In 2004 Namibia adopted a long-term perspective plan, namely Vision 2030, which serves as a basis for planning the country’s future. It sets the macro- economic framework and the long-term targets through which the vision of Namibia’s society is to be achieved. The “Vision” stipulates that Namibia, by 2030, will transition into an industrialized and globally competitive country of equal opportunity, realizing its maximum growth potential in a sustainable manner, with improved quality of life for all Namibians. In order to achieve this ambitious goal, Namibia needs to develop human capital and build institutional capacity to absorb the labour force necessary to meet the demands of the economy, and address the problem of human resources skills shortages across all industrial sectors.
Namibia shows signs of constant growth in secondary and tertiary industries indicating its capacity to sustain an industrial economy. Tertiary industries are the biggest contributors to employment thus indicating the potential for an up- skilling of the labour force. Various Government initiatives, combined with its commitment to creating a favourable business climate, with adequate social justice policies, are strong foundations for the country’s economic development.
However, these signs of opportunities are threatened by a number of social (unequal distribution of resources among regions, widespread poverty and inequality, etc.) and economic issues (persisting labour market segmentation, unfair competition with other countries in the region, worldwide recession, etc.). Namibia’s potential for economic and employment growth is further hindered by the existence of mismatches between supply and demand of skilled workers; the opportunity cost of employment; labour regulations; low level of labour productivity in the manufacturing sector; insufficient investment in sustainable rural development; and gender, age and geographic disparities in terms of employment, disfavouring women, youth and rural populations.
In order to support the economic growth of the country, Namibia has been investing extensively in the education system by ensuring free access to primary and secondary education, expanding the secondary schools system by allowing enrolment in vocational education at the end of the junior secondary phase and by establishing entrepreneurship training. Important initiatives were put in place to enhance access, quality and efficiency of the educational system. Nevertheless, human resources development in Namibia still faces important challenges that have a negative impact on student persistence and success, learning outcomes and the preparedness of VTC and university graduates for the high-skilled job market. In addition, the higher education and vocational training systems have a limited capacity to absorb learners. This is clearly seen by the low participation rates in higher education and its limited capacity to directly contribute to knowledge creation.
It is in this context that the Government of the Republic of Namibia (GRN) set the foundations to provide the country with the necessary roadmap to respond to the structural mismatch between skills and available jobs by formulating the National Human Resources Plan (NHRP). The NHRP is the instrument of choice for Namibia to directly address unemployment and skills shortages, and hence contribute to the competitiveness of domestic firms for increased private sector growth and improved performance. As summed up in the Macro-economic Framework for the years 2011/12 – 2013/14, the policy challenge is to tailor the NHRP to the labour market demand, improve the quality of educational and training outcomes, and invest substantively in research and development (R&D). The NHRP addresses the skills deficit alongside the need to diversify the economy. This is a very important distinction as it puts education and training at the centre of human capital development.
The NHRP is largely based on Namibia’s Occupational Demand and Supply Outlook Model (NODSOM) which allows forecasting of occupational gaps over time with the objective of providing an integrated accounting framework to analyse the status and evolution of the labour market. By quantifying occupational gaps, NODSOM can provide useful clues with regards to identifying and understanding major labour market trends and issues requiring policy attention within the planning process. NODSOM provides information for employers, employees, employment agencies and policymakers, thus facilitating a labour market balance while reducing adjustment costs and enhancing capacity for productivity and competitiveness. Additionally, it also helps create the path to ensure that workers are employed in occupations that correspond to their skill level. This is a key step in transitioning to an industrialized economy and ultimately reducing socioeconomic barriers to employment. On the public side of the spectrum, occupational forecasting informs social investment in education and social welfare.
The gap analysis figures generated from NODSOM indicate major shortages that are most critical in occupations requiring trade training and professions in the hard sciences. This is aggravated by the existing constraints in both the VET system and the higher education system. The VET system is currently not adequately geared to meet current and future labour market demands for skills due to its limited access (with annual enrolment averages of 2,000 students), its focus on traditional trades1, inefficient allocation of resources, the under preparedness of students and the lack of experienced instructors to promote competence based learning.
The university sector also requires investment at all levels to bring education up to standard for the required economic growth. Overall investment should be targeted towards greater access, industry relevant curriculum review, upgrade in teaching methods, and, most of all, development of research capacity. This is consistent with the findings in the 2011 Global Competitiveness Report which ranked Namibia at 113th out of 142 countries in higher education and training. The ability of the country to perform applied research in critical areas such as agriculture, fisheries, geology, information technology and manufacturing is severely hampered by the lack of qualified graduates in engineering, biology, chemistry, mathematics and information technology.
Furthermore, since most of the demand for professionals appears to be in the public sector (health, education, social services, extraterritorial organizations), it is important to strengthen university links to the private sector either through internship programmes (co-op) or applied research, to induce demand for a qualified supply. In other words, as the private sector gains from university professionals, they are more likely to hire locally when it comes to higher-level positions. This is quiterelevantwhenconsideringemployers with multinational links where higher- level positions are usually recruited from developed countries. The idea here is to slowly reverse that trend by improving the quality of local professionals.
The NHRP proposes intervention strategies formulated for the short term (1-5 years), the medium term (6-10 years) and the long term (11-15 years), under the categories of: