Skilled population is needed urgently – Mukwita

………as he engages German partners to secure sustainable vocational training

04.02. 2018

Berlin

The German vocational education model offers interesting lessons for the Zambian economy observes Zambia’s ambassador to Germany Anthony Mukwita. The Zambian envoy says the model that brings together government and the private sector in funding education and provision of skills relevant to industry ensures sustainability and guarantees jobs for graduates.

“As we continue to grapple with the challenges of youth unemployment back home due to unskilled young people, inadequate college spaces and funding problems for our learning institutions, we need to examine the German model carefully as it offers interesting lessons for us”, says ambassador Mukwita with a sense of hope.

The Zambian top diplomat visited one such model in Stuttgart where an automation company Festos through its vocational education wing Festos Didactic has been providing technical skills by working with technical colleges. The 3billion euro company employing 20,000 workers worldwide has been manufacturing components that facilitate automation in factories.

This means that assembly lines for products respond to a software on a computer linked to it. Only one person is required to feed instructions into the computer and different units all linked together on an assembly line undertake the rest of the functions.

“This is a smart factory, a 4G or fourth generation factory for the 21st century where precision and efficiency are key”, says Dr. Nader Imani, Festo’s Executive Vice president for Global Education. The assembly line representing the factory of the 21st century is part of the vocational education provided to the more than 1000 students at Technical School Aalen that ambassador Mukwita visited.

About 600 companies have partnered with the school in driving the curriculum so that the skills taught are current and needed by industry, The companies also put in money so that upon graduation the sponsored students are taken on by the sponsoring companies. In the event that the student chooses to work elsewhere, the student pays back the company over a period of time.

Other sources of funding that sustain vocational education come from the German government as part of its commitment to a skilled population. During his tour of the school, ambassador Mukwita learnt that only 15 students out of 1000 were not doing well.

“We are not giving up on them. We will help them find what is suitable for them”, says the school principal. It seems to be a philosophy where no one must be left behind. Perhaps it is the reason why unemployment in Germany is just about 3percent.

In Zambia, Festos Didactic is working with TEVETA and seven learning institutions that include universities and colleges. Going by the 2016 statistics, Zambia has 293 technical and vocational training schools countrywide the majority of which need technical and financial assistance if they are to provide meaningful support to a rapidly growing economy.

The Zambian government under President Edgar Lungu has embarked on ambitious development programs that include road constructions, a new airline, the promotion of tourism, the setting aside of one million hectares of land for new agricultural activities, new and refurbished airports among others.

“These developments will require skills and require them urgently”, says ambassador Mukwita adding, “as an embassy, we will be engaging our partners in Germany with a view to seeking their cooperation in empowering existing technical and vocational schools in Zambia so that they are able to meet the country’s skills needs.