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PRESENTATION TO STAKEHOLDERS AT THE UNIVERSITY OF NAMIBIA, WINDHOEK

ON THURSDAY 6 JUNE 2019


HOSTED BY THE COMMONWEALTH OF LEARNING


Presented by Paul G. West


Ladies and gentlemen, thank you for joining this stakeholders' workshop today. It is through engagements such as these that the providers of higher education can maintain quality of their provisions to learners of the country.


The Commonwealth of Learning (COL) was established by Commonwealth Heads of Government when they met in Vancouver in 1987 and ever since we have been based in beautiful British Columbia in Canada. COL is an intergovernmental organisation that works in 53 countries and span all regions of the globe.


Our mission is to help Commonwealth member states and institutions to use technologies for expanding access to education and training. COL believes that learning is the key to sustainable development. Learning must lead to opportunities for economic growth, social inclusion and environmental conservation. This aligns us closely with the Sustainable Development Goal 4 which aspires to ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and lifelong learning opportunities for all by 2030.


We are here on this specific occasion to discuss the importance of employability and how to improve the work of this institution in their interaction with students who eventually become employees, specialists, supervisors and managers in your businesses. The youth who are currently students at this institution and those soon to register, will quite possibly be applying for employment with you in the years ahead.


We should certainly do our best to try to not allow our students, the so-called “product” of this institution, to end up not being selected for employment and having to find alternative employment that did not require them to undertake a qualification in the first place.


The issues we are discussing today are not limited to Namibia, or to Africa, but span many countries and continents. The Chicago Tribune stated recently in an article: “expensive degree and no guaranteed job – more students are considering options outside of the 4-year college”. Is this a sign of the times?


I saw a street advertisement recently for a “guaranteed” qualification and had to take a better look. A private college registered in South Africa is offering a guarantee of employment! After graduation, they will guarantee either:


You are able to find employment

OR

We will assist you to find employment

OR

We will make available a bursary for postgraduate or degree studies

OR

We will arrange a cash payment of R50 000 (ZAR)

(https://www.boston.co.za/about-us/graduate-plus/)


This seems to be really putting their money and reputation where their advertising mouth is! If you were a student looking for a college or so-called private university today, would this attract your attention?


The International Labour Organisation (ILO), a United Nation's agency, is another organisation that has been involved in the topic of “employability”. Should you need more background information, this is another useful source of information and resources.


Globally, we hear that some 58% of employers feel that the new applicants they receive from educational institutions are not adequately prepared for the world of work.


In addition, the unemployment rate in Namibia has been rising in recent years. Relating more specifically to graduates in Namibia, the New Era News Service in Namibia shows that there are 67,000 unemployed graduates. Contrasted with the university population of nearly 24,759 students and a population of over 2,6 million the numbers seem high enough for concern.


In this workshop, we are looking at employment and the attributes, skills and knowledge students need when they come knocking on your doors as applicants for employment opportunities. We need to also consider the personal characteristics, circumstances and other factors that impact on their readiness to be interviewed and finally appointed to work.


To ensure we are on the same page, let me suggest a definition of these three terms that will keep being repeated:


* Attributes are qualities that are regarded as an inherent part of a person.


* Broad competencies are a person's abilities to meet complex demands by drawing on skills, attitudes and knowledge.


* Skills are a person's ability to do something well – their expertise to perform a task.


Competencies define the requirements for success on the job in broader, more inclusive terms than skills do.


So, to have a working definition, we can say:


A set of achievements – skills, understandings and personal attributes that make graduates more likely to gain employment and be successful in their chosen occupations, which benefits themselves, the workforce, the community and the economy.


Any job or task a person carries out will always be within a specific context such as farming or mining. They may be working in a rural or city area and they may need to speak multiple languages. The real context for most of us who pay our own way through our education is that we need to find the money to study and then be able to earn enough to pay off these costs and make a living.


As we look at employability attributes more closely, we can draw on experience from multiple organisations. I mentioned the ILO earlier and should you wish to refer to them later, you will see that they have lists of attributes which may help us.


I have come to Namibia to help with a part of the process toward updating the curriculum to ensure that employability attributes are considered. At this stage, we are doing attribution and competency mapping as indicated in this diagram.


During this week, we have taken a detailed look at the questionnaire that COL has provided. Edits were made to ensure that the questions are appropriate to the country, this institution and this programme, the LLB.


We then discussed and responded to every question and found that the programme is doing well, but that a number of changes could be made to further improve the appropriateness of the programme.


We then reviewed a list of possible employability attributes, the overall University's employability attributes, and responses received from the online survey of Stakeholders. The debates resulted in an identified list of attributes to be focussed on by Faculty staff for the LLB programme.


These attributes were used to influence the learning outcomes of the LLB programme which have been updated and share with you today. The new learning outcomes were mapped across all modules of the LLB to guide faculty staff when doing their preparations for presenting each of the modules.


Today's discussion will focus on the guidance that Stakeholders can provide to Faculty about what they can do to better prepare job applicants for the world of work by the time they graduate. We will give particular emphasis to the so-called 'soft skills' and other skills and attributes that will make graduates ideal candidates.


Thank you for your attention. I hope this sets the stage for a discussion. I would like to open the floor for comments about the intentions of this project and then continue on to a discussion about the attributes that have emerged through the online questionnaire. We need your confirmation on what attributes are important to you and that the University needs to include these into its teaching and learning processes.




Integrating Employability Attributes in Higher Education