Monday, September 21, 2020

BOTA / TEC merger still a pipe dream

When the 2008/09 financial year starts in a week’s time, the Botswana Training Authority (BOTA), the Tertiary Education Council and the Manpower Planning Unit in the Ministry of Finance and Development Planning will still be separate entities but it has been suggested to government that they should be combined.

What would be ideal about such a merger, says a report which as yet has not been officially released, is that it would lead to “optimum utilisation of resources” in the following ways: eliminating duplication of organisational services ÔÇô especially of a support services nature; reduce budgets for personal emoluments by sharing staff in support functions, such as administration, human resources, marketing, public relations, finance and IT functions and systems; reduce operating budgets of such down-sized support services; and, reduce capital expenditure requirements resulting from sharing facilities such as furniture and equipment, transport and shared office facilities.

The main reason given for such merger is that “there are overlaps relating to registration and quality assurance of educational institutions at vocational and tertiary training levels.”

Not only was a similar recommendation made by the Public Enterprises Evaluation and Privatisation Agency study but lessons were also drawn from comparator countries illustrated the desirability of merging those institutions.
The countries are South Africa, Mauritius and New Zealand.

This suggestion is part of a report on a study to develop a National Human Resource Development Strategy (NHRDS) for Botswana. The manpower planning approach that was developed in 1972 is seen as outdated.

“The biggest challenge in the current structure is that HRD is subsumed into other focus areas of ministries and agencies. HRD in this sense is limited to local demand and supply of skills (classic manpower planning). The proposed conceptual model for HRD in Botswana calls for a much stronger linkage between skills development and employment within a global as well as a local context. Currently, the National Employment, Manpower and Incomes Council is one of the fora where HRD issues are discussed by the government and the private sector and, where necessary, appropriate recommendations are made to the government.

However, their current structure and modus operandi ensures that effective policy coordination is made more difficult in that it straddles several ministries and agencies,” the report says.
It further notes that the sort of manpower planning that Botswana has pursued over the years (filling of existing and predicted vacancies in the labour market and the localisation of expatriate-held positions) is outdated and can lead to “errors of a substantial order.”

“This approach ignores substitution possibilities, ignores the cost of educating and training one type of labour relative to another and relies on manpower input-output classifications that are either out of date or not relevant, and thus are policy void. The approach puts undue emphasis on the outputs of the higher levels of the education system, relies heavily on the formal employment sector, focuses solely on production efficiency (ignoring issues such as poverty and equity), emphasises occupation specific skills training, while ignoring the benefits of general education which raises overall and generic competencies, and focuses on a highly specialised division of labour and a narrow understanding of jobs. It also has a command approach to the management of ‘human capital’, has a time horizon that fails to respond to the rapid rates of change taking place in the global economy and, as evidenced not only in Botswana but the rest of the world, can lead to errors of a substantial order.”

On the basis of the foregoing, the report recommends a shift to human resource development strategies which require a deliberately proactive approach to developing the skills and capabilities needed to drive the economy.
The report further recommends that the role of the Ministry of Education be reviewed in light of the NHRDS with a view to renaming and refocusing it to become the Ministry of Education and Human Resource Development, that a presidential directive forming the Human Resource Development Advisory Council be issued and that a national leader to chair the Council be appointed.

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Sunday Standard September 20 – 26

Digital copy of Sunday Standard issue of September 20 - 26, 2020.