Vocational training key to growth
The experience of Development Bank of Namibia (DBN) has shown that private education is in high demand, and that education as private enterprise is viable for finance, provided that administration and governance are sound, as well as the quality of the education. Knowing this, DBN has been able to finance several primary and secondary schools, as well as the International University of Management (IUM).
However, a scan of education in Namibia shows that there is a strong preference for and bias towards academic outcomes, and that there is limited scope for vocational training.
The bias towards academic education and professional qualifications places Namibia at a disadvantage. The economy is skewed towards outputs of the primary and tertiary sectors. In essence commerce, the primary field of the tertiary sector, is wrapped up in the administration of the primary sector, and industrialisation takes the back seat.
Industrialisation is one of the core components of Vision 2030. It is expected to create jobs. Its wider aspect is that it can add value to the Namibian primary sector with manufacturing, likely extending into trade and further gains for the Namibian economy. However Namibian industry is challenged by a limited pool of artisans.
Managers of industrial companies report that not only is there a shortage of artisans, but that ‘poaching’ of artisans is a concern. Competition for artisan skills needed to make an industrial enterprise viable is driving up the cost of skills, and cost to enterprises, as well. A planned enterprise cannot get out of the starting block if it cannot find the skills it needs, or if it prices itself out of the market due to high costs.
The obvious solution is to produce more skilled artisans through education. The challenges will be to match training of artisans to demand, and to overcome the bias towards managerial education.
The first challenge can be overcome by liaison with existing enterprise on their requirements, in order to tailor intakes and course offerings at vocational training centers. As artisans are added to the pool of skills, existing enterprises will be able to plan and maintain their human resources with greater confidence. Although skills migrate from enterprise to enterprise, the availability and cost of artisans will be less of a concern. At the same time, and by the same process of migration, a better pool will be available to new enterprise, and losses to existing enterprises should be replenished by the process of promotion, to lead acquisition of new arrivals in the artisan pool.
The second challenge is more difficult. Driven by aspiration to escape the inequities of the past, parents and their children seek qualification based on academics, with positions in offices and managerial roles as the outcome. Unfortunately, although private sector education has responded to this, there is an excess of management graduates which the private sector cannot absorb. The end result is that a portion of tertiary education contributes to unemployment. Judging by reports of entrepreneurs and managers, those graduates could be employed had they chosen vocational training.
Artisans present a different employment paradigm. Not only are they in demand, but they are also able to create their own employment. Electricians, mechanics and plumbers are not only needed by industry, but are also needed for maintenance of households and small businesses. The fees they command are often on par, if not higher, than some classes of professionals.
The establishment of a business for an artisan is not particularly complex either. At a pinch it can begin with a toolkit and a relatively small amount of working capital, extending to transport and possibly premises as the business grows.
In a nutshell, at present the prospect for various classes of artisans are more secure than for management graduates.
Taking it a step further, an artisan or a pool of artisans in a community has the ability to uplift the quality of living of that community by developing and providing maintenance for household and business infrastructure.
Development of more artisans is critical for development and with this in mind, the Development Bank is open to proposals for new facilities for training of artisans and / or expansion of existing institutions, subject to the Bank’s requirements of a viable business plan.