O and L serious about tackling skills gap

Windhoek: The shortage of skills in Namibia have been emphasised several times, not only by government, but also the business and private sector at large. This is a concern that the Ohlthaver and List (O and L) Group holds dear to heart and takes very seriously, as the skills shortage has proven to be detrimental to the growth of the local economy.

The O and L Group says it is committed to creating ample platforms for growth and development opportunities for not only O and L employees, but any Namibian who has shown dedication and excellence in their specific fields of study.

One of these platforms is the Talent Attraction Programme (TAP), which aims to attract high-potential and talented Namibian graduates at tertiary education institutions that could be considered for the programme and subsequent employment. The TAP programme focuses on attracting and retaining dynamic Namibian graduates who display the passion and potential to be developed into future leaders of the O and L Group.

It recruits high-flyers, who can be fast-tracked into positions that are essential for the long-term sustainability and strategy of the company.

TAP was introduced in 2008 and has been successfully implemented and so far employed a total of 54 participants over the past eight years. Among others, candidates from the designated groups are represented in the programme.

TAP has an 80% retention rate and of the 54 participants, 10 have to date been promoted to managerial positions.

The objectives of the TAP programme include providing valuable development and work experience to participants to enable them to become competent and self-driven in their careers; to ensure that participants experience a sense of belonging to the O and L Group; to ensure job security and employee retention, and to ensure that they are exposed to value-adding projects within the operating companies.

Participants are placed on a one-year development programme under the guidance of a competent and experienced mentor in a similar career field.

Group Manager for organisational development Jenine Van der Westhuizen says: “The Talent Attraction Programme has been very successful in the past three years with an 80% retention rate.

“Candidates have already proven themselves to be successful in their development and careers. In a country like Namibia with a shortage of specialised skills, it is important to contribute to skills development and create opportunities for skills development that are beneficial for both the organisation and the employee.”

Another significant developmental programme within the O and L Group is the Exponential Training (XT) Programme currently running at one of the Group’s subsidiaries, Dimension Data – an information and telecommunications service provider.

Christian Mucke, human resources manager at Dimension Data Namibia, says: “As a Namibian managed IT company, we recognise the fact that the development of young talent to fill positions within the IT sector is critical to the sustainability of the ICT industry and of our company.

“Dimension Data has thus developed a programme whereby six individuals with the required academic qualifications and attitude are accommodated in an internship programme over an 18-month period. The programme started in April 2015 with the objective to provide students the opportunity to be trained and developed according to best practices.

“This objective will be met by selecting candidates with the required personal traits and competencies, training them within a Microsoft or Cisco framework and giving them exposure to a world class working environment.”

The XT programme introduces participants to computer, network and server fundamentals. After the first 6 months the candidates will sit for an A+, N+, Server+ and Windows 8 Certification. During the remaining months students will complete either the Server Certification, Desktop Certification or Network Certification Path.

Successful candidates will also be exposed to large corporate operational IT environments that include data centres, networking and end-user equipment. Students receive a monthly allowance and all training costs are covered by Dimension Data Namibia.

Mucke adds: “There is also the possibility of employment at Dimension Data after successful completion of the internship, although this is not a guarantee. We always strive to employ as many young Namibians as possible, however if they cannot be accommodated at a given time, we know that they are well educated and will be an asset to any company needing IT specialists.”

Kraatz Marine – another subsidiary of the O and L Group – annually takes 12 to 16 students from the Namibia Institute of Mining and Technology (NIMT) under its wing to develop their knowledge and skills and prepare them for the working environment.

According to a senior human capital practitioner at Kraatz Marine, Roberto January, the internship programme, which started in 2011, enables students to do their job attachment to gain practical experience to prepare them for the job market.

January: “Students get exposure in the Industrial and Mining Division, the workshop and also in the Marine and Offshore Division, where they get exposure to the ship repair industry. Generally students taken on board by Kraatz Marine from NIMT specialise in boiler making, welding, and fitting and turning.

These students are mentored and coached by master craftsmen that have worked in the engineering sector for many years and possess a wealth of experience. It is of utmost importance and we are keen on developing young Namibians to afford them the opportunity to gain practical experience to better prepare them for the job market and at the same time contribute to our country’s development and vision 2030.”

Meanwhile, Kraatz Marine in September has had its first intake of students from the Polytechnic of Namibia (PoN) Engineering School based on the Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) signed with the institution in July.

The MoU makes provision for attachment of students and academics to Kraatz Marine for capacity-building exercises, research, teaching and learning. January says: “Work Integrated Learning (WIL) forms part of their curriculum that allows them to gain practical experience in a formal work setting and is a requirement to complete their studies.”

The Pick n Pay (PnP) Namibia Trainee Managers and Retail Trainees programme is part of the company’s initiative to grow competent future leaders of the business, thereby ensuring that the future demands of the business, in terms of manpower capacity, are met.

The programme had its first intake in September 2000. In 2009 PnP signed an agreement with the Polytechnic of Namibia (PoN) to provide short courses and certification for trainees. This comprehensive theoretical training runs for a period of one year and covers courses ranging from communications, finance, business management, human resource management and retail management to operations management and ethics.

Manager of organisational development at Pick n Pay Namibia Johanna Hatutale says: “So far 41 trainee managers have completed the programme successfully, while eight others are currently nearing the end of the programme. All these have been appointed either as department managers, store managers or assistant store managers.

The majority of the graduates occupy senior store management positions. The graduates currently on the programme are part of the 6th trainee manager in-take. As of 2012 the company started to include Polytechnic of Namibia business administration graduates as part of the programme as retail trainees.

Employees not only go through the theoretical training, but are exposed to intensive practical training at the different stores. At the beginning of the programme each trainee is assigned a mentor, who is highly experienced in the field of retail management and has a successful track record of managing a store. These mentors facilitate the learning process for the candidates.

As stressed by O and L human capital director Berthold Mukuahima: “We are serious about talent attraction and succession planning, and through these programmes we aim to develop participants into future leaders of the O and L Group, and through that transform them into well-groomed professionals in their respective fields.

“Skills development should become a priority for every role player in the Namibian business and private sector. Skills shortage has been identified as a problem in this country, and it is up to us as employers to ensure that we invest in the areas of training and development, in support of government’s concern and efforts.”