It is high time a close relationship between industries and institutions of higher learning is developed to address the mismatch between graduates’ skills and the labour market demands, Professor Roy du Pré said.
Speaking at a public lecture last week in the capital themed ‘Higher Education and the Labour Market’, Prof Du Pré (a guest lecturer from Germany University) emphasised that Namibian industries need to engage with colleges to make today’s education more relevant to the labour market. The public lecture had been organised by the National Council for Higher Education.
“Higher education institutions have to undertake a major paradigm shift to provide the future human resource a chance to explore the economical possibilities at hand, including working closely with industries. Industries need to form a relation with the institutions for a symbiotic communication. Industries should take part in the development of a new curriculum to provide the relevant content on what the industry needs or give feedback and advise on the existing ones with regards to how they could fit the industries’ desire,” Prof Du Pré said.
He also stated that traditionally, universities taught for the sake of teaching and not so much for the sake of matching the skills and the knowledge they were providing with the labour market demands; hence the growing mismatch between the two sectors today.
Responding to this call, panellists emanating from the education sector who were present at the public lecture argued that their institutions are currently trying to do the paradigm shift.
University of Namibia (Unam) director of Academic Affairs, Erika Maas, stressed that while most calls are directed towards the higher learning institutions to change, it is imperative to realise that the institutions are actually responding and their efforts need to be acknowledged. However, all stakeholders have to be involved.
“This paradigm shift has to be a two-way process between the industry and education institutions. The industries need to prepare for interns for experiential learning,” Maas pointed out.
Polytechnic of Namibia rector, Prof Tjama Tjivikua, highlighted the institution is adopting a model that involves all ingredients needed to produce adequate graduates who can fit in the industries out there.
Although there is a constant complaint about the mismatch between courses offered and the labour needs while there are a huge number of graduates each year, Development Bank of Namibia (DBN) CEO, David Nuuyoma, argued that one needs to realise that the Namibian labour market is small and thus there is a need to expand business opportunities.
Experiential learning was found to be an important ingredient in preparing the graduates for the workplace. This should start from practical courses to internship at the companies as stated by Prof du Pré.
Namibia Chamber of Commerce and Industry (NCCI) chairperson of the Skills Development Committee, Dr Hylton Villet stated that not all industries are always well prepared for interns. Thus, industries need to be challenged to build honest and sustainable ways to develop youngsters.
Furthermore, Dr Villet said, companies need to understand that graduates cannot perform excellently at the first attempt at work. It is a daily learning experience for every worker.
The panellists argued that the blame cannot only be on either side but graduates also need to adopt the right attitude, because youngsters seem to be more interested in getting richer in their first jobs than taking time to gain experience and exposure.
Prof Du Pré thus urged the Government and all stakeholders to work on developing plans, which would make Namibia part of the globalised knowledge-based economy through producing a new generation of skilled graduates.