REPRESENTATIVES of the private sector, higher education institutions and the government on Friday signed a tripartite agreement meant to close down the skills gap in the labour market through an apprenticeship programme.
The agreement is meant to ensure that higher education institutions produce the skills that are required by the market.
The memorandum of understanding (MoU) for the apprenticeship strategy was signed by the Ministries of Education and Training (MoET), Labour and Employment and Trade and Industry; the Lesotho Chamber of Commerce and Industry (LCCI) as well as educational institutions,
The agreement relieves the MoET of the burden of developing the education agenda which will now be shared among the parties.
The parties will develop an apprenticeship strategy, operational framework including guidelines for effective implementation. It is also expected to facilitate the drafting of an apprenticeship programme policy and act.
Among other things, the MoU tasks the private sector with informing the higher education institutions about the skills they need thereby directing the curricula.
The private sector will also be responsible for supporting the apprenticeship by providing skills and supervision as well as offering credible feedback from an authorised person in the workplace.
Educational institutions are expected to collaborate with the private sector to lead the research to identify challenges to inform the development of the curricula. They are also expected to implement the curricula addressing the needs of the labour market and the private sector.
On the other hand, the government is tasked to oversee the implementation of the apprenticeship strategy and facilitate amendment of existing legislation, policies and laws on education among others.
Higher Education Principal Secretary Thabiso Lebese said the MoU has the potential to respond to the high rates of unemployment in the country and also help boost the productivity of the private sector by equipping it with the appropriate skills.
“We are here today to correct the skills mismatch that we have in the labour market,” Dr Lebese said.
For his part, Chaba Mokuku from the Private Sector Competitiveness and economic Diversification project (PSCEDP) under the Ministry of Trade and Industry, said the country is at crossroads economically with many inequalities.
He said the high unemployment rate requires a coordinated effort between ministries and organisations who have can have a positive influence in managing and reducing the unaligned development goals for the future workforce.
PSCEDP is a Ministry of Trade and Industry initiative being implemented in partnership with the World Bank and African Development Bank. It aims to improve the efficiency of the public sector to create an enabling environment for the private sector to develop and expand market access for the private sector.
“Our country is at crossroads economically as we are facing very high poverty rates that are close to 60 percent of the population, high unemployment rates and a wide gap between the rich and the poor,” Mr Mokuku said.
He said while the PSCEDP was established to expedite the government’s policies and strategies to respond to its socio economic challenges, the signing of the MoU was a significant milestone under the project.
“This is a significant milestone towards implementation of the project,” Mr Mokuku said.
For his part, the secretary general of LCCI, Fako Hakane, said the agreement was expected to stimulate private sector development as it is currently struggling.
“The private sector is experiencing enormous challenges because it is a sensitive commodity which does not need do well where investment will not be possible if there is instability, we therefore appreciate this initiative which going to boost growth of our economy,” Mr Hakanae said.
He said the initiative should have been implemented a long time ago, noting that Lesotho always seems to be the last to respond to its challenges.
On behalf of education institutions, Institute of Development and Management (IDM)’s country director, Retšelisitsoe Nko, said they are committed to lending the necessary support towards successful implementation of the strategy.
He added that radical thinking is necessary to address some of the socio-economic challenges facing the country.