Skills mismatch costing the country

Numerous observers and critiques of Namibia’s education system have repeatedly hammered on the country’s education and training for not delivering the desired results in terms of skills needed by the economy.
The main observation is that there is a serious skills mismatch in the skills produced by educational institutions and what is needed by the industry. As a developing country, Namibia not only experiences skills mismatch but serious skills deficit. What is for sure is that there is not enough consultation or talking taking place between those designing school, university and VTC curricula and the industry.

Educators should not sit in their ivory towers designing curricula that is not in tune with what is required by the economy. The two should work in tandem and educational institutions should produce what is needed by the economy.

The thousands of graduates that remain unemployed on the streets is either because education is either providing individuals who do not possess the skills required by the job market or the economy not producing enough jobs for the professionals produced.

In addition to the skills mismatch, there is also skills shortage, which is that there are not enough professionals with the right qualifications and skills produced.

Recently, President Hage Geingob also expressed concern over the education system not producing graduates for the labour market, saying that there is a ‘’fundamental shift’’ needed to prepare the youth with the right skills for the job market.

What is clear is that there are some attempts being made to address the situation to make our youth employable such as introducing subjects like Entrepreneurship, Agriculture, Design and Technology, but so far we have not seen fruits of these piecemeal changes. However, what is also true is there are not enough teachers in subjects such as Design and Technology, with some schools without teachers in this field six months into the year.

We should also consider extra-curricular qualifications that can be offered by employers or individuals youths engaging in self-teaching and not only depend on that which can be offered in class to make our youth employable. Skills such as digital literacy and innovation should also count and employers should venture into looking for employees with these as well as other soft skills.

Professor Amr Ezzat Salama, the former Minister of Higher Education and Scientific Research in Egypt has found that in his country:

• 57% of private enterprises indicate that training centres’ facilities are not adequate to provide quality training

• 60% believe that training programs do not meet the needs of the labour market

• Public and private providers of formal and informal vocational education and training do not use available occupational classifications

• Employers consider the training provided by the VTCs and MTIs as of poor quality

The reality cannot be far from the truth in Namibia. On the question of facilities, a local VTC participant in this year’s World Skills Competition in Swakopmund shared on national television that they are not exposed to modern motor mechanic equipment during their training.

Our educational institutions not meeting the needs of the labour market – we elaborated on already.

The ongoing initiative started by the Namibia Training Authority to place VTC and other training institutions trainees with employers and giving such employers training subsidies will definitely take us a long way in preparing our youth for the market and completing training institutions’ work.

Skills mismatch has other consequences for Namibia as a country and its economy, in areas of productivity and competitiveness, which results in a loss of profits and markets for companies, because they are not adequately resourced with properly skilled workforce to have a competitive advantage over their international counterparts.

In the absence of a properly skilled workforce the country will also not be competitive (Namibia’s low international competitiveness scores) in attracting international investors. What does this say about the billions the government is investing in education. All we can say is – No Return on Investment or shall we say that the many tweaks that have been made to our education system are yet to deliver. But, our youth cannot be expected to wait forever for the system to work for them.
In the words of Professor Amr Ezzat Salama ‘’Education is not a process that results in a graduate not finding a job. If after years of “education”, graduates are destined to unemployment or to non-productive jobs, then they are not educated’’.So the jury is out on our pedagogues to find an answer for the industry and education to speak to each other.

By Observer