Skills Development Contest; a Loser on the Winners List

Evelyn doing what she knows best Evelyn doing what she knows best - pic by Happy Njalam'mano

Evelyn Maunde is clad in a blue work suit and safety boots. She has put on syndicate, probably to keep his head warm on the cold weather that embraced the hilly located Soche Technical College in Blantyre.

She is set to contest in the Technical Entrepreneurial and Vocational Education Training (TEVET) Authority first ever Skills Development Competition.    

The Level 3 student of Andiamo Technical College in Blantyre is pursuing the advanced certificate in Automobile Mechanics. She is 22 years old.

Evelyn who lives at Chinsapo 2 in Lilongwe says that “if opportunity arises, it is my wish to upgrade to diploma level at the Malawi University of Business and Applied Sciences.”

Her ambition is to grow her career “and establish a garage, employ more youths and develop the country.”

129 students from technical colleges across the country showcased their skills in the skills development competition held in the country’s three regions.

The contest looked on trades of automobile mechanics, bricklaying, plumbing, tailoring, welding and fabrication and Information and Communication Technology.

Looking calm and composed, Evelyn is working on her vehicle, hoping to walk away with a trophy from the contest.

Unfortunately, she did not make as expected. Her college-mate Yankho Nalima made it as a winner with Bertha Banda from Nasawa Technical College as a runner-up in her category.

Nalima went away with a trophy and K150, 000 whilst Banda carted home with a trophy and K100, 000. Evelyn was given a certificate of attendance, just like any other participating contestant.

Some may have been stressed, depressed and spent sleepless night for not clinching a trophy nor cash prize. But not Evelyn.

She says, to her, she is a big winner for taking part in the competition.

“This is my first experience to take part in such a competition. I have gained experience which I never imagined that I would gain before joining the industry. It is the hands-on experience which is a challenge in many training institutions to access,” she said.

Evelyn says through the competition, she has been exposed to instruments which she only learnt in class but now she has had an opportunity to use them.

“Instruments such as DTI [Dial Test Indicator], pressure gauge and micrometer. I might have not won a trophy or cash but the experience I have gained here is enormous.

“When I join the industry, I will not be new to use such instruments. It becomes difficult for students to use the instruments first in the industry. I am excited to be part of the contestants,” said the smiling Evelyn.

“I am encouraging fellow girls that we can do what boys can do. We don't have to look down on ourselves. We are regarded as inferiors before the boys but I tell you, let us put on those work suits and take up those jobs,” she says.

Evelyn is just an example of students who despite losing the contest, they have gained enormous experience through the competition.

TEVETA Board Chairperson, Don Whayo, says that the competition is a testament to the importance of skills development in Malawi. “We are all aware that skills development is essential for   economic growth and social progress. Skills are also vital in equipping young people with quality tools which can enable them to succeed in the 21st Century job market.

“Again, as a country, we now have the Malawi 2063 which is a long-term development plan that seeks to transform Malawi into a prosperous, Industrialized and middle-income country by 2063. In order to achieve this, skills development has been emphasized in the MW2063 as one of the enablers of this vision. I can, therefore, safely say that this skills development competition supports government’s agenda on skills development vis a vis the Malawi 2063,” he said.

Whayo stressed that the Authority “is striving to produce more practitioners with skills that can match up to the level that is internationally acceptable. This is evidenced by the drive to increase productivity levels, quality, value addition and innovation in products.  Despite all these efforts, the system is still battling with negative perceptions, low regard for, and recognition of its products.”

Vice chancellor of the Malawi University of Business and Applied Sciences (MUBAS), Professor Nancy Chitera, says there is a need to increase awareness on the importance of skills development on national development.

“Competitions such as this one is a way to raise awareness. Vocational trainings in the country are usually underrated but people need to know that the country cannot develop if such skills are missing. We need mindset change,” she said.

Enabler 5 of the Malawi 2063 vision emphasizes the need to have a globally competitive and highly motivated human capital because a highly youthful population in Malawi makes its people the greatest source of wealth.

“Developing human capital through education, skills and health of the population plays a pivotal role in the transformation of the economy,” says the country’s development blueprint.

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