Critical skills deficit hampers growth

Zimbabwe has over 23 universities, polytechnics and teacher training colleges which churn out about 30 000 graduates annually.

Research shows that most local degree programmes are theory-based; hence, graduates fail to create employment, innovate or respond to changing industrial demands.

Zimbabwe has a critical skills deficit of 62 percent, with the biggest gap evident in science and technology, a new report shows.

According to the National Skills Audit Report, the engineering and technology sector has a skills deficit of 94 percent, while natural and applied sciences has a deficit of 96 percent.

There is a big skills gap in agriculture (88 percent) and medical and health sciences (95 percent). Applied arts and humanities currently have a deficit of 82 percent. In the legal profession, the deficit stands at 92 percent.

Conversely, business and commerce are the only sectors with a surplus of 21 percent.

Further, the report identifies the professions of bank tellers and manual auditors among the 28 that are now considered “obsolete”.

Higher and Tertiary Education, Science and Technology Minister Professor Amon Murwira told The Sunday Mail last week that the audit report – which fed off research from the public and private sectors – would inform Government on how to revamp curricula for universities and vocational colleges by year-end.

Zimbabwe last conducted a skills audit in 1984.

“We are saying we want to be a middle-income economy by 2030; thus, we need to have all the critical skills by then,” said Prof Murwira.

“We can only become a middle-income economy when we have the critical skills that are needed in the economy. Thus, we are working on revamping our tertiary education curriculum to match with global standards.

“For example, the arts sector is dominated by skills that were redundant in the global sector. This is because the skills are concentrating on more analogue skills than digital ways of communication which are being used nowadays,” he said.

President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s administration is pushing for higher and tertiary education curricula relevant to Zimbabwe’s economic objectives.

Zimbabwe has over 23 universities, polytechnics and teacher training colleges which churn out about 30 000 graduates annually.

Research shows that most local degree programmes are theory-based; hence, graduates fail to create employment, innovate or respond to changing industrial demands.

Developed and emerging economies increasingly leverage on universities, which also receive State support, to support socio-economic development.

China’s Beijing Agricultural University has developed research around agriculture biotechnology that has been used successfully in that economy.

The 1999 Commission of Inquiry into Education and Training, led by Dr Caiphus Nziramasanga, concluded there was a disconnect between Zimbabwe’s university curricula and the economy.

“Far too many graduates from the university do not meet the requirements of employers, thus employers have to provide on-the-job trainings to give their new employees required skills.

“The universities argue that they are not there to impart work-ready skills to students. The paradox that needs to be resolved as we move into the new millennium is whether the nation can afford the luxury of universities (which) produce graduates who are not work-ready and seem incapable of making any measurable contribution to the development of the country.

“Respondents also observed that there was no tertiary and higher education qualification framework to facilitate mobility from technical colleges to universities and vice-versa,” read part of the report.

Human resources expert Mr Memory Nguwi said Government needed to re-align skills.

“Investors have always known that there are shortages of skills in certain areas in Zimbabwe and that is confirmed by so many research reports, including the World Economic Forum and many others,” he said.

“We have an oversupply of administrative skills but fall short on senior managerial capacity and technical skills.

“The problem starts with the poor quality of primary education due to poor quality of teachers. The people who are teaching in most schools have more than five sittings at ‘O’ Level and these are the same people expected to produce high-quality engineers. The solution is to get high-quality teachers and pay them well.”

371 total views, no views today