Education and changing job market

Challenged. Graduates are increasingly being challenged by the needs of the current job market which has in turn rendered many of them unemployable. PHOTO Edgar R Batte.

Sometimes it is regrettable but a shame at the same time to waste so much time in school doing things that will never be useful especially in circumstances where there are challenges.
But that is not unique to Uganda. It is a global problem that points to the apparent lack of skills due to an out of touch education system that cannot sustainably adopt to the current challenges.
According to the International Labour Organisation, training institutions continue to produce graduates whose skills do not match with current demands of the market, exacerbating youth unemployment.
This, therefore, requires serious reflection on the role of education in the changing job market that is characterised by high technology.
According to John Chrysestom Muyingo, the state minister for Higher Education, deliberating on the education system in particular, rethinking the teacher’s role in the era of globalisation and improving the quality of education are key requirements that must be considered and in the immediate future.
However, beyond this, is the quality of teachers that experts believe must be considered if the current mess is to be dealt with.
“Some of the current demands require flexible skills that are highly adaptive in a technology driven world,” says Azidah Ninsiima, the chief executive officer of Great Brands Uganda.
Ninsiima believes technology has narrowed the job space but opened up boundaries, which in return demands for a change in the model of education to fill up the newly created opportunities.
“No one wants to employ five people to do a job that can be done by two people. We need to adjust our education system to provide sufficient skills,” she says.
This, she says, shall be attained if the education system is adjusted to produce workers who can multi-task, which demands that we do less of specialisation.
Enid Zziwa graduated from Ndejje University and she believes the high rate of labour mobility across the globe currently presents new challenges that require workers to have a certain degree of fluidity irrespective of the country they it intend to work in.
“There is need to harmonise some aspects in training to have relevant skills in any market where they find themselves,” she says.

Open mind-set
The current globalisation, she says, necessitates that skills training is not only limited to the local market [Uganda] but must have a universal consideration to respond to global demands.
She adds that this will be achieved through a total shift from a rigid education system to an open one that focuses away from the normal.
True to her argument, already there is a semblance of the shift with additions in one way or the other.
For instance, there is a planned move to harmonise motor driving across East Africa.
Just like in Europe, a driver who possesses a driving permit, will be able to drive in any country within East Africa.
According to Karim Kibuuka, the principal of vehicle inspection at the Ministry of Works, a harmonised East African curriculum for drivers has been developed and is only awaiting implementation.
Beyond this, new courses such as oil and gas, computer science and information and computer technology have been introduced in different universities to respond to new opportunities brought by technology and the recent discovery of oil and gas.
Gradually, the world is slowly shifting away from teaching services and theory courses to hands on and vocational skills, which according to Patrick Asiimwe Sande, the dean of training at Nakawa Vocational Institute, is a pointer that will physically change the way Uganda and the rest of the world do things.
“Paper qualifications are important, but having skills is more important. Today, many people know the principles and formulas, but cannot deliver because they have no skills. Vocational education is the way to go,” he says.

Way forward

According to Samuel Businde, the executive secretary of Change Education Attitude Uganda, with the increasing lack of innovation and entrepreneurship, vocational institutions are currently viewed as the only modus of academia that can nurture skills and competencies required in the changing environment.
However, he says, young people continue to view vocational education with a certain bias, which is currently slowing down targeted achievements.
Therefore, he adds, government needs to consolidate current gains as well as opening up new ones if the current skills gap is to be reduced.