Young people at Walvis Bay now have a chance of being empowered with Level 1 and Level 2 metal fabrication and welding skills, something which was previously only offered in other towns.
Learners with an interest in these fields usually have to travel long distances to places like Windhoek, Keetmanshoop and Arandis, amongst others, where these courses are offered. This results in expenditure for transport and accommodation, which is not always affordable.
Walvis Bay resident Fillemon Nendongo observed the situation for quite some time, and came up with the idea in 2015 to establish a place where young people can also be trained in their own town.
"It really never started as a business idea, but rather a need to give hope and a place to students at my previous employment who had to be informed of the sad news that that institute could not accommodate the full demands of the students because of limited space. That spurred the birth of Niche Training Academy in my mind," Nendongo explained. He has gained a lot of experience over the years, and found it necessary to plough it back into his community.
He is a boilermaker with vast experience in training, and initially started working at the Namibian Maritime and Fisheries Institute (Namfi) at Walvis Bay as a junior instructor in 2003. He then joined the Namibian Institute of Mining and Technology (Nimt) at Arandis as a boilermaker instructor in 2006. He is also a registered assessor and moderating practitioner with the Namibia Training Authority (NTA).
Nendongo started Niche Academy in 2015 with two trainees, which number has since grown to six.
The academy is working at advancing into more growth and development. He continuously encourages trainees to take their studies seriously in order to gain employment at the end of their three-year studies, and to even proceed to studying towards a B.Tech in mechanical engineering at bigger tertiary institutions.
Niche Academy was registered through the NTA in 2016, and is currently busy gaining accreditation through the Namibia Qualifications Authority.
The academy now has two female trainees who are doing their Level 2 studies in metal fabrication already.
Nendongo said Namibia is past the era where males dominated the mechanical industry, and thus encourages more females to join the academy. He also urged young people to consider careers in these fields as they are necessary in nation-building.
"Developed economies were not built by PhD holders, but by craftsmen and artisans. We cannot expect to develop if we do not have these skills. Vocational education is the backbone of our economic development", he added.
He furthermore invited corporate stakeholders to support the institute, which is still young, through their corporate social responsibility programmes. "We would appreciate any form of donations, scrap material as well as redundant equipment and machinery as we are firm believers in recycling. We set ourselves standards with the limited resources we have. Niche is here to contribute to the fifth National Development Plan (NDP 5) and the Harambee Prosperity Plan (HPP)", he noted. Nendongo also believes that it is beneficial for vocational training providers to have close ties in order to strengthen capabilities for the benefit of producing skilled youth. Niche thus fosters a good relationship with the Okakarara VTC through the exchange of expertise and trainees. It is also assisted by Nimt, which allows Niche trainees to write plating and structural steel (PSS) drawing examinations through their system.
Two trainees who are currently enrolled at the academy relate what the courses mean to them.
"I passed my Level 1, and moved to Level 2 this year. My instructor is really good. I am doing boilermaking, and really enjoy this field. I urge others to try it out, and hope to work at a mine after my studies", said 23-year old Yledon van Neel.
"It is a great opportunity. I didn't do well in Grade 12, and at least I have an opportunity now. I advise young people who failed Grade 12 to try this. It does not mean the end of the road if you don't have Grade 12; you can still have a great career. It is good that we have a place like this at Walvis Bay, and you thus don't have to travel far and pay a lot of money", added 21-year-old Festus Uushona.
Other services offered by the institute include trade test preparation to recognition of prior learning (RPL) candidates in boilermaking and welding & fabrication, as well as plating and structural steel drawing classes. It furthermore offers numeracy (mathematics), proficiency in English, and HIV-AIDS awareness to the trainees.
The next group of trainees is expected to start on 15 February 2018.