A man displays a placard seeking for a job. PHOTO/MICHAEL KAKUMIRIZI


Less than 2 percent of applicants meet 70 percent of job criteria, says Kyozaire

What you need to know:

In an interview with Prosper magazine’s Rachel Nabisubi, Loy Kyozaire, the chief executive officer of Sendea Academy Uganda, an organisation offering technical support in the fast-paced business environment, where both employees and businesses are in need of skilled individuals to handle essential tasks. 

Local small and medium enterprises (SME) are key drivers of economic and social progress. Rapidly growing entrepreneurial enterprises are often viewed as important sources of innovation, productivity growth and employment. However,  skill deficits remain a critical factor of concern.

The skills set within the public and private sectors are partly attributed to reasons why economic growth may not be as rapid as it should be. What do you think?

In today's fast-paced business environment, both employees and businesses need skilled individuals to handle essential tasks. However, when job vacancies are advertised, only a small percentage of applicants meet the requirements, with some studies indicating that less than 2 percent of applicants meet 70 percent of the job criteria. This discrepancy can be attributed to the lack of adequate skills among a majority of job seekers.

But there are arguments that we have sufficient manpower across different disciplines to meet the supply for the jobs available.

In Uganda, despite an increase in the number of graduates in the job market, mainly from the nine public and 44 private universities, the unemployment rate stands at 6.6 percent according to the International Labour Organisation statistics for 2022. 
According to the Uganda Bureau of Statistics, National Labour Force Survey, 2021, 35 per cent of the people ready to work can’t access jobs every year. This mismatch between the number of graduates and available jobs highlights the need for a more skilled workforce to drive economic growth. The failure to address this skills gap can have significant implications for the country's economic development. For example, a large number of unemployed graduates who are unable to meet their financial needs can strain the resources of those supporting them. 

Talking of the current business environment, some employers are not coping as fast and resorting to thinning their workforce. Is this a viable option?
Employers also face challenges in navigating unpredictable business dynamics and often hesitate to hire and train fresh graduates due to limited resources. While hiring highly skilled employees may require higher salaries, their immediate impact and contributions to the company's profitability outweigh the costs of training. More importantly, when countries seek trade partnerships, they consider the income levels of potential counter-partners, which can impact their Gross Domestic Product (GDP). Therefore, it is essential to enhance the skill levels of the workforce to attract lucrative trade partnerships with developed nations.

But is there a possibility of a joint approach in tackling this skills deficit across the private and public sector?

To tackle the underlying issues causing the skills gap, it is vital to create demonstration centres within educational institutions. These centres offer students practical, real-world experience to better prepare them for the workforce. 
Additionally, policies supporting internships for fresh graduates can help them gain valuable work experience. Increased awareness among parents about the competitive job market and the importance of continued support for their children's education is also crucial. Skilling and certification in specific expert areas is vital in preparing employees for the job market.

In many countries, certified professionals tend to earn higher salaries, highlighting the importance of investing in skill development. Short-term skills training programmes allow individuals to quickly enter the workforce by providing them with specialised expertise in particular fields. While higher education institutions offer a strong foundational knowledge, specialised skills are crucial for securing employment in specific industries. However, the cost of most short courses can be prohibitive, making financial support from the government and development partners essential.

Loy Kyozaire, the chief executive officer of Sendea Academy Uganda. 

Are there global experiences of such interventions that have narrowed down the skills deficit by accelerating requisite skilling?
Cuba emphasizes education as a cornerstone of national development, offering free education up to the Ph.D. level and aligning academic programmes with workforce demands. For example, with Cuba’s central application system, students are given a chance to rank their top ten career interests and assigned study areas in one of their areas of interest. In that country, the ministry of planning, in collaboration with the Ministry of Labour and Education, predict workforce demand, forecasting the professional and technical needs of the country for the next decade, which determines the courses offered and the specific number of spots available for admission in each course, and 65 percent is employed by the government according to available statistics. By investing in education and skills training, countries can create a highly skilled workforce that drives economic growth and reduces reliance on foreign expertise.

So what recommendations does Uganda, with her large unskilled workforce, require to undertake in redeeming the current challenges?
As Uganda strives toward its Vision 2040, effort is required to develop highly skilled workers to facilitate higher wages, improve purchasing power and enhance GDP growth. That way, foreign companies will limit the hiring of foreign experts to offer the services, sending back money to their countries. According to UNESCO, Uganda’s public spending on education as a percentage of the GDP stood at 2.67 percent as of 2021 with a population of 45.85m people compared to Cuba with 11.5 percent in 2020 with a population of 11.26m people and Kenya with a population of 53m people with public spending on its education as a percentage of its GDP at 4.7 per cent based on World Bank data 2023. 

To achieve economic prosperity and job creation, Uganda must prioritise skills development and increase public spending on education. By benchmarking successful models like Cuba's education system and investing in vocational training and certification programmes, Uganda can build a skilled workforce that fuels economic growth and enhances competitiveness in the global market.

To achieve a prosperous Africa through inclusive growth and sustainable development as outlined in Africa's agenda 2063, the goal of well-educated citizens and a skills revolution driven by science, technology, and innovation must be prioritised. Therefore, skilling programmes in Uganda should be supported to benefit from the education and STI skills-driven revolution.