University of Namibia vice chancellor Kenneth Matengu has said the institution takes cognisance of the fact that the number of students requiring work-integrated education is set to increase with the recent curricula transformation demands for mandatory work-integrated learning.
Unam, with its industry partners, thus cements their partnerships and find innovative solutions to address student needs.
Matengu made the remarks on Wednesday during the Unam industry partners’ engagement in its quest to provide relevant skills and enhance graduate employability for the transformed curricula to be implemented as of 2023.
“It is important that together, we vigorously avail opportunities for young people in this country to acquire skills for the future workforce, as we embrace the digital economy, propelled by the Fourth Industrial revolution,” he stated.
In Namibia, some refer work-integrated education to as an internship, practical attachments, apprenticeship and field attachment, with the ultimate goal to encourage students to experience authentic work practices and apply their theoretical knowledge to real-life situations, thereby enhancing their prospects of employability.
On average, Unam has been placing around 10 000 students in industries, against an annual enrolment of approximately 30 000 students across the 12 campuses.
Unam is also striving to create internal, sustainable work-integrated education opportunities to reduce pressure from industries.
Initiatives such as veterinary and dental clinics, Unam radio, medical and legal aid clinics, animal and crop production farms, and other internal student placement opportunities across various faculties and campuses are potential areas for student placements which the institution has considered.
Unam pro-vice chancellor for academic affairs Frednard Gideon said the engagement is a crucial activity for the university, especially in light of increased pressure on institutions of higher learning to produce graduates who are ready to add value to employing organisations.
He recommended that Unam must produce graduates for the current and future changing world, and for the local and global economy.
Technological changes in industry and increased globalisation also mean higher expectations of industries on institutions such as Unam.
“As an institution, we are striving to produce well-grounded graduates, with 21st century skills, to effectively navigate the labour market, support the broader economy through entrepreneurial skills, and tap into the Fourth and Fifth Industrial revolutions,” he noted.
Industries have for long lamented a gap between themselves and academia. Therefore, he suggested that work-integrated education is one of the innovative ways in which the industry can narrow this gap.
Matengu observed that the world has entered the digital era, which requires that institutions find alternative and innovative models for their students to engage in work-integrated learning.
These include platforms such as virtual placements, service learning or community service for credit purposes, project or product-based learning, problem-based learning, simulations and so forth, as applicable in some programmes.
“These alternative models could be equally adopted and implemented by the university, in collaboration with industry partners.” Matengu continued.
To date, Unam has managed to sign over 50 memoranda of understanding (MoUs) with several industry partners, including international partners, which are aimed at strengthening work-integrated education collaborations and partnerships.
MTC, from 2019 to date, has through its initiative the National Internship Support Programme, sponsored Unam students for an amount of N$1,4 million.
This financial support greatly aided student interns with transport and subsistence allowances.