Analysis: MFIKEY MAKAYI
ZAMBIA is at an opportune moment in its development. As the country’s population grows and its national development plans get more ambitious, there is a recognition of the urgent need for a skilled workforce that can meet the demands of that growth.
Zambia’s Seventh National Development Plan (7NDP) 2017- 2021 expansively captures this need for manpower development.
It specifically places a focus on increasing access to university and technical education, as well as vocational and entrepreneurship training within the education sub-sector
This shift in focus represents a natural progression following tremendous improvements in increasing access to primary and secondary education in the last few years.
In addition to increasing access to tertiary education, there is also a growing realisation among policy makers that it is not enough to merely grow job numbers without taking into consideration the quality aspect of these jobs.
By placing equal emphasis on the quality as well as the quantity of jobs being created, the Zambian government’s approach is a holistic move to reduce poverty and achieve inclusive economic growth.
With youth unemployment rates in Zambia standing at between 10 and 20 percent, according to various official estimates, it is clear that innovative means are necessary to help more youths find gainful employment.
Barloworld Equipment’s Technicians for Africa (T4A) programme is one such innovation that is attempting to bridge the critical skills gap.
The idea behind the innovation is simple.
Barloworld Equipment, in partnership with global heavy equipment manufacturer Caterpillar Inc, has formulated a programme to provide free foundational training in areas such as basics of electricity, hydraulics, drive trains and many more.
In keeping with modern educational practice, the programme is offered entirely online to allow learners the flexibility to learn at their own pace and convenience. Anyone with an internet connected smartphone; tablet or personal computer can take part. Additionally, the programme is available in three languages, namely English, French and Portuguese.
Upon successful completion of all 18 modules of the programme, the candidate will receive a Foundational Certificate and become a Cat® Certified Technician.
The programme is expected to do three main things.
Firstly, it allows anyone without previous education or knowledge in the fields under study the chance to find out what the fields are all about. These could be current students at secondary level, recent secondary school graduates or even somebody interested in a change of career.
Secondly, it also allows technicians currently in trade and vocational schools the chance to expand their knowledge and add to their growing educational credentials.
Finally, the programme also allows actively employed technicians the opportunity to obtain additional certifications to boost their employability and refresh their existing knowledge.
It is forward thinking solutions like these that could be key to expanding the availability of quality education in order to attain Zambia’s Vision 2030 of being a middle-income nation.
By combining learning from traditional brick and mortar institutions with the popular and ever-expanding space of the internet, it is hoped that skills training can be made more accessible to more people leading to the creation of a skilled and empowered Zambian workforce to lead the country forward.
This timely contribution, together with formal training for employees, underpins Barloworld’s intention to contribute to the achievement of national development priorities, enabling growth and progress in society.
The author is operations manager at Barloworld Equipment Zambia.
Analysis: MFIKEY MAKAYI