Namibia
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Does Apprenticeship Training Really Matter in Namibia

Do we in Namibia really understand the importance of apprenticeships and what value it could offer to any education system?

Also, do we really appreciate what apprenticeships can contribute to skills development in Namibia?

As adopted by the 111th International Labour Conference held in Switzerland earlier this month: “The term “apprenticeship” should be understood as a form of education and training that is governed by an apprenticeship agreement, that enables an apprentice to acquire the competencies required to work in an occupation through structured and remunerated or otherwise financially compensated training consisting of both on-the-job and off-the-job learning and that leads to a recognised qualification”.

I had the privilege of being among the delegates from more than 186 nations who attended the conference.

REFORMS AND QUESTIONS

Having being an apprentice during the early 1980s at Consolidated Diamond Mines (CDM), now Namdeb, I enjoyed the opportunity to train as a boilermaker apprentice.

The training was of a high standard and we were paid while we trained.

After independence, the education system was reformed, and apprenticeship training was abolished for unknown reasons.

With the reform of the education system at the time, one would have expected a better education and training system.

Of course, the reforms did address the imbalances of apartheid to some extent.

What worried me, though, was that technical training was abolished at schools such as Augustineum Secondary School, Windhoek Technical High School, and Cornelius Goreseb High School, to mention but a few.

One wonders why such a decision was taken.

Conversely, I am profoundly happy that some technical schools were converted into Vocational Training Centres (VTCs) such as Okakara VTC, Rundu VTC, Zambezi VTC and Valombola VTC. 

Today, we have more than seven public VTCs and more than 97 private VTCs in Namibia with more than 34 000 registered trainees compared to over 1 200 combined trainees registered at public VTCs during the early 1990s.

The government deserves applause for such an achievement.

Recently, the higher education ministry decided to re-introduce pre-vocational subjects at some schools, and must be applauded for this move too.

IMPORTANCE

I always argue that many developed nations arrived at where they are today because of the importance they attached to vocational training.

I am not arguing that academic education is not important. It is equally crucial for a country’s development.

Research tells us that in many developing countries more than 70% of secondary school leavers prefer vocational training.

During 2021, the ministry of higher education launched a revised Technical Vocational Education and Training (TVET) policy, which aspires to (a) enhance the quality and relevance of TVET programmes; and (b) increase access and equity in TVET programmes.

At present, Namibia is confronted with a skills mismatch in its education and training system.

It is more supply driven as opposed to demand driven.

In other words, we produce more skills or graduates not in demand by the economy.

This partly contributes to the high unemployment rates among graduates.

To address the above concerns is why apprenticeship training matters.

There should be a social dialogue between the government, workers and employers to map out strategies on what the education and training system should offer in terms of skills demanded and quality of education needed.

BENEFITS

In 2014, the Namibia Training Authority (NTA) introduced a training levy. Employers with a monthly wage bill of more than N$1million are expected to contribute 1% of their wage bill towards the levy.

There are reportedly around 3 218 levy registered employers with the NTA.  Such employers qualify to claim up to 50% of their training costs from the levy.

Nonetheless, only 93 employers participate in the apprenticeship scheme with 827 registered trainees as apprentices.

We need to ask why so few employers are involved in the scheme.

In a welcome move, the NTA recently re-introduced apprenticeship training for the TVET sector.

I would like to emphasise the importance of apprenticeships and encourage employers to participate in the apprenticeship scheme. The benefits are enormous.

– Benefits for employers include: Recruiting and developing a highly skilled workforce that helps grow their business; improved productivity and profitability; creating flexible training options that ensure workers develop the right skills; minimising liability costs through appropriate training of workers; tax credits and employee tuition benefits; and an increased retention of workers during and following the apprenticeship; training refund incentives for participating employers.

– Benefits for apprentices include: Earning an income while you’re learning; lowering debt while learning; gaining work experience; and benefiting from qualified mentors.

It’s a win-win situation for Namibia, for employers and for apprentices.

Apprenticeships matter, not least in Namibia.