By Petronella Sibeene SWAKOPMUND Realizing the importance of developing a competent and skilled workforce in the country, the Namibia Training Authority (NTA) is hosting a four-day conference at Swakopmund to address the pressing issue of skills deficiencies. About 180 delegates drawn from both local and international destinations yesterday assembled at the town to mark the beginning of this important gathering. Under the theme “Maximizing Effectiveness of Technical Vocational Education and Training (TVET) in Southern Africa”, the focal areas of discussion will evolve around how best role-players in this sector can align training with the world of work to ensure that vocational training is precisely suited to the skilled labour requirements of both the private and public sectors. Prime Minister Nahas Angula would officially open this extraordinary meeting, while other top officials to address the gathering will be the Minister of Education Nangolo Mbumba, Deputy Minister of Education Dr Becky Ndjoze-Ojo, Minister of Trade and Industry Immanuel Ngatjizeko and from the private sector the Managing Director of Namdeb, Inge Zaamwani, apart from other international speakers. In an interview with New Era yesterday, NTA Project Manager Ron Kukler explained that the NTA, which is the brainchild of the then Minister of Education Nahas Angula, was established to address the training system in the country which was reported to be inefficient and ineffective. The private sector has for years complained of poorly skilled graduates from institutions of higher learning and other training centres. Since it came into existence, the NTA has been approached by different businesses in the private sector to assist with the preparation of manuals that can be used to re-train their workers that have just graduated from elsewhere. Following a Cabinet decision taken in 2004 that this entity be established, measures to remedy the disastrous curricula used by many of the vocational training centres (VTCs) had to be taken. Through the years, some girls and boys have dropped out of school under the impression that they can update their education and acquire relevant skills in different occupations from the VTCs but due to irrelevant materials that do not apply to today’s job market, many have found themselves jobless. The unemployment rate among the youths in the country currently stands at over 37 percent. But the NTA for the past two years has aggressively been involved in developing a competency-based curriculum that is suited to the needs of the market. “Before we distribute the materials, we submit them to the people in that particular profession or the Namibia Qualifications Authority (NQA) for scrutiny and to see if the content is presently relevant to that particular industry,” said Kukler. The materials are distributed to all the regions of the country through Namcol, he added. However, Kukler said that the NTA is still waiting for Parliament to pass the Bill that will allow the entity to operate as “a legal one”. Once this is in place, hopefully by February 2007, the NTA will then be placed in a favourable position that would allow it to employ up to 40 and 50 staff members. Currently, there are only 12 people involved in this project. He lamented that it took the Ministry of Justice one and a half years to complete the legal drafting work, hence the delay in the passing of the Bill. “We can only go in full swing once the Act is in place,” Kukler stated. In Southern Africa, long standing poverty has been experienced by the socially, economically and politically disadvantaged. To uplift the under-privileged class, some governments have taken steps to develop relevant and accessible vocational technical training. According to one of the organizers of the conference Kimberly Cornish, historically, most countries in this part of the continent have been using European-based vocational training models that are irrelevant to the African situation. With countries such as Botswana, Zambia, Malawi, Mozambique, Mauritius, Australia, Zimbabwe, Uganda, and South Africa represented, it is hoped that all parties developing TVET curricula in the SADC region will communicate with one another and also look at the benefits and drawbacks of closer collaboration. Another area to be examined will be the possibility of developing a regional qualifications framework that would allow for qualifications obtained in one member state of SADC to be recognized in any other member state. “The 4th Annual Technical and Vocational Education and Training in SADC Conference will serve as a platform to discuss how future development and success of the SADC region can be realized through effective technical and vocational education and training,” she said. The conference that started on November 7, 2006 ends Friday.
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