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Hrd - Training in Developing African Nations

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Globalization and the resulting competition in products and services have created enormous pressures on businesses and governments to increase productivity. Developed nations have risen to the challenge, streamlining and reengineering processes, investing in technology and identifying and developing valuable human capital. This has resulted in vastly increased productivity, decreased unemployment and stabilized or even reduced consumer prices. The same is not true for the developing world where the context of poverty does not permit similar investment for competing internationally. There, one encounters flat or even declining productivity. Discouraging as this sounds, within developing nations, a rich source of capital exists -- human capability. The problem is how to organize and exploit this potential source of wealth.

Harnessing and building the value of human capital in developing nations is what this chapter is about. The thesis put forth is that structured on-the-job training (SOJT), adapted to a developing nation environment, can significantly improve, at low cost, the performance capability of workers. The chapter presents the rationale for SOJT in this setting, describes an adapted model to fit the context of a specific developing nation, Cameroun, and presents an application of SOJT complete with results.

Training in Developing Nations

Numerous authors and researchers have reported on training and education for the workplace in African nations and recommended improvements (e.g. Bas, 1988; Boisvert & Kamdem, 1991; Célesten, 1992; Courlet & Tiberghien, 1986; Fluitman, 1987; Fluitman & Oudin, 1991; Maldonado and Le Bortef, 1985; Nihan, Demol & Abodo-Tabi, 1982). All recognize the inadequacy of current training practices and outcomes. Money and effort are inefficiently exploited (Adams & Coulibaly, 1985; Guirassi, 1986; Stolovitch & Achi, 1997).

Three major factors contribute to this inefficiency:

1. Many larger businesses are merely satellites of foreign companies. They rarely adapt training practices to local conditions and do not factor in social, communication, cultural and educational variables that strongly influence training outcomes.

2. Many African nations have adopted academic formalisms from their colonial heritage: memorization; passing of exams; certificates.

3. Smaller or local enterprises (e.g. garages; construction companies; agricultural cooperatives; trades) employ traditional apprenticeship methods: a master performer models and passes on whatever s/he has learned -- this over a long, informal time period. Structure is minimal.

As western type businesses have gained in presence, the apprenticeship/on-the-job (OJT) model has lost status and favor (Ekanayake, 1988; Mbaïsso, 1990). This, despite recommendations by the International Monetary Fund (IMF,1998a) to expand and improve OJT, long a tradition in most African nations.

On-the-Job Training in Developing Nations

Most investigators favor OJT (e.g. BIT, 1988, 1991; Celestin, 1992; IMF, 1998a). However, effectiveness and efficiency vary considerably. Ngoa-Nguele (1999, pp. 28-29) summarizes the shortcomings of OJT documented by an array of investigators who have studied training practices in the African developing nations context:

1. Needs are rarely systematically assessed.

2. Training practices are loosely structured, if at all. Limited, short-term goals drive training activities.

3. Training is insufficiently adapted to learner characteristics. Training sessions are poorly presented and unsystematically sequenced.

4. Feedback is erratic or non-existent. Incentives such as salary increases, promotion or social recognition rarely exist.

5. Learner selection is frequently biased. Discrimination based on age, sex or ethnic origins, rather than concern for work/organizational needs is common.

6. Instructors are poorly trained; experienced workers in OJT settings, not at all. Funds and training materials are lacking. Training developers and managers rarely possess the competencies to fulfill their roles.

7. Diplomas are highly valued. Many believe that "school learning" is the best guarantor of workplace competencies.

8. In rural settings, OJT is largely oral, with little systematization and few training materials. Competency evaluation resides solely with the master.

This summary of characteristics opens wide the door to potential for change. In this context, SOJT offers attractive benefits.

SOJT: Characteristics and Benefits

Basically, SOJT is OJT with a carefully planned structure, procedures, outcomes and budgets. It defines both experienced and novice worker skills and knowledge (Clark, 1991; Jacobs, 1990, 1999; Jacobs & Jones, 1995; Rothwell & Kazanas, 1990a, 1990b, 1994). The critical characteristics of SOJT are:

1. Learning takes place at the work site. The novice worker observes a task and repeats it immediately. The experienced worker provides specific feedback on task execution.

2. There are detailed training plans with tasks and subtasks sequenced according to how the job is done.

3. A trained SOJT instructor - one recognized as a master performer - guides novice workers.

4. Support materials to which the novice can refer at any time anchor required skills and knowledge.

5. The entire effort is integrated, orderly, yet includes opportunities for trial and error with corrective feedback loops. It is a complete, unified system.

The environment must be appropriate and prepared for SOJT implementation. Figure 1 presents an adaptation of the Jacobs and Jones (1995) model for SOJT.

Figure 1

SOJT trainers receive particular attention.



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