By Hilary Mare in Ongwediva
EDUCATION and training are sound investments for the individual, the employer, and the economy. Skills development for participants in the labour force is important in sub-Saharan Africa and subsequently in Namibia today for several reasons.
Technological change and the increased competition flowing from trade liberalisation require higher skills and productivity among workers. Skilled workers are more readily able to adapt existing knowledge and processes. Growing, competitive economies benefit from their presence and their movement to more productive employment.
Investing in the productivity and skills of people raises the incomes of economically vulnerable groups, thereby reducing poverty. Skills development has also become more important and difficult as wars proliferate and health issues intensify in the region. In particular, HIV/AIDS is depleting scarce human capital and magnifies the need to replace skills lost across a wide range of occupations.
With this challenge vehemently confronting Namibia, it was reported in a local daily last week that a lack of statistics has delayed the work of a National Assembly standing committee in engaging the general public on how best the country can address the shortage of skills among especially rural youth, in a bid to eradicate poverty, improve standards of living and create sustainability.
The motion said to have been moved by Swapo backbencher Veikko Nekundi during the last session and was referred to the committee on human resources and community development for public consultations.
This is in line with the targets and goals of the Harambee Prosperity Plan (HPP) introduced by President Hage Geingob as his strategy to drive Namibians out of the dark pits of poverty and hopelessness.
“We were ready and wanted to work during this recess, but we couldn’t do so because of some outstanding issues like statistics,” chairperson of the committee Bernadette Jagger said.
Not so long ago the Namibia Chamber of Commerce and Industry (NCCI) highlighted the height of the challenges Namibia faces via this anomaly.
“We have so many poorly skilled and therefore unemployable youth and this is contributing to a lack of job opportunities. This is also why the private sector is keen on importing skills from elsewhere because it is tough finding skills locally for the type of work that is available,” NCCI CEO Tarah Shaanika explained.
While skilled staffs is imperative to establish and sustain businesses, ensuring they are innovative, cost effective, and able to compete in the increasingly changing world, the impact is that employers struggle to find skilled employees and in some cases postpone investments.
Essentially one of the reasons for the skills shortage is the globalisation of economies. The more open the international markets are, the more competitive it becomes and hence the more Namibia needs competitive skills.
In 2013, a local weekly quoted energy consultant Harald Schütt concurring that any modern economy needs skilled labour to perform the increasingly complicated and complex operations of industrial production.
“Industrialised countries developed such technologies over centuries and in accordance with their natural conditions and needs had hundreds of years to also develop the necessary skills and systems to pass them on to the next generation of artisans.
“Developing countries on the other hand often import the technology to perform certain tasks and operations, but don’t have the necessary knowledge within them to operate, maintain and repair such technology – to say nothing about developing their own technical systems, which could possibly be better adapted to, in our case, African conditions,” he said.
Namibia’s technical expertise is therefore essential for the country to be able to pursue its own path of technological and economic development.
It is important also to realise that the informal sector today absorbs most of those unable to find wage employment. Crowding-in of employment in traditional trade, retail, and personal services in the informal sector is cutting into individual market share and serving to redistribute poverty. A small number of new entrants who have more education are seeking manufacturing and high-end service opportunities in the informal sector as a preferred choice. Against this background, sub-Saharan Africa’s stock of human capital is exceedingly low—as evidenced by low enrolment ratios, literacy rates, and educational attainment. Women are active labour force participants, but their full absorption into labour markets is hindered by a lack of education and skills and by cultural impediments.
Addressing the skills shortage will create more employment, enhance expertise and technical know-how as well as stimulate entrepreneurship, which serve as factors for an increased solution to growth at home.
The 1991 World Bank Policy Paper on Technical and Vocational Education and Training (TVET) emphasised the importance of good-quality basic education for all as a foundation for equitable access to future skills development. Governments were encouraged to establish a policy environment that supported market-led skills development. The rationalisation of the public sector’s role in training anticipated a more strategic approach by governments to the provision and financing of skills development, built on an understanding of what the private sector could be encouraged to do as a development partner in a given country setting.
State-sponsored training systems play an important role in all countries in Sub- Saharan Africa. These institutions continue to fall short in assessments of their relevance to economic and social needs, their effectiveness in delivering skills, and their costs and efficiency. The challenge is how to reform these institutions to make them more responsive to markets and more effective in the use of resources.
Essentially, the role of governments in the provision and financing of skills development continues to be debated. Governments have a public interest in removing skills bottlenecks to economic development and in promoting access to skills for those who are socially and economically disadvantaged. However, governments cannot afford to provide all the skills needed in a modern market economy. State-sponsored training can work best when delivered in partnership with other providers to meet market needs and diversify financing, while governments support the development of training markets.
As a remedy, Government can be proactive in developing policies, setting standards, investing in training materials and instructors, improving public information about the training system, and carrying out evaluations of training; financing training to meet equity objectives and fill strategic skill gaps; and providing skills training in priority areas where non-government providers are reluctant to invest (but exercising caution to avoid crowding out non-government providers).
Confidente. Lifting the Lid. Copyright © 2015