NORTEC: Closing skills gap in male-dominated fields
Published On April 6, 2018 » 3586 Views» By Evans Musenya Manda » Features
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NO technical institution is established whose work to share and nurture skills to transform society is not born with it.
Women on the global skin naturally encounter arresting socio-economic and political challenges in male-dominated occupations which affects their motivation and retention in such professions.
With this realisation, the Northern Technical College (NORTEC), with the support of its partners, is firing-up a female enrolment campaign programme crafted at the heels of closing the skills gap in mostly fields which are male-dominated.
The campaign revolves around the need for female learners to appreciate the benefits of choosing to venture into male-dominated careers.
NORTEC is favouring gender-balanced career paths by ambitiously mooting out female enrolment campaign programme.
The programme is powered the Swedish Development Agency (SIDA (as donor agency) with Volvo providing technology transfer (availing heavy training aids such as engines for training purposes) and United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO), as the implementing agency of the programme.
At least one is easily tempted to believe that the programme is nothing but a trained and organised common sense that offers impetus to concerted strides designed to drive the national economy forward.
NORTEC officials engaged some of its graduates who have managed to penetrate the male-dominated engineering fields to share their experiences from their work places, or are they mere workshops?
It was a well-thought out strategy to engage learners from PEAS Kawama Secondary School in Ndola where products of NORTEC shared their experiences during the female campaign.
It took several hours for the female learners at the school to appreciate the message which quenched what they managed to get about strategies geared towards to motivate to enroll for engineering and other highly technical programmes.
During the wide-ranging presentations, learners were beefed up with elements of women’s resilience in male dominated fields, highlighting salient use of femininity, adopting male characteristics, mentorship and intrinsic motivational factors.
Lest one elects to ignore the truism that some of the hurdles that women face while working in male-dominated occupations revolve around the difference from those working in more gender-balanced and female-dominated occupations.
Not now, these challenges on the pendulum are steadily tilting to the advantage of women’s retention and career success.
In the words of Racheal Sakwiya, NORTEC’s Marketing and Placement officer, encouraged the learners at PEAS Kawama Secondary School to enroll with the technical institution because of its rich relations with mining firms in the country who often approaches it with requests for offering students-in-campus on industrial attachments.
Ms Sakwiya qualified the fact that a host of mining firms were consistently approaching NORTEC management inquiring about the availability of students who could be seconded for industrial attachment, which she said offers deserving students the platform to acquire hands-on experience.
“Many firms always approach NORTEC to inquire about students who could be attached to their companies to gain experience before being employed.
“There are a lot of opportunities for female candidates to enroll in engineering courses which are male dominated,” she intoned, as the fully packed class room of female students beamed in awe!
Rabecca Chipanta, the liaison and placement officer, heavily weighed in with: “Zambia Industrial Training Academy (ZAMIT) is a programme funded by the Swedish Government, Volvo, which supplies machinery for training purposes in its technology transfer capacity, and UNIDO as the implementing partner of the programme and NORTEC as the local partner.”
Ms Chipanta espoused that the campaign to encourage more female candidates to enroll for engineering training programme was aimed at closing the skills gap in the male dominated fields.
She highlighted several other benefits of female students pursuing engineering programmes at the institution, adding that this would improve the economic performance of once dominated technical fields.
Ms Chipanta went on to quip that ZAMITA strives to promote its mission through effective visibility on social media, print and visual media adverts.
She said the Technical Vocational Education Training Authority (TEVETA) and African Development Bank (AfDB) were offering bursaries to ZAMITA students.
She encouraged women to take up ZAMITA courses for the benefit of skills empowerment of women and national prosperity.
Ms Chipanta urged the learners to pursue courses offered at NORTEC which included electronic and hydraulic laboratories as teaching aids, including other simulators to make training easier to comprehend.
She said industry captains were encouraging more females to pursue engineering related programmes to drive the wheels of the national economy forward for the benefit of the country and concept of equality.
“There are also other courses availed in mechanical engineering, automotive and heavy equipment repair engineering department. Programmes on offer are very exciting and they have ready market in various national industrial sectors,” she intones.
