It turns out that graduates emerging from tertiary institutions are a panacea for the country’s limited skills pool– at least from an abstract view. Ask employers, and it’s a very different picture.
The Namibian Employer’s Federation(NEF), which has over 300 direct corporate members and in total represents the interests of over 5000 various employers through its Associational Members, says there are too many Namibians “qualified in the wrong fields”.
This could partly be attributed to the lack of jobs in the industry, which in turn results in job seekers accepting any job on offer.
According to a 2017 Legal Assistance Centre (LAC) analysis, Namibia has a 36% overall unemployment rate with youth unemployment sitting at 43%. It suffices to conclude that the country is faced with an unemployment crisis and whilst there is a need to call on government to create employment opportunities, it is equally fitting to encourage the public to be innovative when it comes to job creation as well as share information on employment opportunities.
Namibia Employers Federation (NEF) Secretary General Tim Parkhouse says there are skills in the domestic labour market that are misplaced because of limited guidance offered to young people before they choose their career path.
“This then is part of the issue that the guidance given to young people as to what to study leaves much to be desired. Hence Namibia has too many who are qualified in the wrong fields,” said Parkhouse.
Parkhouse noted that there is a need for Namibians to further learn from this to change their outlook. “We must encourage young people to learn trades rather than academic subjects. There is nothing wrong in being a blue-collar worker and we need qualified tradesmen and women,” he said.
To address this need, NEF together with the NTA is commencing a formal apprenticeship programme in various trades for grade 12 school leavers and have 10 NEF member companies interested in taking them-on for a three year course.
He also expressed concern over the 2017 graduates from tertiary institutions, fearing that they will struggle to find employment, especially when considering the poor economic climate in the country which has since forced a number of companies to close shop.
“I emphasise “sadly” because it has been the dream of so many Namibians to obtain a university degree. I am sure many of them have student loans that need repayment and in many instances their parents will have made financial commitments. Now there are not enough vacancies for them,” he says.
After attending a conference in Addis Ababa “Africa Talks Jobs” last year, Parkhouse acknowledged that unemployment is not unique Namibia.
The rate of unemployment across Africa is 31% and 95% of graduates across Africa study Social Sciences but only 4% study engineering.
Parkhouse said Namibians are failing to grasp the type of skills required by the markets, hence at times the market is flooded with unwanted skills while lacking those in demand.
“There is also no indication of how future developments will alter the labour market demands. The Labour Market Information system at the Ministry of Labour should give guidance on this matter, but to-date has been unable to do so,” said Parkhouse.
In 2013, the Ministry of Labour and Social Welfare initiated the ‘Namibia Integrated Employment Information System’ (NIEIS) that collects, stores and updates information concerning names, qualifications of job seekers; vacancies in the labour market; specialised skills and qualifications possessed by Namibian job seekers and employers alike.
According to one of the ministry’s employment officers, Fillemon Leonard, the portal is an effective avenue for Namibians to find jobs as well as for employers to post job opportunities. Leonard described that as an employment officer his job description entails monitoring the flow of applicants and recruiters.
He further narrated that the portal recorded 63438 CV’s as well as 9208 companies that have registered and regularly post jobs, whilst there are 105 vacancies presently reflecting. Leonard encourages unemployed Namibians to make use of the NIEIS portal to avoid missing out on employment prospects.
Social Media platforms such as Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and Instagram have also become go-to-avenues for urban job seekers. On the Namibian scene, pages such as ‘Vacancies Namibia’, ‘Namibian Opportunities’ Namibia at Work’, Jobs in Namibia’ remain popular amongst the social media savvy who are job hunting.