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Badilisha Lugha KISWAHILI

Are our graduates equipped with skills to compete in the job market?

26th March 2012

According to the 2000/2001 Integrated Labour Force Survey, the population of Mainland Tanzania was 32.8 million people, of which 17.8 million people constituted the country’s total labour force. Of these, 15.5 million (87.1 percent) were employed and 2.3 million (12.9 percent) were unemployed. Of the employed 14.6 million (94 percent) were fully employed while 950,427 (6 percent) were under-employed.

Youth are the most affected group; 17 percent of whom are unemployed as compared to 12.9 percent of the general unemployment rate in Tanzania. By 2004/2005, in Zanzibar, the youth unemployment rate was estimated at 20 percent.

A number of reasons have been given on the unemployment of fresh graduates. One of them is inability of the job market to absorb fresh graduates every year. It is estimated that every year 700,000 fresh graduates from various levels of education hit the job market, while the current job market can absorb only about 200,000 of these graduates.

Unemployment of young graduates is a global issue, which need to be discussed and put effective strategies to solve it. The question of unemployment has different perspectives in each country, related to the particular social and economic system of a country. And there is no any standard instrument and mechanisms for measuring the seriousness of this social problem.

However, learning from experience have shown that different social problems emerge such as inferiority complex, lack of responsibilities, hooliganisms, substance abuse and many others as unemployment reduces the quality of the young people in the society, as they cannot contribute any resources towards family or societal development.

The present society is materialistic therefore it doesn’t value much about young people’s intellectual contribution.

Young graduates always meet challenges in Tanzania after completing their academic courses in the university or college. But I have been wondering whether there are no employment opportunities or may be our graduates are unemployable? This article tries to analyse the root causes of this problem and thereafter propose some workable solutions.

One of the reasons is the mismatch between economic growth and the population of students’ enrolment. According to the statistics from the Tanzania Commission for Universities’ website, the annual enrolment of fresh graduates in Tanzania in both public and private universities and university colleges in the year 2006/07 amounts to 49,967 students, but the number of employment vacancies is still not enough to absorb all the graduates in the job market.

This indicates that our economy is still lagging behind, as it does not stimulate on maximizing opportunities for employment. However it should be understood that, when the population has grown, the whole economy (including the labour force, production, market) should also naturally grow, so the education resources and demands should match accordingly. The mismatch of this brings about the problem of unemployment to our young graduates.

Another reason is the inadequate preparations of the graduates to compete in the job market. The curriculum content might be loaded with relevant skills and knowledge which the graduates need to acquire, however, the teaching and learning processes and methods at the universities and colleges does not empower our young people to obtain relevant skills for the job market or be independent to start their own business.

There is a lot of theoretical learning without practical related to the real life settings. For example, the paradox is we have a lot of business management colleges and universities but there are very few graduates who are entrepreneurs.

It is because we focus much on the business theoretical framework rather than on the empirical studies of the real business life problems and building a problem solving mechanism for our students at the universities.

As a result most fresh graduates think that starting their own venture needs a lot of initial capital, so that you can become successful in business, but that is the misconception.

Effective business relies on best ideas and innovations. It does not require a learning curve after you have completed the university and then you start learning from the fellow entrepreneurs; but it needs experience curve, perseverance, and tactics on tackling the business problems hence catching the business opportunities.

In business its innovation and creativity that count. Thus we applaud our local Bongo fleva and movie artists, who seem to be effective entrepreneurs, as they are fast moving on developing their products and they are really innovative. They take advantage of the rapid growth of the music and film industries’ markets which stimulate employment to young people. This is one of the indications that, good ideas when implemented can bring about success in life and it gives out the answer that employment needs not only to be formal employment but also self employment.

In addition you may see engineering graduates with good academic grades who do not know how to use certain engineering equipments because of the lack of facilities at the universities. There are young accountant graduates who have not seen the payment voucher sample or an invoice, but they know to discuss on it on the theoretical framework.

Another factor is the imbalance in growth of labour markets that lead to a concentration of jobs in particular sectors. The business sectors have rapidly emerged since 1990s, and therefore it opened up more opportunities for business graduates comparing to other courses such as sciences.

This calls for policy makers to ensure that there is balance in the growth of all sectors in order to open up opportunities for all graduates.

In addition, unemployment is also caused by the corporate and organization systems as during recruitment they list lots of needs and essential requirements for the young graduates in order to acquire employment. For example, they need a person with more than three to five years’ experience, which delineates fresh graduates.

We commend the hard work done by universities and colleges. However, we recommend that practical training be an important part of the learning process on career development and this should be valued by employers.

There is a need of establishing collaboration links between learning institutions and future employers of the young graduates and this should be a binding mutual and beneficial relationship for this aspect to have effective implementation.

There is a need for policy intervention by the government with an inclusion of stakeholders in solving the young graduates’ problems. The education and work concept should match, in order to foster the development of our country. It is important to encourage young graduates to be entrepreneurs in order to lessen the problem of unemployment.

But this needs the stakeholders, which are the government, the learning institutions and the employers to keep the foundation for the graduates to have the room to execute their talents and abilities, such that they can have a better life and living standards, thus they can contribute to the national development.

I talked to a number of Human Resources Managers in several public and private companies, on why most graduates complain that there are no employment opportunities. I came to realise that many companies have vacancies and they are desperate to fill them.

However, they commented that “too many people we interview are coming out with fairly good academic grades, but they do not posses useful skills for the jobs… including discipline for work…that is why you find out that many employment vacancies are frequently re-advertised. Most graduates are un-employable”

Recently, a certain company advertised a certain job opportunity, most applicants had good academic grades and a few of them were short listed and called for interview.

However, at the end of the interview, none of them qualified or met minimal standards of the requirements. Apart from the number of years of experience, they did not posses adequate working skills which expected. Unfortunately, this is what has been happening in many companies.

Such findings raise serious questions about the type and standard of education in our country. However, students should understand that most of what they study at university or college are theoretical oriented which aim at stimulating them to be pro- active to learn more and build up their skills.

They should work hard and ensure they obtain necessary skills during their studies and work placements for expanding their employment horizon in future as they can obtain people to recommend them in future.

The need to effectively learn some work skills such as mastering some basic computer programs such as MS (word, excel, power point etc), obtain language competency in both English and Swahili, negotiation skills, report writing skills , teamwork, lobbying and advocacy and other skills depending on the field of study.

They can do this through volunteering or doing internships in companies.

Since it is impossible to establish a balance between “supply” and “demand”, on the market forces of unemployment and employment as the resources are scarce, and while market mechanisms are inadequate, the first thing to do is to recognise the extent and the magnitude of the problem of youth unemployment, and thereafter take some actions to ensure that the investment in these graduates is not wasted.


The writer: Masozi David Nyirenda, is a Specialist in Education Management, Planning, Economics of Education and Policy Studies. He is reached through 0754304181 or [email protected]


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