Oil Seed Products Technical Working Group: Explanatory Note Addressing The Skills Gap

The Malawi national export strategy (NES) highlighted oilseed crops as one of a few export sectors with the potential to reduce Malawi’s dependence on tobacco and increase the value of exports overall.

In driving the NES forward, an initial study was conducted to assess the oilseed sector’s constraints. The study revealed various skills concerns that limit the growth of oilseeds exports. As one of its core technical initiatives, the OSP TWG group is working to understand and address these skills challenges.

THE CHALLENGES
The skills mismatch: The mismatch in the skills that students gain at university and the skills that companies require pose significant challenges to the progress of the oilseeds sector. Companies that are engaged in the oilseeds value chain continue to face difficulties in finding and recruiting students that have the relevant practical skills.

The industry disconnect: In addition to the skills mismatch, there are poor linkages between academic institutions and companies in the sector. Communication between universities and companies has been limited and this has added to the poor understanding of the industry and the skills required.

THE INTERVENTION

To address these challenges, the OSP TWG has initiated an internship programme that places students on six-month place-ments within a company in the oil-seeds value chain. By targeting a variety of private sector firms, the programme enables students to gain practical skills across multiple functions and departments such as irrigation engineering, agro-processing, marketing, and accounting. Through the internship, the OSP TWG aims to create stronger linkages in the oil-seeds sector as well as support the development of long-term partnerships between companies and the universities.


INTERNSHIP STRUCTURE
The six month internship is split into two months either during or at the end of the penultimate year, and four months after the end of the final year. The placements are carefully selected to compliment and add value to the student’s academic background and expertise.
The internship focuses on providing a variety of soft and technical skills that are relevant to the oilseeds sector and the broader working environment.

 

OIL-SEEDS VALUE CHAIN

Inputs — Production — Trading —
— Processing — Exporting — Research


GOING FORWARD

STUDENT’S EXPERIENCES

The Co-chair of the OSPTWG held interviews with students undertaking placements at Valid Nutrition, Lakeshore Agro-processors and the Multi-seeds Company in September 2016. In assessing the students’ experiences, the students expressed the positive benefits of the scheme, noting that the entrepreneurship skills and exposure had been helpful.
Companies also had positive feedback and the Multi-seeds company added that the students played a key role in developing the company’s marketing strategies and workplace policies.

“Students appreciated being part of the work environment, they all felt that their soft skills had improved during the course of the placement. The students visited producer framers and mobilized the production of farmers through conducting market research, participating in seed demonstrations and facilitating field days” - Pindulani Seeds Enterprise Internship
Key skills learned across the internships include the processing of oil seeds, climate-smart agricultural practices, web-based marketing skills, irrigation systems and costing.

Student further suggested that modules on green house crop management, irrigation systems, soil analysis and oilseeds husbandry and business focused training, would be beneficial additions to their curriculums.
Student gaining practical experience on her Frescor Limited internship.

For 2017 there are a number of areas of specific focus, but three strands of work stand out:First_Guest_Lecture_in_skills_gap_programme_1
1. Facilitating Partnership Agreements: Supporting the development of partnerships between university departments and companies involved in the oil seed value chain will be key to ensuring that the programme is sustainable.
2. Tracking placements: Making sure that we track the number of students who are offered paid employment by the companies will enable us to promote the programme and demonstrate the added incentives for both students and companies who are interested in taking part in the future. To date, two students have been offered contracts so monitoring and highlighting these successes will be key.
3. Guest lectures: Managers from companies will be invited to give guest lectures at universities, this will enable them to share valuable experiences and insights with larger numbers of students, as well as further strengthen ties between business and academia.

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