Weak commodity prices, less prospecting and low production in mining has severely reduced prospects of employment and industrial attachment for many geoscience students leaving universities, industry experts have said.
In an exclusive with The Villager, a geoscientist at the Ministry of Mines and Energy Shipandeni Abraham said the current economic situation has caught the students off-guard and mines are retrenching.
“The government stopped recruiting, there are retrenchments in the private sector and Internal economic issues have affected the sector heavily,” he said. Abraham was addressing many geoscience students from Namibia’s institutions of higher learning on the jobs outlook in mining under the current challenging times where he urged them to remain resilient as the economy is expected to recover by 2018.
“The employment outlook in the geosciences, as in any profession varies with the economic climate of the country. Opportunities for employment will continue due to the need to replace current workers lost due to attrition, resignation, retirement or death. Economic conditions change over time, and the demand for geologists will go through cycles,” he encouraged. At the same time, employment in the sector has been hindered by Namibia’s ranking as the most attractive destination for investment in mining and exploration on the continent has decreased in the past few years.
With many students left in the cold, Shipandeni has urged the nation to absorb many of them in the teaching field until such a time when the economy will start breathing life again. “Employ them as Teachers of Senior or Junior Secondary Schools and Primary Schools. Create special employment programmes for them while they are searching for better jobs.
Further your education,” he said. Chief Geologist at the Ministry of Mines and Energy Badumisa Sibolile advised students to rather compromise and seek for unpaid industrial attachment considering the rough patch companies are mired in. “There are two things when they apply, there can either be rejection or acceptance from the employers. Every employer would ask for some kind of experience. If you have been in mining for a few days, it helps. Students should consider taking unpaid attachments,” he told The Villager.
He further said, “Some employers actually start to feel guilty if they take a person and keep him/her for a month or two without being paid and start to think that they are not doing justice to that person.” Sibolile said students have been unfortunately caught up in an environment where most mining companies do not even have internship programs which used to be there back in the 90s. “
Back then companies would come to UNAM and take students but these days it’s difficult because there is this fear of health and safety. If you take me into your company vehicle and we are involved in an accident, it would be the company’s responsibility and because the students would not be formally employed, companies thus want to avoid all these kind of things,” he said. As experts exhort students to take the unpaid internships, they, however, said the time has to be very short enough for them to garner experience which is enough to prepare them for full-time jobs as the real economy begins having green shoots.
“The Mining industry is not doing very well, commodity prices are not good and universities continue producing students so there is that overflow of students in the flooded market and it’s difficult to get these jobs. That’s why it is important for you to find your way in and get a certain kind of experience which will make you better than the next person,” he said. However, mining is expected to be Namibia’s major growth driver as demand increases with prizes stabilising while global growth is projected to grow by 3.5 percent in this financial year and 3.6 percent by 2018. It is projected that as global commodity prices pick up, exploration would commence in emerging economies thus providing gaps for the unemployed graduates.