University of Botswana on January 14, 2022 held its first Industry Masterclass Series under the theme: Infrastructure Development Fuelling Socio-Economic Development and Growth: Lessons Learnt From the COVID-19 Pandemic.
The purpose of the Masterclass Series which was held at the Faculty of Engineering and Technology was to draw insights from one of Africa's largest infrastructural development firms, Bigen Group Chief Executive Officer, Mr Luthando Vutula, who was the guest expert. Thus, the Industry Masterclass Series is one of the University of Botswana flagship engagement initiatives with the overall goal of cultivating Academia - Industry partnership for socioeconomic development and growth.
It aims to ensure cross-fertilization of existing and new knowledge within the strategic pillars of Teaching and Learning as well as Research and Innovation as espoused in the University of Botswana 2020-2029 Strategy of Creating a Future For the knowledge Generation. Given the University’s rich history as the source and foundation of the country's formative labour force and human capital development, the UB Industry Masterclass Series further aims to impact the University Community with industry-specific expertise and experiences on topical socio-economic issues.
Further, it seeks to establish a network of shared stakeholder value through academic community and industry interactions besides providing UB students, members of staff and other key stakeholders with an opportunity to learn, engage and share knowledge with captains of industry.
Speaking at the event, Mr Vutula underscored the importance of universities creating synergies with industry to give students an early exposure to the realities of the workplace. He said it was rather counterproductive to give students exposure at the end of their studies because academic excellence does not translate into immediate tangible results let alone the ability to adapt to a sophisticated work environment. Consequently, students need industry exposure throughout the duration of their studies so that they learn while concurrently gaining practical knowledge and industry expertise, he added. To that end, Mr Vutula observed that at the end of their studies the students would not find it difficult blending in, more so that it was important for them to understand group dynamics and how to interact with colleagues in the workplace.
Mr Vutula who is a University of Botswana alumnus also recalled that during their study years they were given industry exposure which allowed them to gain practical knowledge and relevance in the industry. With infrastructure serving critical sectors such as health, financial, energy, agriculture, it remains a integral component in the country's ability to develop and grow socially and economically. However, with the advent of the Covid-19 pandemic, there has been a significant shift in global economic trends such as technology driven globalisation.
In that respect, Mr Vutula also spoke about finding new and innovative ways of financing infrastructure development through public and private partnerships. He noted that government alone could not manage to develop critical infrastructure hence the need for the private sector as well to infuse its expertise and financial wherewithal.