This topic is very important for Namibia specifically and Africa at large at this time when our aspirations are to enhance vocational training in order to realize development goals. In Labour economics we seek to understand the functioning and dynamics of the markets for wage labour. Respectively, labour markets function through interaction of workers and employers. This interaction between the two is of particular importance. This interaction highlights the suppliers of labour; the demand labour services with hope to understand the wage configurations, occupations and income respectively.
So why should employers be involved in Labour Market Research? Employers as stage actors in creation of wealth need to constantly adjust to changing times. They can only adjust effectively, if they apply to their operations evidence based policies and strategies. Accordingly, employers like employees are decision makers thus their judgment about circumstances within which they operate need to be scientifically informed. For the sake of this discussion, we bring to your attention an issue which employers and employee alike including policy makers and authorities in Namibia have been debating about over the past few years namely “skills shortage or skill mismatch” if you like. In this regard Markus Kudumo has asked a very important question in a local daily whether skills Shortage in Namibia was reality or perception. As per the ILO (KILM): “skills mismatch refers to the poor incongruence or incompatibility between skills needs of the labour market and the supply of skills coming from educational institutions.”
Many times, mismatch is given as an explanation for high (youth) unemployment rates in the world. Respectively, the ILO posits that in certain contexts mismatch is driven by disconnected education and training systems that does not deliver on labour market relevant skills. In addition to the above it is alleged in certain contexts that there is inadequate labour market intermediation in terms of career guidance and counseling which could serve to inform young people with relevant information. Sometime technical and vocational training is considered and perceived to be a lower form of education as a result it suffers from lower investment and development which in turn leads to shortage of technical skills in the labour market. Namibia seems to experience the same sentiment. We are then tempted to ask: What is our own situation? According to the NSA Report on Youth Employment and Unemployment Analysis of 2015 the extent of skill mismatch in Namibia is relatively unknown. However, mismatch in our own context seem to manifest highly by occupation as over educated persons are employed in a broad groups termed as skilled manual.
Accordingly, we may not be able independently claim as argued in certain sectors; that there are skills shortage in absence of national human resource or skills audit to verify such claims. Thus in absence of such crucial information and evidence we may end up with premature conclusions and poorly informed interventions. That leads us to ask whether employers were seriously involved in Labour Market Research? Our experience in labour research shows that employers are not sufficiently involved in activities that pertain to labour market research. There is little interaction and engagement from Employers with labour market research outcomes. As research houses we publish research that largely remains on shelves collecting dust. Interestingly though, local research is highly appreciated by outside users such as IMF, World Bank and Western state department agencies. Employers may not only support Labour market research in financial terms but politically as well. Most importantly, it must be used to inform our destiny as a country. What can be done? Employers as creators of national wealth have a space and role to play in Labour Market Research. Employers as actors in the interaction have first hand evidence of what happens in their operations and if such information is not scientifically dealt with; their submissions in debates may fall short of being called perceptions.
Recently, the Minister of Higher Education, Training and Innovation launched policy review on TVET, Higher Education and Innovation. This new development needs to be commended. In light of the above, interventions that follow the policy review need to be systemic and such can only happen if all stakeholders participate and contribute to the realization of this national objective. Such interventions should also consider the reality of our economic composition so that critical areas are not left out. In our own context this kind of development cannot be left to training institutions only. Employers should play an active lay a role especially in the policy section of research and development. Their involvement, be it in financial or technical sense will contribute and minimize the gaps that exist in the labour market field.
Authored by Dr. Michael Uusiku Akuupa. For Labour Resource and Research Institute (LaRRI)