.

The profits have led to calls for energy firms to pay more tax as many households struggle with rising bills.

BP boss Bernard Looney said the British company was “helping provide the energy the world needs” and investing the transition to green energy.

Energy prices had begun to climb following the end of Covid lockdowns but rose sharply in March last year after Russia invaded Ukraine, sparking concerns about global supplies.

The price of Brent crude oil reached nearly $128 a barrel, but has since fallen back to about $80. Gas prices also spiked but have come down from their highs.

It has led to bumper profits for energy companies, but also fuelled a rise in energy bills for households and businesses.

(BBC)

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Public spending on education in SL declining but non-state actor participation in sector up: IPS

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L-R Dr Madura Wehella, former Additional Secretary (Policy, Planning and Review), Ministry of Education; Prof Harischandra Abeygunawardena, Chairman, National Education Commission; Dr Nisha Arunatilake, Director of Research, IPS; Asith de Silva, Senior Manager - Social Innovations, Dialog Axiata PLC and Dr Harsha Alles, Chairman, Gateway Group

By Lynn Ockersz

‘Despite Sri Lanka’s free education policy and expansion of state activities in education, public spending on education has historically declined. Government expenditure on education is low compared to Nepal, India and Malaysia, for example, although research indications are that non-state actor participation in the sector is growing, Director of Research at the Institute of Policy Studies of Sri Lanka Dr. Nisha Arunatilaka said.

‘Encouraging non-state sector participation in education services and expanding on successful collaborative initiatives between the state and non-state sectors to improve services, efficiency and quality, though under regulation and with attention to ensuring equity, are some measures that could be taken to address the challenges faced by Sri Lanka’s non-state education sector, Dr. Arunatilaka added. She was addressing an IPS and UNESCO-initiated panel discussion titled, ‘Non-State Actors in Sri Lanka’s Education Sector’, on January 24, at the IPS’s Dr. Saman Kelegama auditorium, to mark International Day of Education.

The event was aimed at raising public awareness on the findings of the ‘Global Education Monitoring Report 2022 South Asia’, which draws on the global comparative research by the ‘Global Education Monitoring (GEM) Report at UNESCO’. The IPS is one of six regional partners who contributed to the report on the basis of Sri Lanka’s experiences in the relevant areas of interest, IPS sources said.

Earlier, addressing the audience online, Senior Project Officer (Research), Global Education Monitoring Report, UNESCO, Dr. Priyadarshani Joshi said: ‘The 2022 GEM Report demonstrates inadequate public provision in South Asia and discusses the different contributions to education made by the region’s diverse non-state providers. To strengthen South Asia’s education sector, we suggest bringing all actors under one umbrella to work towards achieving educational goals by creating an enabling policy and regulatory environment, built on standards, information, incentives and accountability.’

The IPS-UNESCO panel brought together some key figures in Sri Lanka’s educational sphere from the state and non-state sectors. Following their presentations a Q&A session with the audience followed.

Chairman, National Education Commission Professor Harishchandra Abeygunawardena said in his presentation and in response to issues raised by the audience: ‘There is certainly a role for non-state actors in Sri Lanka’s education sector. We need to improve non-state access to the lower levels of education and to the tertiary level of the structure. Currently, resource constraints face the government. Here’s where the private sector could come in and help meet this shortfall in resource-allocation. In these efforts we need to keep in mind the primary aims in education: Providing universal access to education, irrespective of creed, ethnicity, language and other differences and bringing out good citizens. The promotion of patriotism among students is important.

‘However, there is no accountability on the part of some private schools. Many private schools do not get registered with the authorities. The impression that one gets with regard to many institutions in this sector is that ‘education is up for sale’. The number of students “passing out” with “top degrees” is astounding. The quality of teaching and the educational qualifications of many teachers leave much to be desired.’

Chairman, Gateway Group, Dr. Harsha Alles said: ‘There is no support for the private sector in education. There are no loans for us free of charge but we have to pay all taxes without fail. Currently, there are 140,000 students in private schools. However, there are some 1,500 state schools with less than 50 students.

