Volunteering gives you the work experience employers want

Friday March 6 2020

Role model. Ruth Biyinzika Musoke is the head

Role model. Ruth Biyinzika Musoke is the head of the Skills Development Facility – SDF at the Private Sector Foundation Uganda. She is passionate about youth motivation. PHOTO by EDGAR R. BATTE.  

By Edgar R. Batte

How would you describe yourself in line with your career?

I am open-minded. I am keen to make a difference. When many people think things are not working, I believe that it is the responsibility of those in position to serve and empower others.
My passion is to see that I make a change in this country in whatever I do, especially when it comes to empowering people. I think I have created a mark on millions of Ugandans who have been able to hear me speak, write and support them through my programmes. I am a go-getter. I am not scared to do anything regardless of my height, size and age. I have always been like that.

You speak a lot about motivating the youth, what inspires you to do that?

We always say that the youth are the future. My slogan is: “There is no future, the future is now.” And I want the youth to be aware of this too. That is why I invest my efforts, believe in the youth, uplift, mentor and support them.
Under the Skills Development Facility (SDF), I make sure the youth are given special priority to be able to access our support. What motivates me are the people who have touched me in life since I was 18 years of age and believed that I would make it. If such people gave me a chance to lead, and I have led people for a long time since, I need to motivate more young people to achieve.

Which areas are you keen on when interacting with young people?

I have talked to young and old people who feel like there is no hope for them to achieve a number of things. You will find someone who has been jobless for five to 10 years and you wonder whether their joblessness is a result of their lack of any skills or they just do not know how to present themselves. These are key issues.
People give up so fast. They try once, twice, thrice and if it does not work, they give up. I believe that even the negative helps you to learn, make better decisions and live a better life. The bad moments and decisions we make in life should not hold anyone back.


Who shaped you into the person you are today?

I have had several people in my life. My first mentor was my father. He believed in the ability of the girl-child to do more. He always encouraged us. He was keen to know how well we performed and how we faired at school.
In school, I was always among the 10 best students in my class. And I have always been able to balance multiple responsibilities, my father was key. He gave me the courage and determination and challenges to show me I had to go through huddles. I remember the first jobs I did were because of him. He made me believe that if I was going into an organisation, even by volunteering, I would be able to showcase my strength, skills and abilities.

The other important person in my life is Sarah Kitakure my former boss. She gave me my first trip on a plane, to the United Nations Habitat meeting but I failed to get a visa and I felt so bad but her seconding me was encouraging enough. Then she assigned me to coordinate a trip to take some women to Germany and I did so. She gave me opportunities to travel and present at meetings.
We need to always give others a chance. I know of organisations where the boss takes all trips by themselves. If you do not allow young people chances for exposure, you are denying them opportunities to grow. Sometimes all a person needs is someone to believe in them.

Where is the missing linking between skills and the job market and career?
You have someone who has been to the university and thinks they will get to an organisation and become a manager. No, not at all. You can have your degree but the job market is different. There are particular skills that you need, for example being able to present yourself, lead, interpersonal skills, team building so sometimes people think that because they have a first class degree, it is enough. It is not enough.

I conduct interviews, I employ people. We need to encourage people to volunteer in various places. When you volunteer, you are able to learn.
There is also an element of skills’ mismatch whereby what you studied is not exactly what the employer needs. We have had a big challenge where people study things that are irrelevant in the world of work. You are interested in working in a factory or an office and have never entered one if you have studied agriculture, familiarise yourself with a farm. People look at an ideal salary which should not be the major focus.

What is your opinion about the newly proposed curriculum?

It is a good and we should support it. We have been complaining that the curriculum does not meet the requirements of the industry. Now that the change has come, we can use the chance to see how it is performing and if there are any areas that need improvement, we can provide feedback to the ministry.
We need to encourage the Ministry of Education to promote more work based learning. We need to have more apprentice programmes and exposure of the lecturers to the industry. We have lecturers that have never been in the world of work because the moment they get a first class degree, they go for a master’s programme and PhD so even they are a problem. We need to solve that.

What is your advice to the young people?
The sky is the limit. Your future is now and it is ready for those who are ready to work and think and work on their skill set to meet the demands of the job market.

How do you balance work and family?
It is not easy but I try as much as possible to get time for many things. It is not only about my work. I serve on six boards. I variously do public speaking. I attend so many national and international conferences. I do a lot of mentoring and I am a mother to three girls too. I am a wife and I run several businesses as well. I do each of these at the right time. I manage my time. I plan. If I put in six hours of work, it is worth 25 hours of work. I know when to respond to emails, meet new people and chat on the phone. It is only successful people that are busy. If you are not successful, no one is going to ask for you. And because I want to be at the top, I try to fit each and everything in my schedule. I am a passion driven individual so I never do anything I am not passionate about. I want to ask young people to follow their passions. It will deliver them to success.