Comprehensive brain-gain initiative debuts amidst wide public, private sector support

Friday, 17 May 2013 00:10 -     - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}

Work In Sri Lanka, a volunteer-led initiative to advocate Sri Lanka as an attractive destination for highly skilled individuals and high calibre businesses, was launched at a forum comprising key public sector officials, industry leaders, heads of international non-government organisations, representatives of all major industries and relevant Government institutions, and civil society experts held recently, at Taj Samudra Colombo, with  Central Bank Governor Ajith Nivard Cabraal as the Chief Guest.

As the initial phase, Work In Sri Lanka has developed a web portal, that provides comprehensive information needed for relocation and links, users with key industry bodies. Work In Sri Lanka is actively engaged in building partnerships with key industries in Sri Lanka, while concurrently building a worldwide network to create awareness of the site and its services amongst educated professionals, mainly Sri Lankans, abroad.

Beyond the information portal, future plans include; becoming a channel for executive level job placement, provide networking and connectivity to high level positions which are often not openly advertised; showcase Sri Lanka as a preferred investment destination optimising the five hub strategy, especially the knowledge hub focusing on ITES industries; and becoming an advocacy organisation, work with the Government and others to further improve Sri Lanka’s attractiveness as the preferred relocation destination for experienced professionals.

Governor Cabraal making the keynote address at the launch highlighted the paradigm shift in the mind-set of Sri Lankans, as more consider work in Sri Lanka, rather than work overseas. He added that many are convinced that Sri Lanka has immense opportunities for both Sri Lankans abroad, as well as foreigners with a wide range of skills, especially to fill the growing demand for highly skilled labour driven by the national five-hub strategy for economic development.

Furthermore, the Governor pointed out that while people may have left Sri Lanka for different reasons, the country must now welcome them back, creating new spaces for them in the growing economy as Sri Lanka already has many highly qualified professionals, who have remained in the country through difficult times.

He also stressed on the significance of returning Sri Lankans integrating themselves into Sri Lankan society and their local communities in order to make brain gain meaningful. Cabraal also encouraged Sri Lankans seeking international exposure and returning to Sri Lanka as it broadened their knowledge and understanding, resulting in increased productivity and competitiveness.   

A panel discussion  on the topic of Sri Lanka’s need and readiness for brain gain was also held with HNB Chairperson Dr. Ranee Jayamaha, SLASSCOM Chairman Sujiva Dewaraja, SLINTEC Science Lead Prof. Ajith de Alwis and University of Colombo faculty of Management and Finance Dean Prof. H.D Karunaratne, CEO Dulith Herath, Immigration/Border Management and Labour Migration, International Organisation for Migration, Sri Lanka Head Shantha Kulasekara and Work In SriLanka Chairperson and Central Bank of Sri Lanka Senior Economist Kanchana Ambagahawita as panellists.

Ability to bring globally demanded skilled labour

The panel discussion was moderated by 99X Technologies CEO Mano Sekaram. The panel discussion which had very high participation from a cross section of the audience brought out several factors involving the attractiveness and ability to bring globally demanded skilled labour and Sri Lankan expatriates back to Sri Lanka. It was noted that as Sri Lanka is progressing into becoming a knowledge based economy there is a need for all sectors adapt to changing demands and provide technology based solutions and that there are many vacancies in such emerging areas that the industries are  finding it difficult to fill with  locally available skills at present.

Further, it was noted that there was greater potential in attracting expatriates back to Sri Lanka, as they already have family ties and a sense of attachments. On the issue of whether encouraging highly skilled labour to return would undermine opportunities of Sri Lankans who are already in the country, it was noted by educationists who were present that Sri Lankan students’, especially graduates and professionals, aptitude was very high and that exposure to new skills and competition will enhance the value of the local graduates.

It was also discussed that Sri Lanka has room to improve its social infrastructure, such as public transport, lifestyle activities and organisational culture in some instances to make Sri Lanka more welcoming to highly skilled professionals. Several panellists highlighted the need for a concerted effort between organisations, private sector, national level policy-makers and the Government to solve the macro impediments that may act as barriers to entry and create a strong foundation to encourage brain gain in Sri Lanka that will help economic growth as well increase the value of Sri Lankan human capital.

Kanchana Ambagahawita stressed that this volunteer initiative was to address a growing need for highly skilled professionals in fast growing industries and it is vital that Work In Sri Lanka is a concerted effort of the entire country. She highlighted that it is a dynamic process and a learning experience and invited all stakeholders to contribute to the development of the initiative and make a constructive effort to operationalise these goals.

In addition to this, SLASSCOM Executive Director and Work In Sri Lanka team member Imran Furkan outlined the criteria for partnerships with Work In Sri Lanka, where the initiative focused on values based on patriotism, value for human capital, an interest beyond financial assistance and a drive for mutually beneficial long term partnerships. Work In Sri Lanka invites any industry or civil society body to partner with the initiative and work towards the common goal of improving Sri Lanka’s human capital.

This project by SL2College which is a non-profit volunteer based organisation with a vast global outreach for building Sri Lanka’s human capital by assisting students to find world-class universities and career opportunities free of charge. SL2College Founder/Director and Google Senior Engineer Nayana Samaranayake stated that Work In Sri Lanka was an initiative attracting world class professionals, especially Sri Lankans, to return and become a part of Sri Lanka’s economic development.

SL2College Chairman and WSO2 CEO Dr. Sanjiva Weerawarana making the closing remarks at the event highlighted the unquestioned and unanimous interest and support the Work In Sri Lanka initiative received from a vast cross section of industries, the public sector and civil society organisations. The initiative is a volunteer-based initiative that has been planned and implemented by a team of 12 volunteers with varied skills, knowledge and backgrounds.

The team comprises Kanchana Ambagahawita, Dr. Sanjiva Weerawarana, Mr. Nayana Samaranayake, Dilmah Ceylon Tea Services Finance Manager Chamil Hathurusinghe, University of Moratuwa undergraduate student Kirthevasan Kandasamy, Virtusa Senior Engineer Nadeesha Nanayakkara, WSO2 Software Engineer Madhura Mendis, WSO2 Software Engineer Pamod Sylvester, WSO2 Marketing Officer Harindu Alwis, WSO2 Senior Associate Product Manager Gillian Dass, and SLASSCOM Executive Director Imran Furkan and assisted by Marlene Machado.

 Pix by Lasantha Kumara