By - Aderonke Ajibade
Back in the day, owning a university degree was a sure gateway to prosperity and good jobs. It was a thing of pride to attend a college and most importantly, have a certificate to show for it. Being a graduate gave you respect from both your parents and society. However, that seems to be a thing of the past. We are in times where owning a degree doesn’t guarantee a successful future. Graduate unemployment has become a ticking time bomb and has raised the big question; why do we need to go to college?
With 200 million people aged between 15 and 24, Africa has the largest population of young people in the world. According to the World Bank, 60% of all of Africa’s youth are jobless. In North Africa, the youth unemployment rate is 25% but is even higher in Botswana, the Republic of the Congo, Senegal, South Africa, among others. The youth unemployment rate in Africa is expected to exceed 30% this year, and according to the International Labour Organization (ILO), young people will continue to be 3.5 times more likely than adults to be unemployed. Sadly, graduates are not left out. Most graduates lack the relevant knowledge, skills and other attributes that facilitate the gaining and maintaining of employment.
Many graduates are victims of unemployment and underemployment, and the numbers keep rising. The president of Nigeria, Mohammed Buhari furthered relayed the fears of graduates by stating “Nigerians, earning a degree is no longer a meal ticket”. Sadly, this is a fact which has been aggravated by the current and past leaders of Nigeria and other African countries. Gone are the days when attending a university was a profitable investment. These days, it is common to find young graduates doing menial jobs such as cleaning hotel floors, waiting tables, drivers and some factory workers. People break the bank to go to school and yet come out just to remain unemployed. Spending a huge amount of money on fees throughout college and get offered a salary that will take you years of saving it get returns or pay off debt incurred in getting an education. Not only is it difficult to get a job, but a large amount of graduate also incur debt in the process of finding a job. A study published in 2016 found that young unemployed people spent $38 per month searching for work, an amount more than the average per-person income of their household.
Education and the unemployed graduate
Growing graduate unemployment has significantly been attributed to lack of jobs; however, there is widespread concern about the work readiness of graduates. While employers are generally satisfied with the disciplinary knowledge of students, they perceive significant gaps in soft skills, which is fast becoming a necessity for future jobs. Education is one tool that can never be overlooked. Education remains the primary instrument to drive and ensure graduates are adequately equipped to suit the future job market. The purpose of Education in Africa has to be redefined to solve the major problems affecting Africa. And the government need to improve the service delivery in the education sector.
Africa is currently the fastest growing region in the world, both economically and demographically. It has the world’s youngest population, which comes with enormous expectations for education. The region needs highly skilled human capital to ensure sustained economic growth, so it must continue to expand and evolve its higher education sector. The much-needed development cannot be achieved by merely producing large numbers of graduates but rather produce graduates with the necessary skills and are productive.
The African educational sector has sacrificed quality for quantity. Most educational certificates have become mere titles with failure to serve their purpose. Beyond qualifications, employers look for attributes which are often called “soft skills”.
The Skills of Future Employees
Soft skills are personality and behavioural traits which are not restricted to a particular discipline. They are also often known as ‘transferable skills’. They include interpersonal skills which requires a positive attitude , sometimes called ‘people skills’ or ‘social skills’. They include social skills, interpersonal skills, and a positive attitude. These are the skills that define your relationships with other people or how you approach life and work. With the changing future jobs and rising use of technology, Soft skills are one of the best investments you can make for a future career, as they are precisely the type of skills robots/ machines can’t automate.
According to LinkedIn Learning experts, there are the soft skills companies are looking for most in 2019, this include;
According to the World Economic Forum other skills to look out for include; Complex problem solving, Critical thinking, Creativity, People management, Co-ordinating with others, Emotional intelligence, Judgment and decision making, Service orientation, Negotiation and Cognitive flexibility.
In as much as educational institutions give hard skills and the knowledge necessary to operate in future job positions, it is essential that curriculums focus on implementation and delivery. Soft skills can be impacted in training through practical sessions, which is evidently absent in most educational institutions.
Teachers are evidently not only located in classrooms. Education is a life long learning experience. It is an ongoing experience and should never be restricted to the classes. Fela Kuti, an Afrobeat legend explains the role of the teacher in any society with the concept that: all the things we consider as problems, and all the good things we accept from life as good, begin with what we are taught. Other stakeholders, such as businesses have an equal share of responsibility of educating graduates. Providing short student internships, graduate training, soft-skills training and even funding as part of its social responsibility.
It is therefore essential that quality is emphasised and graduates are taught the intricacies and given the skills necessary to function in an automated world. A change in our approach to education can significantly influence graduate output and problem-solving capabilities. There should be a stop to the glorification of titles and the desires to impart knowledge without practical examples. Old materials cannot bring about the desired results we need in today’s society. Innovation, creativity and critical analysis should be emphasised in our curriculums.
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