Why Unam ICT graduates hit a snag

The University of Namibia (Unam) has often come under fire for producing ICT graduates who fail to find suitable employment or who fail to impress in today’s technology and knowledge driven society.

The views of one of the academics at the University of Namibia (Unam), Department of Information and Communication Studies, Catherine Margaret Beukes-Amiss who has more than 16 years of lecturing experience in the ICT field, is that the challenge lies not just at Unam but also with the various educational institutions, stakeholders and the ICT industry at large to equip all graduates with the required ICT skills needed to survive in a technology and knowledge driven society.

“Most of our graduates complain about stringent conditions (prior experience) imposed by prospective employers. Now is an opportunity to get themselves into the various university programmes, also in the Department of Computer Science and other departments offering IT related courses and modules to eventually graduate with the right skills,” she says.

Beukes-Amiss is ICDL certified, a member of the ICT Steering Committee in the Ministry of Education and has used her skills to nurture and train youth in various ICT packages with special emphasis on web page design, analysis and evaluation of Internet search engines, Systems Analysis and Design, Information storage and retrieval software (WINISIS), among others.

She was the NOLNet e-Learning coordinator of the country for the past 7 years, and has a MSc in Electronic Information Management obtained from Robert Gordon University, Scotland.

“The University of Namibia is also on the verge of introducing new ways of teaching and learning to be able to complement existing ways of teaching and learning through e-Learning. Lecturers from various departments were part of our pilot training programme for developing online courses,” she says.

A PhD candidate in Computer integrated Education (CiE) through the University of Pretoria Beukes-Amiss notes that, “Players in the ICT sector discuss the current and projected needs for ICT graduates. ICT is critical to Namibia’s economic and social development reform. The reduced number of ICT graduates since the “dot com crash” is of grave concern. There is need to form partnerships and generate innovative solutions to adequately address the ICT skills crisis. There is need to distinguish between “scarce skills” where people cannot be found to fill vacant positions in the ICT industry and “Critical skills” where individuals need training to extend their skill set.”

Skills shortage in the ICT environment in Namibia has largely been hit by the go slow production of university graduates. Graduates enter the job market not equipped in line with the convergence of different aspects of the industry “and we all must address this through our curriculum consultation processes with all stakeholders and industry,” Beukes-Amiss adds.

The problem is further exacerbated by the fact that firms are reluctant to employ graduates who have qualifications but do not have practical skills and experience. A few organisations do invest in graduate internship programmes to attract and retain high calibre graduate interns, and we encourage more to assist us. “It is imperative that companies retain new ICT graduates if they are suitable, skilled and respond well to on the job training given the alarming demand levels in this sector. We need programmes to assists graduates in the real world context of the work place, providing opportunities to maximize the assets they acquire through the University. Only experience will optimise their successful transition into organisations,” Beukes-Amiss suggests. PF