Worldwide TVET is perceived as the solution to youth unemployment for four reasons. First, TVET provides students with practice-oriented knowledge and skills.
Second, the sector has the potential to assist the youth to transition from school to work. Third, TVET can unlock self-employment opportunities for less academically inclined youth. Fourth, TVET can improve youths’ self-confidence and self-esteem; values they require to enjoy a positive lifestyle. Globally, governments regard TVET as a safety net for out-of-school youths. The current 43 per cent youth unemployment rate in Namibia is reaching crisis levels.
TVET is not new to Namibia and this fact begs for two questions: first, ‘How has TVET contributed to youth unemployment in Namibia?’ And second, ‘How can we harness TVET to reduce youth unemployment countrywide?’ Below I discuss these two questions.
How has TVET contributed to youth unemployment in Namibia?
The TVET sector shares the blame for the current state of youth unemployment in Namibia in two ways: (a) maintaining weak school-to-work transition, and (b) promoting skills mismatch.
Maintaining weak school-to-work transition
At independence, numerous White papers on how to transition youth from school-to-work were produced and attempts ensued to revamp the school system. Regrettably, for nearly three decades school-to-work links remain a dream; meanwhile annually hundreds of post-secondary youth are sent into the jaws of unemployment. Recent curriculum changes are, however, exciting. The question is ‘Is the newly unpacked pre-vocational integrated curriculum linked to the labour market?’
Promoting skills mismatch
Overall labour reports show that Namibia lacks skilled employees in key sectors of the economy. Many employers across the country complain that some TVET graduates lack trade-related skills required to perform their daily duties. Some corporate managers also complain of their employees who display major weaknesses in problem-solving, critical thinking, decision-making, information technology, communication and entrepreneurial skills. If this were true, the TVET system in its current form will not redress the country’s burgeoning youth unemployment rate.
Foremost, policy makers and training providers should not see TVET as a quick fix to the problem of youth unemployment.
Thus, at macro level policy makers should engage key stakeholders to define a policy direction on how to link the school curriculum and the labour market.
Bring TVET closer to the labour market. At micro level training providers should strengthen their apprenticeships programmes.
Further, training providers should strengthen their mentorship programmes during industrial attachments. Lastly, training providers should invest their resources in both hard and soft skills.
Integrate 21st century soft skills across your curricula. TVET will only reduce youth unemployment if training providers and employers equip students with a ‘cocktail’ of skills.
Every student deserves quality education and training.
Are we ready?