Highlighting advantages of studying at NORTEC, Thandiwe Banda, a heavy duty repair student, who is the only female in a class of 45 male students, beams with glowing excitement as she shares her experiences with the learners at PEAS Kawama Secondary School, saying female students should pursue technical training.
Florence Nakazwe completed her training in engineering at NOTEC in 2013 before joining TATA Zambia where she worked for a year before landing herself a job at BELL Equipment.
Alas, Ms Nakazwe remains, at least for now, the only woman in the engineering section of BELL Equipment in the whole country!
“Most people discouraged me to pursue the engineering programme because they believed it was a course only for men. I followed my heart and went ahead to pursue the programme and after training I discovered that the market was very available in the mining sector and indeed other private companies,” she opens up to the learners.
Ms Nakazwe said she specialises in repairing BELL equipment and dangerously enjoys what she does. She lures the young learners to pursue engineering courses like their male counterparts.
Rennie Shamambo, a NORTEC product and employee at BARLOWORLD, said she graduated in 2010 from the technical institution.
To Shamambo, they were only two female students in her class of heavy equipment. She specialised in repairing and operating earth moving equipment after completing a course in automotive mechanics all because her dreams of success rested on something challenges than what she had on her fat plat.
“In 2011, I was employed after being called while at NORTEC, which was the advantage. We only had only four women against 16 men at BELL Equipment in the whole country, which gave a strong sense of achievement. You should be prepared for greater challenges in the field of work.
“There is need for the women to work hard to prove their value in male-dominated fields. It is up to your commitment to change the fortunes of the career,” she said.
Northern Technical College (NORTEC), as the largest technical institution in the country, has been the focal point in this renaissance.
Since 2016, it has been implementing a project with the support of the Zambian Industrial Training Academy (ZAMITA), which has since transformed its Heavy Equipment Engineering Department.
ZAMITA has enhanced quality training at NORTEC that has led to its nomination as the college of excellence for heavy equipment engineering studies by Technical Education, Vocational and Entrepreneurship Training Authority (TEVETA).
ZAMITA is a multilateral partnership among three organizations and being implemented by the United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO).
The other primary partner in the project is the Swedish government, which was responsible for finance, with Volvo Group providing the technology, training equipment and also knowledge transfer to the teachers, while NORTEC has been the local implementer of the project.
Leonard Mulenga, the Project Coordinator, said ZAMITA’s key aim was to support poverty reduction programs through youth employment.
“After extensive research, we had arrived at milestone results in empowering the youth, particularly females through relevant skills upgrade programmes which are tailor made to close the existing skills gap between the job market and vocational institutions,” Mr Mulenga explains.
In 2015, UNIDO involved NORTEC management, TEVETA and industries along the line of rail, including North-Western Province to carry out a training needs analysis.
This brought out the deficiency exhibited between vocational institutions and the job market, which finally gave birth to a curriculum formed in 2016 aimed at closing the skills gap.
Since 2016, a tailor-made programme, the first Heavy Equipment Engineering Diploma in Zambia was born.
This is a one-year- three-months course being offered to those with prior learning at advanced certificate level.
Today NORTEC is beginning to produce youth who are competent to handle modern machinery found in any developed economy.
With the support of its international partners and Government, NORTEC has managed to achieve a modern curriculum, upgrade infrastructure and install hi-tech training equipment.
PEAS Kawama Secondary School deputy head Maggie Mainza saluted the ZAMITA entourage for their initiative to engage learners by sharing pertinent information on career related issues.
Helen Chisenga, grade 12 pupil, said the discourse was a milestone engagement for the learners as it offered them opportunity to interact with industry players and gain knowledge on career anchored matters.
Rasaria Chongo, another student, expressed interest in matters raised during the discourse, saying the platform generated an atmosphere of information sharing.
She promised to choose an engineering inclined programme and hoped that such educational campaigns should be encouraged to take place in others learning facilities.
In a shell, heavy equipment engineering is typically a male-dominated trade, with currently very few female graduates in the market and this is what ZAMITA with its partners was changing.

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