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Why vocational training is critical for Botswana’s future success

Publishing Date : 21 August, 2019

Author : Michelle Ford

Accessible, flexible and effective: vocational training is transforming lives and developing critical skills of especially young people, and preparing Botswana’s economy for the future.

Africa has the youngest population of any region in the world and continues to experience strong demographic growth. Botswana will see thousands of young people enter the labour market in the coming decades, in a context where the formal labour market still is small, according to Jan Sadek, European Union Ambassador to Botswana and the Southern African Development Community (SADC).

Speaking in Gaborone in March this year, Ambassador Sadek noted that these conditions mean it is essential to invest in Technical and Vocational Education and Training (TVET) as one million jobs need to be created in Botswana by 2050 for full employment. “TVET is of paramount importance as it increases employability by equipping youth with technical skills to meet labour market needs and opportunities,” he said. “If we want to boost investment and create jobs, skills need to be matched with demands of the market.”

This has been recognised by the Government of Botswana and is reflected in the President's transformative agenda. In the State of Nation Address last year, H.E. President Masisi acknowledged the importance of skills development for productivity and growth. He encouraged the private sector to participate and contribute to enhance the relevance and quality of TVET.

Justin Kyriakou, International Development Manager at the Association of Accounting Technicians (AAT), highlights the importance of government support for TVET institutions as the majority of funding for AAT students in Botswana comes from government. “Government has supported the development of an accounting technician level in the profession and has backed AAT, in partnership with the Botswana Institute of Chartered Accountants (BICA), to offer a vocational route into the accountancy profession,” he says.

Aside from playing a vital role in upskilling people to grow Botswana’s economy, Kyriakou highlights that vocational training can transform the lives of individuals as it offers many benefits including access to qualifications without going to university and further study.
Gaining a qualification without going to university

Working whilst gaining vocational training allows students to begin earning straight away and to start applying what they learn as they learn it. Calvin Tholowane, an AAT graduate, says that studying at AAT has helped him progress in his career by teaching him financial and management skills which he applies on a daily basis at work. Before becoming an accounts assistant at Choppies, Tholowane was working part-time as a salesman in a cinema. He feels his qualification has helped him improve his standard of living.

Many people assume one needs a university degree to enter a profession, but institutions such as AAT offer qualifications that are open to everyone, regardless of age or experience, so there is no need to compete for acceptance at a university. Kyriakou explains, “for private individuals, who are self-funding, there are no restrictions – either on prior qualifications, experience in the sector, or anything else. For those with government funding, prerequisites include secondary education in certain subjects. We offer an opportunity to gain practical, real-world accounting knowledge that will help in any finance role and open a path into the profession.”

Accessing opportunities for further study

Vocational training can lead to more than securing full-time work for school-leavers who are keen to start earning. It can open doors to further study and refine a career path. Thero Kganela is a junior assistant at Grant Thornton who decided to study the AAT Diploma in Accounting because he wanted to build a strong foundation to prepare him for his studies to become a chartered accountant. He says the strong technical knowledge he has gained is helping him progress in his career too.

“There are certain qualities that are going to help students find their first job in accounting, and make a success of it,” says Kyriakou. “Being able to get through your qualifications is naturally the first step, and study for this will require discipline, focus and motivation. We have developed a suite of resources including revision materials, webinars and practice assessments, all of which are designed to help with this. Employers will want students to have a positive attitude to work, be a team player, and have the drive and determination to succeed. This will help them progress in their careers, right through to chartered accountancy should they choose this path.”

Providing a flexible approach

Vocational training can take many forms, from full or part-time traditional classes to online learning. Flexible options increase accessibility and allow students to accommodate work or family commitments. It important that students choose the approach that best suits them and keeps their motivation levels high, says Kyriakou.

Ambassador Sadek adds that all these factors are combining to make TVET an increasingly attractive option for young people in Botswana – and indeed in the rest of the world. TVET qualifications are recognised as drivers for economic and social development particularly among young people, he says. “TVET should no longer be seen as the last possible option for those who have failed the academic system. TVET is an actor for youth empowerment and should be an option on its own,” he concludes.

Michelle Ford is a Media Liaison/Sub-editor at Rothko, a Cape Town-based marketing agency.



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