[Opinion] Graduate Unemployment, Veritable National Security Threat
By: Damian Avevor
One of the major challenges and disturbing phenomenon facing most young people in Ghana today is unemployment especially newly graduated students from tertiary institutions. Every year, hundreds of graduates leave School in search of non-existing jobs.
Ghana is faced with 12% youth unemployment and more than 50% underemployment, both higher than overall unemployment rates in Sub-Saharan African countries. Despite major investments by both government and private sector, this challenge will intensify if job opportunities remain limited.
A 2020 new World Bank report titled “Youth Employment Programs in Ghana: Options for Effective Policy Making and Implementation” has identified agribusiness, entrepreneurship, apprenticeship, construction, tourism and sports as key sectors that can offer increased employment opportunities for Ghanaian youth.
The report which has been described as another milestone towards addressing the unemployment challenge also calls for more investments in career guidance and counseling, work-based learning, coaching, and mentoring to equip young people with the skills needed for work.
It suggests that although these are not new areas, the government of Ghana could maximize their impact by scaling-up these priority areas in existing youth employment interventions and improve outreach to the youth.
Though successive Governments and the current Government can be commended for the many initiatives rolled out to address the problem of youth unemployment, there is a steep rise in unemployment.
It is a known fact that within the Government Sector, the Ministry of Youth and Sports coordinates the national youth policy of Ghana in cooperation with other youth-serving
ministries and youth organizations. However, it seems youth employment policies in Ghana, do not directly connect youth education with their employment.
Many more young adults throughout the country indeed face under-employment, high debts, and few job opportunities. Around the world, Ghana of no exception, they face even worse prospects, while many of them have resorted to the unstable and sometimes dangerous informal economy in an attempt to make ends meet.
I am of the strongest opinion that meaningful and decent work is vital if young adults hope to form healthy and stable families, hence more needs to be done to support young adults and provide a foundation for raising a family. Failing to support fair work might have serious consequences, contributing to a drop in the birth rates and declines in marriage.
In an estimated observation that although not the only reason, many young adults, because they are unable to find decent work, are delaying marriage and starting a family.
Decent Jobs and Remuneration
To help young people, I think we need to give our utmost support to policies and institutions that create decent jobs, pay just wages, and support family formation and stability. By doing so, we will thereby be honouring the dignity of workers and of work.
Since about 70% of Ghana’s workforce is employed by the agricultural sector, it seems only reasonable that agricultural education in Ghana should be streamlined and empowered to adequately prepare the youth to take advantage of the many opportunities that exist or that can be created for agricultural occupations and professional careers.
As we are in a new year, government must be considering of raising the daily minimum wage and put together more and better workforce training programmes for fresh graduates.
As a recall, at the end of their 2019 Plenary meeting at Elmina in the Cape Coast Catholic Archdiocese, members of the Ghana Catholic Bishops’ Conference expressed worry about the steep rise in youth unemployment in the country describing it as “a veritable national security threat which has to be addressed immediately and urgently with a well-articulated programme.”
“We urge all stakeholders, the Government, Private Sector, Political Parties, Faith Based Organizations and Civil Society Organizations to treat the growing menace of joblessness among our youth as a national emergency and come up with practical and innovative solutions to relieve our young citizens of the lingering stress of persistent unemployment,” said the Bishops in a Communique issued at Cape Coast in 2019.
As said by the Bishops the youth must take note of the changing times by being more creative and to explore the available opportunities to establish their own businesses to be self-employed.
Another interesting aspect of the rising unemployment is the lack of “work experience” of some graduates. Work Experience is an entire knowledge of work and duration of work which indicates how graduates understand better the scope of work as required by the profession.
Every now and then, advertisements that appear in the dailies or online, spell out the type of professionals employers want- “experienced workers”. Often, it is assumed that these graduates have not worked in other establishments, so to speak “no work experience” thereby depriving them of contributing their quota to the organization they intend to work with.
Since there are many people going for the few available jobs, managers thereby employ strategies to take the best applicants, thus look for candidates a specific year of “work experience.”
Some organizations do not employ fresh graduates because based on a perception that most of them do not perform when engaged, thereby, the organization losing lots of resources. This is one reason why most organizations refuse to engage graduates to tarin them.
If “Work Experience” thus becomes a basic requirement, it must be properly administered but the question is: who should train graduates to acquire the experience, to qualify for experience – seeking managers or organisations?
It is emerging that even though some might have the qualification, they lack skills and job experience while there are graduates also who have about two or three-years’ work experience but do not have the skills to do the job, and others who do not have the experience are rather doing better.
The question that baffles my mind is: what constitutes the experience that employer’s desire? The bottom line is, if you are not employed after pursuing a professional course, how then do you get the experience for the job market?
Most organizations or employers are therefore deterring qualified graduates due to this “Work Experience” policy. As a result, some graduates are unemployed because they lack experience and this could be a contribution to the high incidence of robbery and prostitution in the country. Can they be blamed?
The onus also lies on students in our tertiary institutions to take their industrial attachments or internships seriously because it is also a source of “Work Experience” which could be added to their curriculum vitae.
Sadly, some tertiary students do not take their internships seriously while some do not undertake it at all but prefer to use their long vocations for expeditions and pleasure.
On the Job-Training
Since, this is a major problem facing most graduates today which has been given little or no attention, I am of the view that our educational institutions must make on-the-job-training mandatory before graduation.
Though this is done in most institutions, it must be implemented in all the tertiary institutions and should be carried out at the end of every year for at least three months. Hence, after School, graduates will have six-to-one-year practical experience.
The National Service Secretariat should consider the background of students before placement. Students should be posted to institutions of their field to enable them have a clear understanding of their area of study and get the requisite experience.
Also, organizations could invite applicants for interviews and do their selection based on specific requirements and merit. Some of these graduates may have fresh ideas that could boost the growth of organizations.
It is still possible to train applicants to gain some skills. If some organizations can say “Minimum experience not required, short listed applicants will be given one or two years cross functional training to gain experience” why can’t the others do same?
It is my considered opinion that organizations should restructure their employment policies to consider attachments as a source of experience and give about two- or three-months training to applicants to learn on the job. Employers should always take note of the fact that our economy is the sluggish type.
Alternatively, the government must provide pragmatic measures that will stand the test of time because the previous policies they implemented had produced limited results.
There is no substitute for experience; the more experienced one becomes the better. I think if young graduates are committed to finding out about a certain career, they should also be considering to undertake volunteer work in order to gain “Work Experience”. In that way, they will be able to test out whether they fit into the values and preferences of organisations and managers.
But what I foresee is that if they are not getting paid to do it, the chances are that they will not stay with it unless they like it but I feel as young graduates, volunteerism should be an area they should be looking at as an alternative to curb the rising unemployment situation in Ghana.
Source: Damian Avevor//Newswatchgh.com