Some out-of-the-box thinking will be needed to roll out a larger version of the successful Commercial Advancement Training Scheme (CATS) in order to make a meaningful impact on the challenges of poverty eradication and inequality, said Minister of Higher Education, Training and Innovation, Dr Itah Kandjii-Murangi. CATS, which was adapted from the German Dual Education System, was started in 2005 with support from the German Development Cooperation, the Walvis Bay Corridor Group and the Centre for Enterprise Development (CED).
The programme is a collaboration between educational institutions and industry by which students are empowered to meet educational and training needs of the industry by taking appropriate courses while being simultaneously exposed to practical business operations in a specific company. The programme has thus far graduated more than 100 candidates, 21 of whom graduated last Thursday.
“We are indeed making progress – however, the comment I am to make should be viewed as constructive, when I say that at this pace it will take us a long time before we make a meaningful impact on the challenges of poverty eradication and inequality, which are urgent and critical to our developmental agenda. This, therefore, therefore begs a number of questions such as what is it that prevents us from scaling up a project which is so successful,” said Kandjii-Murangi, during the CATS graduation ceremony which was held at a local hotel on Thursday evening. Questioning whether greater industry participation should be solicited, Kandjii-Murangi asked CATS administrators what needs to be done to get state-owned enterprises involved in the programme.
CATS came to fruition when industry realised that the lack of skills is hampering its growth and that no training was available in the area of logistics and transport. Based on this need the dual training concept was adopted with industry partners and the CED to provide a combination of hands-on practical training and theoretical broad-based training at the Namibia University of Science and Technology. Since inception, CATS has trained 114 students, of whom 90 percent are currently in permanent employment, many of them with their training companies.
CATS trainees are employed by one of the CATS member companies for two years. During this time they receive both practical and theoretical training. Practical training consists of on-the-job training at the company for four days a week, while another one and a half days are dedicated to theoretical training. On-the-job training means the trainee rotates through different departments of the business under the guidance of a CATS mentor and supervisor.
“Currently CATS is at a level where further development is required to ensure sustainability, growth and relevance,” said the chairman of the CATS board of directors, Patrick Kohlstaedt. He however expressed concern about the quality of school leavers identified for uptake in the programme.
“Unfortunately the quality of new entrants is weak, especially in mathematics and English, and we have to appeal to primary and secondary education institutions and parents and guardians to improve their efforts to enable kids to make a meaningful contribution to their careers,” said Kohlstaedt.