Prime Minister Saara Kuugongelwa-Amadhila says despite the obvious benefits of vocational training Namibia confronts a situation where school-leavers enroll in technical and vocational education and training (TVET) institutions only if they do not qualify for senior secondary or higher education institutions.
There is a growing and general perception in society that the vocational education and training system of a country is there to address many of the social challenges governments are confronted with, such as youth unemployment.
Equally, vocational education seems to be regarded as an acceptable route for those learners considered ‘non-academic’. Thus, if a learner is not good at academic work and drops out they are usually pushed into vocational education.
Kuugongelwa-Amadhila, who on Tuesday officially opened the first ever National Skills Competition and Expo, said there are problems with the delivery of technical and vocational education and training in Namibia.
The launch of the four-day competition will see skilled young Namibians from various training providers and industry sectors showcasing their technical skills at national level for the first time.
Further, ther PM said, there remain significant skills gaps in the workforce, limiting the ability of the country to diversify the economy, while the output of TVET at times falls short of the labour market’s requirements.
In its current form, she said, the TVET system is perceived negatively. She said there is poor correlation to labour market demands and currently TVET is contributing sub-optimally towards the socio-economic development of the country.
She called on young people to realise the potential in technical and vocational education training, as it creates jobs.
“I’ve seen a lot of people who repeat Grade 10. I remember when I was minister of finance that we spent more than N$400 million in one year on Grade 10 repeaters. They think vocational training is inferior,” she remarked.
As a consequence, she says, attention shouod be paid to TVET policy, adding that the TVET sub-sector needs to address both the formal and informal sector in relation to employment, and the professional capacity of TVET educators.
The PM said TVET can play a dynamic role in addressing many of the country’s challenges, such as under-employment and unemployment, in particular of young people, as well as countering poverty and deprivation.
“Indeed, technical and vocational skills are vital to make inroads on poverty reduction, economic recovery and sustainable development,” Kuugongelwa-Amadhila said.
Higher Education Minister Dr Itah Kandjii-Murangi shared similar sentiments, saying trainees take technical and vocational education training for granted. “I want to put an end to the perception that we have of TVET. I think it’s time we realise that TVET is a catalyst to job creation,” she said.
She further said the sad reality is that while government is making inroads in partnering with employers in the development of industry-relevant curricula and in freeing up more and meaningful job attachment opportunities, there are still a number of challenges in this regard.
“Many companies take in trainees, but fail to deliver in terms of expectations as far as on-the-job training, evaluation and reporting are concerned. It’s also true that some industry employers are reluctant to attach trainees, because of expectations that trainees will have to be paid allowances.
“Others continue to view our vocational training centres as sub-standard institutions, despite such centres conforming to stringent national quality assurance requirements,” she noted.
In President hage Geingob’s Harambee Prosperity Plan, it is projected that over the next three years the number of qualified VET trainers will increase from 15 000 in 2015 to 25 000 by 2020. Equally, it is expected that the quality and image of VET nationwide should improve.