The availability of comprehensive and up-to-date labour market information is a critical condition for the country’s effective human resource projections, planning and implementation.
In spite of this, Botswana still has no central database to track the correlation between unemployment levels and the vacancy rate as well as existence or otherwise of required skills in the labour market. The effect has been a serious waste of funds and “falsified” unemployment statistics.
The mess is particularly significant in the area of vocational training and technical education which is largely seen as potentially the gist of future economic diversification efforts.
It all emerged at a workshop intended to reflect on the state of progress in coming up with a Labour Market Observatory (LMO) on Monday 24th May 2010 at the Gaborone Sun Hotel grounds.
Head of Delegation of the European Union to Botswana, Ambassador Paul Malin pointed out those findings of a tracer study of students from the Botswana Technical Education Programme (BTEP) showed that only half of BTEP graduates who responded were either employed or in further education.
“In addition, employers of BTEP graduates reported that the graduates were on the lower side of “satisfactory” in all skills area,” said Malin.
That, according to Malin pointed to the importance of collecting employment data in order to adjust the country’s education system to the needs of the labour market.
The EU Delegation Chief further demanded, “I would like to be assured that relevant measures have been put in place to improve the relevance and quality of BTEP programmes.”
Edward Tswaipe, Secretary General of Tertiary Trainers and Allied Workers Union (TAWU) said that as far as his union was concerned there was nothing in place to improve the quality and relevance of BTEP programmes.
“In fact most of the Lecturers we told us that as far as they knew BTEP was introduced by DVET as a pilot project at a time when trade tests were established and popular throughout the vocational training establishment,” said Tswaipe.
But surprisingly there has never been any evaluation of BTEP yet it continues to form a crucial component of the country’s technical education.
“That is despite the fact that in the trade tests were more articulate and progressive as well as predictable whereas BTEP even now is shunned by employers as they feel that it’s not clear how to determine the level of knowledge of someone with BTEP than one with trade test certificates,” argued Tswaipe.
Malin had earlier on mentioned in his statement that when they supported the Botswana government through the past 15 years, within the framework of the European Development Fund the main objective was quality and skills relevance.
To authenticate his argument he cited President Ian Khama’s statement in his address to the Nation in November 2008, where he said, “There is a mismatch between our graduates’ skills set and workplace demands, which further contributes to the challenge of unemployment.”
According to Malin, this was a major problem and has raised justified concerns about the value and return of the massive investment made by the government in the education and training sector.
Against this background, the Head of European Union Delegation posited that with the mega-projects that are scheduled to be implemented under NDP 10, it will be essential for Government to plan for and produce the required skills if it is to reduce the import of foreign skills.
Tswaipe maintained that notwithstanding the concern about gaps in the BTEP programmes, very little is bound to come out without the insistence and intervention of the EU itself as the key financiers.
“Otherwise there is no indication that Government has any plans to review BTEP and if anything they would rather find a way of pushing it through,” concluded Tswaipe.