We need capable human capital
Posted Monday, January 28 2013 at 02:00
The immediate concern of these new entrants to Uganda’s job market is gainful employment.
Last week, Makerere University completed a week-long graduation exercise with more than 10, 000 students receiving certificates, diplomas, degrees, post graduate and honorary degrees at the institution’s 63rd graduation ceremony. This comes just a week after Gulu University’s 8th graduation ceremony where 1,053 students graduated in different disciplines.
The immediate concern of these new entrants to Uganda’s job market is gainful employment. And that is the biggest challenge facing not just fresh graduates but several other Ugandans languishing without jobs. This country’s unemployment problem is compounded by a big young population.
Though the national unemployment rate currently stands at 3.5 per cent, the youth unemployment rate is at a worrying 32.2 per cent. It is even higher for graduates at 36 per cent.
The new graduates who have not yet secured employment will, therefore, face a harsh reality: that graduation is no longer an automatic ticket to a good job! According to data from the Uganda Bureau of Statistics and Uganda Investment Authority, roughly 400,000 Ugandans enter the labour market each year but only about 113,000 are absorbed into formal employment.
The problem, most analysts seem to agree, is lack of skills that stems from our education system. During Gulu University’s graduation ceremony, Education Minister Jessica Alupo appealed to universities to consider tailoring academic programmes that are relevant to the country if unemployment is to be tackled. She said due to ‘off target’ courses, the unemployment level in the country is unacceptably high.
The minister raised a pertinent issue. Unfortunately, she is simply singing an old familiar song that policy makers are not keen to sing along or dance to. While the government has in the past introduced certain measures to deal with unemployment, especially among the youth, such efforts were frustrated by lack of proper implementation.
The issue is not even about identifying the problem. It is about urgently taking steps to address unemployment. It is crucial to have highly trained people but they must be employable.
We must, therefore, separate desk education from skills training and recognise that we need both theory and skills to make our education effective and relevant. We must go beyond good grades and develop a capable human capital.