Poor skills in graduates: Who is to blame?

07Feb 2016
Aisia Rweyemamu
Guardian On Sunday
Poor skills in graduates: Who is to blame?
  • *Dons advocate orientation for recruits
  • *But ATE urges varsities to grasp market demand

THE alarming incompetence noticed among newly employed graduates in the country has sparked debate among academicians, with some blaming employers for not giving the graduates orientation at the workplace.

A section of interviewed university lecturers defended their role to impart knowledge to students, but were quick to point out that employers should be willing to give beginners enough time for orientation to get accustomed to their responsibilities and working environment.
“It is a common trend among African employers to relax and wait for ‘ready-made’ products (employees) instead of taking the initiative to provide on-the-job training for guaranteed competence,” said a don who preferred anonymity.
Debate on the paucity of required skills among new employees from institutions of higher learning has been raging for quite some time now, dominating talks among employers and experienced workers not as well educated as the new comers, thereby the latter using the noticed weaknesses as a defensive mechanism to protect their jobs.
It has been noted, for instance, that some new graduates happen to be eloquent and gifted in communication skills during the interview or scouting time but perform poorly after they are employed.
Prof Kitila Mkumbo from the University of Dar es Salaam told the ‘Guardian on Sunday’ that higher learning institutions provide academic content to students, but skills could be sharpened while on the job.
“New graduates have the academic knowledge but employers have the obligation to provide training for the specific job skills required,” Prof. Kitila said.
“It is unfair to blame universities for the poor performance of new graduate employees because employers share a portion of the blame. African employers are not willing to train employee. They want the university to do everything for them. Universities are not expected to be career trainers but solely stand as academic institutions,” he added.
Prof. Mwesiga Beregu from Saint Augustine University (SAUT) said it was not easy for universities to train each student on specific duties to be performed on employment. “Academicians provide general knowledge and inspire creativity which the graduate will use,” Prof Baregu explained.
African employers are supposed to set aside time for orientation, as is being done in developed countries, in order to prepare recruits for competent delivery at the workplace.
“Universities build the capacity of students to guide them in addressing challenges. But there are specific duties which employers should perform to bring out anticipated results. Not every detail of skills is provided at the university. The importance of on-the-job-training cannot be overstated here. Let employers do what they are supposed to do and stop shifting the blame,” the don said.
Associate Dean at the School of Journalism and Mass Communication of the University Dar es Salaam Dr. Ayub Ryoba described two levels of training, namely academic training at the university and on-the-job training. He was however quick to point out that most employers failed in their duty to train their recruits.
Dr Ryoba highlighted lack of interaction between academic institutions and employers, saying the situation was far from healthy.
“If there were a close work relationship between the two organs, there would be no blame,” he observed.
Simon Berege from Tumaini University - Iringa campus, for his part, noted that graduates could have good communication skills but be lacking in soft skills and perhaps be unable to deliver at the beginning.
“But poor performance among beginners can also be attributed to bullying employers. A good employment system involves oral and practical interviews, coupled with an enhanced orientation period,” Berege said.
However, commenting on the issue, Association of Tanzania Employers (ATE) Executive Director Dr Aggrey Mulimuka was quick to point out that there was no law requiring employers to provide on-the-job training to new employees, saying it was just an optional for employers.
“We shouldn’t start trading blame. What needs to be done is to ensure there is a linkage between academic institution and the labour market,” Mulimuka said.
The move, he said, would ensure that institutions trained graduates able to fit in the job market.
He said academic institutions needed to sit down with employers to understand the requirements of the labour market so they could ensure that their curricula matched market needs.

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