23 January 2013

Namibia: NPC Assesses Namibia's Skills Needs

This is to promote business growth in the country, as well as to meet the growing demands for knowledge-based workers in an increasingly technology-driven and service-oriented world.

NAMIBIA urgently needs a skilled workforce to meet the objectives of Vision 2030.

The 2011-2012 Global Competitiveness Report rated Namibia 134th out of 142 countries for availability of scientists and engineers and stated that an inadequately educated workforce was the most problematic factor for doing business in the country.

The National Planning Commission (NPC) late last year requested Cabinet to approve the National Human Resources Plan (NHRP) to assess the current available human resources and skills in the country and match these to the demands of the economy in preparation for Vision 2030.

According to the NPC, Namibia suffers from a shortage of professionals, mainly technicians and associate professionals, whereas critical shortages are also found in elementary occupations, followed by occupations requiring skilled workers such as clerks, service workers and shop and market salespeople, skilled agricultural and fishery workers, craft and related trades workers and plant and machine operators and assemblers.

In addition, the NPC says that shortages of teaching, life science and health professionals are likely to occur. Staff shortages are likely to worsen if foreign investment increases, generating expected jobs in industries where economic growth, paired with employment, is most expected in manufacturing, tourism, mining and quarrying and business services.

Vision 2030 sets a target that by 2030 Namibia should join the ranks of high-income countries and afford all its citizens a quality of life that is comparable to that of the developed world.

Both the 2009 and 2011 Namibia Business and Investment Climate Surveys (NAMBIC) found that among businesses employing more than six people, the scarcity of skilled labour was named as the biggest obstacle to business growth.

"Ideally, for Namibia to achieve Vision 2030 objectives, the economy should grow at not less than seven percent per annum in order to achieve sustainable growth during the Vision period. Over the past 15 years, unemployment has been increasing instead of decreasing which is contrary to our set target of three percent by 2030," said the acting permanent secretary of the NPC, Susan Lewis.

In his submission to Cabinet, NPC Director General Tom Alweendo said that for Namibia to achieve Vision 2030, the country needs skills in the right quality and quantity.

Lewis said Namibia's current tertiary education participation rate is estimated at between 13 and 15 percent, which she described as low, compared to the acceptable norm of not less than 40 percent.

"The number of people reaching higher levels of education is quite low in Namibia. Vision 2030 calls for mind-set change and business as usual should not be the option and therefore a drastic change and transformation should take place if we are to remain on course in achieving Vision 2030 objectives," Lewis said.

Alweendo motivated to Cabinet that "the development of these required skills dictates the need for an all-inclusive NHRP which will assess the country's current supply and match this to the demand of the economy".

Economist Victor Kaulinge was quoted in the NPC December 2011 newsletter as saying that the NHRP was initiated to enable the government to meet its Vision 2030 objectives by providing a comprehensive assessment of human resources in the country, involving an examination of demand for human resources by the economy and the extent to which the educational and training institutions are able to meet the demand.

"The importance of the NHRP is that it will identify and outline the priority areas of human resources development in Namibia," said Kaulinge.

The starting point when developing the NHRP, according to Alweendo, is the labour market demand for skills.

"Specifically, the NHRP targets sectors with high potential for employment growth such as tourism, agriculture, fishing, manufacturing and mining. Planning for these sectors' labour demands involves not only matching skills training with actual jobs, but also integrating initiatives acknowledging the role small and medium enterprises (SMEs) play in job creation," said Alweendo.

He said with precise knowledge about specific labour market imbalances, the government will be in a better position to plan more effectively for the future and focus on industries where the needs are most pressing.

"For example, using the results from the model, we can make better decisions to which training programmes should be offered, which ones should be expanded, and which ones should be phased out to fit the needs of an evolving employment market," said Alweendo.

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