By Petronella Sibeene SWAKOPMUND Education and training institutions in Namibia should involve key stakeholders in their planning and decision-making processes if they want to receive optimum support from the private sector. This was the view of the Managing Director of Namdeb, Inge Zaamwani, at the recent 4th annual Technical and Vocational Education and Training Conference held at the coast. She said that although the private sector welcomes the new and invigorated emphasis that is being bestowed upon its important role in the training system, the advisory role of the private sector does not seem to be appreciated. Zaamwani says a lot of advice given to training institutions is not translated into action, while the private sector, despite being the largest employer of graduates from vocational institutions, is still marginalized when it comes to the areas of decision-making on technical and vocational education and training (TVET). “This results in a lot of frustration and eventually, non-participation. The private sector would like to be given some decision-making authority in order to play an active role in making TVET effective,” she said. While correct ethics and attitude are considered the key attributes of a competent worker, Zaamwani said another challenge that the private sector is facing is the lack of these two qualities in graduates from TVET institutions. She suggested that there be intensive coordination between the general education and TVET systems to ensure that preparation for work in industry starts at an earlier stage. She said: “It is easy to provide further on-the-job training and experience to a person with the right attitude and commitment.” Graduates from TVET institutions have always been considered as inferior and thus Zaamwani urged members of the public to work towards changing the negative stigma. “TVET involves a lot of productive work by a competent person which can never be done by anyone else. Both low and middle-level skills provide the manpower base for any industrialization, and social and economic growth,” she added. The Deputy Minister of Trade and Industry, Bernhard Esau, said it was time his ministry was viewed as a major partner in education. He said the Ministry of Education and its sub-systems should effectively liaise with the Ministry of Trade and Industry in order to align all education and training interventions to areas with the highest potential for the growth of the economy and employment. He called on those involved in the educational system to work towards removing the current lack of structural coordination between the training and employment systems. “We need to identify and prioritize demand areas in relation to employment creation and the growth of industry and commerce and their manpower requirements, and focus on education and training accordingly,” he said. Namibia needs highly skilled manpower to increase the quality of all its goods and services and to be able to compete on the regional and international markets. For the country to reduce its dependency on the import of basic, finished products, Esau stressed that Namibia should strive for a highly skilled manpower and a competent workforce, which is able to adapt to the drastic social and technological changes. Meanwhile, the deputy minister appealed to the Ministry of Education to consider the training needs of the SME sector during its planning and implementation of any of its training programmes. The SME sector has in many developing nations proved to offer great opportunities for economic growth and employment creation.