‘But private educational institutions could to do things differently. For example, through the use of modern technology in teaching. The public and private sectors have to work together. But the monitoring of private schools is important. The entirety of the latter institutions need to register with the authorities but this has not happened. We need to work out the cost per student. When this is done it will be found that the cost per private sector student is lower than that of his counterparts in the public sector.’

Senior Manager, Social Innovations, Dialog Axiata PLC, Asith de Silva stressed the need for up-skilling teachers. They need to acquire the ability to teach with the aid of modern technology. At present there is a lack of awareness among many teachers on the need for such abilities. They and the general public should be made aware of the importance of IT technology, if not such technology would be a like a new car that has been for bought for running but left completely unused. It is unfortunate that some school administrators and teachers have a misleading view on IT technology. Prejudices to the effect that the use of IT in teaching could lead to harmful consequences need to be dispelled.

Outlining some ways in which Dialog is helping in achieving educational goals, De Silva said that under its ‘Nenasa’ program eight channels are dedicated to teaching students from Years 1 to 13. There are four such dedicated channels in Tamil.

Former Additional Secretary (Policy, Planning and Review), Ministry of Education Dr. Madura M. Wehella focusing on existing gaps in educational regulations drew attention in particular to the 1961 Education Act which does not recognize non-state actors in local education. She said, among other things, that ‘state and non-state actors could collectively overcome regulatory constraints and strengthen the education system holistically’. For example, the two actors could collaborate in introducing innovations in the area of teacher training.

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Share market pulls back from green territory; mid-day trade slumps

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By Hiran H.Senewiratne

The CSE fell in mid-day trade yesterday, having pulled back after continuously being on the green in the past sessions. But banking sector counters showed some selling pressure due to certain comments in the media during the weekend on domestic debt restructuring, analysts said.

The market moved to green with a leap on Friday, generating over Rs 4 billion due to credit assurance from the Paris Club, Non Paris Club and bond holders on the matter of obtaining the IMF bail-out package, market analysts opined.

However, there’s a pull- back consequent to certain media articles on domestic debt restructuring, which resulted in impairing investor perception to greater extent, especially in the banking sector, market analysts added.

Consequently, both indices moved downwards. The All- Share Price Index went down by 78.4 points and S and P SL20 declined by 20.2 points. Turnover stood at Rs 2.3 billion with five crossings. Those crossings accounted for 30 per cent of revenue, analysts explained.

The companies that mainly contributed to the turnover were, Expolanka Holdings, which crossed 900,000 shares to the tune of Rs 172.8 million, its shares traded at Rs 492, JKH 1 million shares crossed to the tune of Rs 145 million, its shares fetched Rs 145, Sampath Bank one million shares crossed for Rs 45.5 million, its shares traded at Rs 45.50, Dialog Axiata 2.6 million shares crossed for Rs 26 million, its shares fetched Rs 10 and Agstar PLC 1.48 million shares crossed for Rs 23 million, its shares traded at Rs 15.60.

In the retail market top seven companies that mainly contributed to the turnover were, JKH Rs 308 million (2.1 million shares traded), Expolanka Holdings Rs 288 million (1.5 million shares traded), Aitken Spence Rs 119 million (794,000 shares traded), Lanka IOC Rs 87.1 million (434,000 shares traded), Expact Corrugated Cartons Rs 75.5 million (4.5 million shares traded) and Softlogic Capital Rs 70.6 million (4.2 million shares traded). During the day 73.8 million share volumes changed hands in 17000 transactions.

The banking sector should explore restructuring loans of salaried employees hit by progressive tax, Central Bank Governor Dr. Nandalal Weerasinghe said as progressive income taxes were imposed at lower thresholds amid high inflation following a sovereign default.

There have been complaints mainly by picketing state enterprise executives and also other workers of such agencies, such Sri Lanka Port Authority, that high progressive taxes were putting their bank accounts into overdraft after loan installments were cut.

Yesterday, the Central Bank announced the US dollar buying rate as Rs 359.99 and selling rate as Rs 370.18.

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