IT SKILLS AND TENDERING PANACEA

By By Shasimana Uugulu
December2010/January 2011
ICT
RIDING on the shoulders of their success in the implementation of a TV licence management system with the Namibian Broadcasting Corporation (NBC), New Point E Solutions has advised government to provide more incentives to private and public institutions for the placements of IT students.

IT students at tertiary institutions are being taught theory and often after graduating enter the market with high remuneration expectations yet lacking vital practical experience and element of the IT field.

This, according to the Managing Director of New Point E Solutions Narendraprasad Japal, has led to employers ignoring new recruits from college.

Japal challenges the government to look into providing serious incentives to local and foreign owned companies in order for them to provide students studying at tertiary institutions placements.

Such incentives may come in many forms such as providing tax cuts to companies that are providing placements to more than five students or giving tenders to companies that are willing to give practical training to tertiary students.

“It is very important for the government to engage private companies by offering serious incentives with the aim of making placements available to students. These incentives will have a positive impact on the relationship between companies and local tertiary institutions and will lead to capacity building and better results in terms of the graduates these institutions are producing,” said Japal.

Since its establishment in 2006, New Point E Solutions has been providing placement to students particularly those studying at the Polytechnic of Namibia.

“We start providing IT placements to students when they are in their second or third year and this gives them a chance to practice the theories they would have studied as well as gain practical experience of market related applications.”

At the moment, there are five students on placement training with New Point E Solutions, three of whom are from the Polytechnic while the other two are from Unam.

“These students have access to all our applications and we treat them like all other employees when it comes to assignments. We want these students to gain as much expertise in IT applications as possible hence we do not give them unnecessary tasks that do not relate to their studies.”

Japal suggests that it would be very beneficial to students if tertiary institutions start recruiting guest lecturers from the private sector to come teach them even on a weekly basis, so that they grasp the idea of how things are going within the market.

“I can tell you that most graduating students, although they have papers are not prepared to enter the market. This is mostly because there is a gap between tertiary institutions and the market. There is a great need for the Government to get involved and use all the power at its disposal to create an enabling environment that will be beneficial to students, institutions and the market.”

Japal adds that Namibian institutions should emulate the way traditional universities operate by developing industrial-based courses with input from all major players within the market.

This will minimise the number of graduates who end up struggling to find a job upon completion of their studies.

When it comes to IT literacy within the country, Japal advises government to do more in rural areas where there is need to create early awareness of IT benefits at primary and secondary schools.

“This awareness will create more interest among learners to pursue IT studies at tertiary institutions and hence it should be accompanied by serious training and provision of all necessary IT equipment in rural areas.”

He points out that it is very important that every school should have a computer training centre to train learners and members of surrounding communities.

Japal’s managing partner, Johannes Ortmann, wants government to revisit its tender specifications and prequalifications for companies in order to promote capacity building within the country.

For Ortmann, to promote local talent and capacity building, the government should start giving tenders to companies that have a workforce made up 60% local employees.

“This will compel foreign owned companies to do more when it comes to training and investing in the local populace and in a long run it will contribute to capacity building.”

According to him most tenders in Namibia are given to foreign companies, with some foreign companies even responsible for running systems at crucial ministries when in fact there are capable local companies.

“Foreign companies are only here for the money, and daily they take money out of the country without even having to contribute to the training of local people. There is an urgent need to for the government to compel all foreign owned companies as well as local companies to have at least five students each year.”

He argues that giving tenders to foreign companies does not build Namibia as it leads to dependence and kills local innovation.The duo wants the tender process to be more open to all local companies saying this will compel them to excel and provide quality services.

Ortmann cites occasions when some local companies would get a tender to complete a project and instead of themselves doing the job they hire a foreign company to do the job for them.

“This practice is the same as giving a tender to a foreign company because at the end of the day a large portion of the money is paid to the foreign company that did the work. Only a small percentage will remain with the local company that was awarded the tender.”

Not all student interns at New Point E Solutions are studying towards IT qualifications but there some who are studying other courses such as Economics and Business Computing.

Those that are not studying IT courses are trained in using applications such as financial systems and Oracle which are related to their fields of studies and according to Japal this help them to be ready to work with these systems when they complete their studies.

According to one of the student interns who is studying Economics at Polytechnic, Victoria Nepembe, it helps a great deal when students get an internship because they get to experience practical aspects of the theory they learn in classes.

“It is good to experience a real work environment and get to practice what one is taught in class, but here at New Point the company went even further and gave us access and training to applications like financial systems and oracle database management systems,” she says.

She said it would be a very good thing if all students could get internship within companies and acquire the practical knowledge they are gaining.

New Point E Solutions is a specialised IT company and offers a wide range of solutions that begin from strategy consulting to implementing customised solutions.

Some of the major projects that the company has carried out include implementing a Human Resource Management system at the Office of the Prime that helps in managing the public workforce and also implemented a water management system for the Ministry of Agriculture.

Japal advises government to look into serious ways to address challenges that are hampering capacity building within the country by introducing numerous incentives and specifications within the tender process. PF