By Petronella Sibeene SWAKOPMUND The negative attitude displayed by most members of society towards young people at vocational training institutions should be done away with if Namibia is to develop a strong, skilled workforce needed for economic growth. The Managing Director of Namdeb and also President of the Namibia Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Inge Zaamwani, yesterday condemned the attitude that many are believed to have towards those in vocational training centres who are in many cases graded as second in the academic circles of the country. “There is a general stigma attached to VTCs. They are perceived to be for the less gifted or inferior members”, she lamented. Most industries, she added, have been reluctant to support VTCs and those who graduate from them, and yet the country is still grappling with economic emancipation 16 years after attaining its political independence. According to Zaamwani, Namibia requires competent and skilled people for the economy to grow and thus it is incumbent upon practitioners in the education and skill-imparting related fields to ensure that learners receive the needed and relevant knowledge and skills fit for the market. Through that, Namibia’s skilled workforce will grow, and that should have a positive effect on the economy too. Jones Chafa, who is the Managing Director of the Technical Vocational Education and Training (TVET) in Malawi, shared the same sentiments as Zaamwani, stating that the skills base of the workforce in the SADC region is critical in setting the foundation of improving economies of the member countries. Apprenticeship training is another major form of training that is implemented in some countries where the private sector provides the most needed attachment places for apprentices training at VTCs. Unfortunately, there has been an outcry from the training institutions that industries are reluctant to take up these apprentices, and thus when they graduate they are unable to deliver what the industry demands. Further, the private sector has failed to train its employees to cope with the ever-changing world economy. This, according to Chafa, is evidenced by the lack of meaningful competitiveness of SADC member countries on the world market. One of the reasons given by the private sector for not sending its employees for skill-upgrading is that, once they do so, these employees leave for greener pastures, and this is regarded as a self-defeating strategy. Chafa encourages the private sector to also consider supporting informal sector training which forms part of the demand for TVET. Meanwhile, Zaamwani hopes these are some of the issues which the 180 experts in the education field currently gathered at Swakopmund will discuss. The four-day conference under the theme “Maximizing Effectiveness of Technical Vocational Education and Training (TVET) in Southern Africa,” will discuss ways on how best role-players in this sector can align training with the world of work to ensure that vocational training is precisely suited to skilled labour requirements of both the private and public sectors. Managing Director of Namdeb Inge Zaamwani, and Mayor of Swakopmund Rosina //Hoabes, chatting during a tour of the exhibition hall.