Let’s get real

04 July 2013

We Namibians seem highly susceptible to the latest catch phrases, buzzwords, jargon and clichés.

Once we cotton on to something and take a liking to a new catch phrase, we become extremely reluctant to let it go and cling to it with dear life.

A case in point being the tiresome and seriously overused cliché ‘captains of industry’. These days, if you run a kapana stand or shebeen you apparently qualify for the title captain of industry.

Many of us would be mightily grateful if we never have to hear the term captain of industry ever again, and we declared it dead and buried and allowed it to rest in peace.

Those who speak the strange language known as ‘officialese’, and secretly yearn to become politicians, have their own peculiar vocabulary.

Among this group, you have not said anything worthwhile unless you throw in the evergreen, but extremely irritating, ‘stakeholder’ at least half a dozen times.

Most of the time we don’t seem to care whether these catch phrases and buzzwords have any real context or whether we are in fact saying anything meaningful.

The most popular buzzwords over the past decade have become the country’s alleged acute skills shortage and the need for skills training.

Government talks of the skill shortage while the Namibia Chamber of Commerce (NCCI) and the Namibian Employers Federation speak endlessly about the skills deficit.

While everyone speaks ad infinitum about the skills shortage and the need for increased skills training, as a country we have been slow in taking concrete steps to address the problem.

A great deal of finger pointing between Government and the private sector has accompanied this debate, although quite often the finger seems to point back at the respective finger pointers.

In the past, the private sector has accused Government of a misplaced focus in the education system that remains heavily biased towards liberal arts.

The private sector cannot escape blame however, and it needs to explain what happened to the traditional apprenticeship system.

Industry seems to have quietly thrown apprenticeships overboard and very few private companies seem to offer apprenticeships anymore.

Everyone seems to want somebody else to train their people for them, which can never work.

Part of the problem seems to lie in our inability to define the problem or its scope and magnitude.

When you ask the private sector exactly what skills the country so desperately needs it often resorts to mumbling vague generalities and platitudes that do little to help the situation.

If this country has serious intentions of overcoming this problem, why has it not undertaken a comprehensive, in-depth audit to determine in what areas we need to bolster skill training most?

What is it this country needs most? Is it chief financial officers, auditors, actuaries, electrical engineers, mining engineers, computer scientists or medical doctors?

Alternatively, do we lack artisans such boilermakers, fitters and turners, mechanics and electricians.

Maybe it’s all of the above, but we need more than buzzwords and before we can even start to make a dent as far as solving the issue, we need to clearly define the task we face ahead.

No serious person any longer denies that some sectors of business and industry suffer from acute shortages of certain technical and managerial skills.

However, if both the public and private sectors could become more forthcoming and spell out these areas in detail it could go a long way towards helping resolve the crisis.

One would then hope that the vast army of young Namibians waiting to join the unemployment queues would make a more determined effort to acquire these specific skills.

The Business Summit the NCCI held in conjunction with the Ministry of Trade and Industry under the theme “Growth at Home” provides a positive point of departure. Above all the growing recognition that training is a shared responsibility as NCCI CEO Tara Shaanika pointed out is a step in the right direction.

We hope, this results in less finger pointing and more collaboration, with the public and private sectors pulling together in the same direction.

We further hope that the National Training Levy serves its intended purpose and does not just become another excuse for the gluttonous tenderpreneurs to fill their stomachs at the expense of the public purse.



The Windhoek Observer is an English-language weekly newspaper, published in Namibia by Paragon Investment Holding. It is the country's oldest and largest circulating weekly.

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