Even as mining contributes the largest portion of the Gross Domestic Product (GDP), the sector has for a long time depended on imported skills. Acting CEO of Human Resource Development Council (HRDC), Dr Patrick Molutsi believes that the tide of change is here and if Botswana hopes to develop further and diversify its economy, there is need to invest in relevant skills and knowledge.
HRDC is spearheading research on economy-driving sectors that will be critical in the next few years. Among them are; Mining, Minerals Energy and Water Resources, Tourism, Creative Industries, Agriculture, Health, ICT, Finance, Education and Training, Public Sector and Transport and Communications. These are areas that most investment is likely to come from and which will need a strong skills base and qualified human resource, according to the HRDC.
The Council, which is mandated among others to provide policy advice on all matters pertaining to national human resource development, advises the different sectors of the economy, as well as institutions of higher learning to shift focus from traditional training to what the market needs. According to the HRDC boss this has however, not been an easy task. “By nature universities are conservative, they prefer offering courses they have been offering right from the beginning of their existence,” he says.
Dr Molutsi has also observed that although they have engaged in extensive consultation with stakeholders in higher education, universities are reluctant to shift their course offerings.
Because most of the tertiary student population in Botswana is under government sponsorship, HRDC works closely with government to ensure that over time, tertiary funding will shift from unmarketable courses. This will be one of the ways to direct institutions of learning to align their courses with market needs. The HRDC in its consultations with industries found out that employers want graduates with advanced analytical skills and professional certification. “Employers no longer want graduates fresh from a lecture room, hence the need to upscale skills training in institutions,” Dr Molutsi notes.
The HRDC’s old Vocational Training Fund has been transformed to the Human Resource Development Fund to cater for further skills development of employees in all areas. With this fund, employers can send their workers for further skills trainings and be reimbursed by the HRDC.
“The fund remains under-utilised because most employers fear that once they empower their workers with further qualifications, they might lose them to better paying employers,” he observes. He also believes that some employers are not willing to have their workers absent from daily business for extended periods during trainings.