5 December 2006

Botswana: Vocational Education Not Up to Standard

Orapa-Letlhakane Diamond mines General Manager has cast doubts on whether the current National Vocational Education is able to fully meet the needs of the mining industry.

Making a presentation at the Botswana Training Authority (BOTA) symposium on Technical and Vocational Education Training (TVET), the General Manager, Sebetlela Sebetlela said although the national vocational education is unable to fully meet the demands of the mining industry, it is evolving, albeit slowly.

He said: "while the mining industry has benefited in the training of semi-skilled employees and other trades such as painters, builders, plumbers and carpenters from this system, it has not met the high level skills demand of the fitting, fabrication, welding and electrical trades to service the highly technologically advanced plants and equipment used in industry."

He revealed that in some artisan trades such as Instrument Technicians, these skills are in very short supply throughout the SADC region and Debswana has to date had to rely on outside training in South Africa and the United Kingdom. The development of the VET system to cater for these needs is therefore vital."

He explained that Debswana decided to introduce Competency Based Modular Training (CBMT) in 1996, which has worked very well for them and explained that he believes it is the way to go.

"If this system can be applied at national level, the graduate will immediately provide the required skills and competencies to industry and if unemployed, they can be in a position to start their own businesses," he said.

Talking about how the diamond company has contributed to vocational and technical skills development, he said: "Debswana runs a P20 million post secondary education scholarship programme. Students are fully funded to attend various diploma and degree programmess at the University of Botswana and overseas institutions to pursue courses in Engineering, Mining, Medicine, Geology, Human Resources, Metallurgy, Accounting and many more."

He said most of the management team of Debswana are products of this programme as well as many other professionals that no longer work for Debswana.

"To achieve production targets of the operations, tradesmen of different engineering disciplines must be sufficiently trained to maintain the technologically advanced treatment plants, computerized mining fleet - trucks and dozers, transport vehicles and many other engineering related equipment and facilities.

"Debswana has an apprenticeship programme that serves Orapa, Letlhakane and Damtshaa Mines, Jwaneng mine, Morupule Colliery as well as Botswana Ash. The Orapa Technical College provides both theoretical and Competence Based Modular Training and is based at Orapa Mine. Each of the mines is responsible for the subsequent on-the-job practical skills training."

Sebetlela has expressed confidence that Debswana has ensured that they make meaningful contribution to the apprenticeship scheme in Botswana through participation in various committees such as the Trade Advisory Committees and many more organized by Madirelo Trade Testing Centre (MTTC). To date 838 apprentices have gone through the Debswana Apprenticeship scheme. Of these, 716 qualified as artisans.

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