Botswanas textile and apparel sector is battling a chronic shortage of skilled personnel

Botswana's textile and apparel sector is battling a chronic shortage of skilled personnel

Botswana's first vocational training school for the textiles and clothing sector has opened its doors, aiming to close the skills gap restricting the growth of the industry in this southern African country.

Farhan Ghafoor, general manager for the Textile and Clothing Institute of Botswana (TCIB), told just-style one of the biggest challenges facing the industry in Botswana is the "chronic shortage of skilled personnel."

"Presently there is a lack of skilled sewing machine operators, fabric cutters, machine mechanics, production line supervisors," he explains, saying the problem is restricting the country's potential to attract investment for the sector.

"If a large manufacturing firm were to set-up operations in Botswana, there is presently no database available within Botswana that has a ready list of skilled operators and personal set for employment."

Ghafoor says this lack of skills is hampering growth and dissuading large companies from investing in the country, as well as preventing it from benefiting from US market access offered by the renewed African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA).

But the new college, established with support from the Botswana Textile and Clothing Association (BTCA), should boost the availability of skilled local labour. "Our curriculum is designed with outcome based learning objectives in mind. The TCIB offers the perfect blend of theory and practical training," Ghafoor says.

Accredited by the Botswana Qualifications Authority (BQA), the TCIB is presently offering one-year certificate courses in cutting, embroidery, sewing, garment assembly, design and pattern making, commercial sewing skills and clothing manufacture. It welcomed its first students in July.

Located in the capital Gaborone, the TCIB has the capacity to enroll 300 students, using five classrooms, two training halls, a workshop area with more than 50 textile and clothing production machines and a media centre developing and issuing training materials.

Shahid Ghafoor, president of Botswana Textile and Clothing Association (BTCA), says TCIB has the potential to bring growth and empowerment to the industry. "There has been no workforce to be utilised by the sector. So we took it upon ourselves to design the courses and make sure the college becomes a success."