Vocational Education and Training at the forefront of SADC industrialisation and integration framework
“It has always been acknowledged that the private sector is the engine for economic growth and it is important that we recognise the pivotal role and accord them an appropriate place in the SADC Education and Skills Development and STI agendas,” said the SADC deputy Executive Secretary for Regional Integration, Dr Thembinkosi Mhlongo, when he opened the 2018 joint meeting of SADC ministers for education, training, science, technology and innovation.
The meeting took place in Durban, South Africa on Thursday 21 June and was hosted by the South African ministries of Basic Education, Higher Education and Training, and Science and Technology. In addition to the education ministers from the Southern African Development Community, it was attended by representatives of the International Labour Organisation, UNESCO, and the African Union.
Science, Technology and Innovation (STI) are seen as the major educational drivers of the SADC industrialisation strategy, in conjunction with policy frameworks that guide the Development Community’s goal of regional integration based on manufacturing and trade. In this regard, the private sector in all member countries is seen as a major enabler and catalyst.
“It is critical that we move together with the private sector, academia and other players in forging partnerships and strategic alliances to accelerate our industrialisation and regional integration agendas,” said Dr Mhlongo.
Looking at the progress to date, he said “the implementation of the Revised Regional Indicative Strategic Development Plan (RISDP) 2015 – 2020 and the SADC Industrialization Strategy (2015-2063) within the broader context of the AU Agenda 2063 are well underway.
Sounding a cautious note, the deputy Executive Secretary warned: “Allow me to reiterate that severe deficit of skills was identified in the Strategy as one of the binding constraints to industrialization. The Industrialisation Strategy calls for reshaping and restructuring of the education and training systems with a focus on technical and vocational skills of all kinds, especially those appropriate for a modern, knowledge economy.”
At the meeting, the ministers discussed the draft framework and guidelines for the establishment and strengthening of centres of excellence and centres of specialization. The concept of a SADC University of Transformation was mooted, backed by discussions on intellectual property rights, innovation and technology transfer, and the role of women in science, engineering and technology.
This was followed by discussions on teaching standards, the development of a common SADC nomenclature on vocational training, and a draft for the revision of a so-called strategic Vocational Education and Training (VET) framework.
“I wish to urge our higher institutions of learning as frontiers of knowledge to undertake research and provide training programmes that are responsive to the needs of industry to ensure a healthy balance between the supply and demand of skills which are key for the development of the potential value chains identified in the SADC region,” Dr Mhlongo stated.