I am a staunch supporter of vocational education

I am a staunch supporter of vocational education

I am a staunch supporter of technical and vocational education and training (TVET), as a means to refocus our education and training system towards the fulfilment of our social and economic aspirations and to bring about a more diversified, knowledge-based economy.

I, therefore, gladly accepted the invitation by the Namibia Training Authority (NTA) to officiate at the opening of the National Skills Competition and Expo 2016. At this prestigious event, we will witness the technical and vocational skills of our young Namibians from various public and private training institutions; industry participants; private candidates and also from the uniformed forces and correctional services.

We recognise the key role that WorldSkills Namibia is playing in arranging this event and in serving as the national hub for skills excellence and development. Through international cooperation and development between industry, government and other institutions, events such as this one promote the benefits of and need for skilled professionals through grassroots community projects, skills competitions, and knowledge exchange.

Credit must also go to the Ministry of Higher Education, Training and Innovation, the NTA, the NQA (Namibia Qualifications Authority) and other stakeholders for promoting and enabling closer links between employers and training providers to narrow the skills mismatches that we still experience in Namibia.

Tonight’s event also contributes to creating a better balance between academic pursuits and technical and vocational education thus challenging perceptions that the TVET pathway is “second best” and, therefore, “less prestigious”.
We are well aware that TVET can play a dynamic role in addressing many of our current concerns, such as underemployment and unemployment – in particular of young people – poverty and deprivation. Indeed, technical and vocational skills are vital to make inroads on poverty reduction, economic recovery and sustainable development.

We also recognise the role of TVET in promoting cultural diversity and in ensuring the transmission of local knowledge and skills between generations, thus fostering human centred development and the need to consider TVET in relation to the specific country context, while recognising its universal dimension.

Yet, despite these convincing benefits, in Namibia we are currently facing a situation where school-leavers decide to enrol in TVET institutions only if they do not qualify for senior secondary or higher education.

There are, however, also problems associated with the delivery of TVET in Namibia. In its current form, the system is perceived negatively with poor articulation with labour market demands and contributing sub-optimally towards our socio-economic development needs. There remain significant skill gaps in the workforce, limiting the ability of the country to diversify the economy, while the output of TVET, at times, fall short of the market requirements.

As a consequence, policy attention to TVET should be stepped up. The TVET sub-sector needs to address both the formal and informal sector in relation to employment, and the professional capacity of TVET Educators.
Excellence in teaching and learning is fundamental to producing skilled artisans and technicians with the attributes that employers are looking for.

Namibia’s Industrial Policy calls for the implementation of the principles of lifelong learning and the creation of flexible pathways educational systems and between the various levels of learning. The Policy further suggests that we must acquire the competences needed for engaging in the labour market and that we promote internships.

The National Human Resources Plan provides a good guide on how to invest into critical skills to meet the current and emerging developmental challenges. However, it still remains to be put in place an accompanying National Human Resources Development Plan.

With the establishment of NTA, good progress was made to establish an integrated TVET system, which is consistent, flexible and geared to the changing demands of the labour market.

The focus is to promote TVET that is relevant, has quality and which produces technicians endowed with the appropriate skills, qualifications, values and attitudes.

In accordance with the Harambee Prosperity Plan, the following goals and outcomes are expected over the next three years: increasing the number of qualified VET trainers from 15 000 in 2015 to 25 000 by 2020; improving the quality of VET; improving the image of VET nationwide; and speeding up VET refunds to private sector who train their employees.

I have no doubt that the NTA will deliver on these outputs since these are firmly anchored into its Strategic Plan.
We also acknowledge with appreciation the work done and assistance provided by our TVET development partners.

In particular, the work done by UNESCO’s BEAR Project aimed at Better Education for Africa’s Rise is highly appreciated. The emphasis of this intervention is to enhance teacher training and curriculum development in construction sector skills development.

• Prime Minister Saara Kuugongelwa-Amadhila delivered a speech at the official opening of the National Skills Competition and Expo 2016, which ends today, 17 September, in at Ramatex Complex in Windhoek.

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