What you need to know:
- Most graduates, according to employers, don’t demonstrate the right attitude, which is among the top factors that hiring managers consider
Increased enrollment, job skills mismatch, rural-urban migration, and the least preference for jobs in the private sector are some of the factors contributing to rising youth unemployment.
Most employers’ preferences have quickly changed. They are mainly looking for ‘soft skills.’ This relates to personal attributes and behaviour as well as the right attitude.
During a recent debate that completed the celebrations of 60 years since the University of Dar es Salaam (UDSM) was founded, experts said the ‘gap’ was more than just attitude, but a complex clash of norms and expectations, as well as ethnic and generational differences that occur throughout the employment journey.
They observed that young people often struggle with the unfamiliar processes of the world of work, which frustrates employers who see workplace culture as the norm.
According to them, differences in expectations and how they are communicated can impede success once in the workplace. They said young people don’t understand progression opportunities, which can demotivate them, while employers wait to see motivation before discussing progression and development.
“What most of our graduates lack and which impedes their employment chances is failure to demonstrate the ‘right attitude’ and ‘soft skills which is what we really look at when hiring,” explained Zaky Mbena, director of policy, advocacy, and management membership at the Tanzania Private Sector Foundation (TPSF).
Speaking before a delegation that involved alumni, academia, students, and employers who gathered to discuss, among other things, UDSM’s contribution to national development, the expert said proper research must be designed to inform the education sector.
In the conversation, Prof Penina Mlama, Chairperson of the Tanzania Commission for Universities, wanted to know exactly what impedes university graduates, including those from UDSM (the oldest in Tanzania), from being employed in order to find a solution.
In response, Mr Mbena said that although scientific research was still needed to look at the issue, “there is a situation in which these graduates find themselves that their efficiency is not visible (skills mismatch) as most do find themselves entering responsibilities that they were basically not prepared to do.”
Further, he wanted the university to come up with a strategy to give students basic ICT knowledge given the current job demands.
“The biggest problem is that many graduates lack the right attitude. “We need to figure out how our curriculum and programmes can look at this area that is currently an impediment for employers,” Mbena said.
He said many young people lack the skills to interact in the formal corporate environment and framework, something possessing the right credentials.
For her part, Dr Irene Isaka, secretary general, East and Central Africa Social Security Association, noted that attitude was not the burden of universities alone but a chain that starts at home in the daily care of children.
“Many parents have left their children to housemaids. As a result, the latter “always sit and wait for everything to be delivered by house helpers, eroding their motivation in work and teamwork,” she observed.
Dr Isaka advised that in order to deal with such moral challenges and give universities the opportunity to build other professional abilities, the community should prepare young people on matters pertaining to work.
“We must tell them not to expect to be hired. Many want to become managers after three months of employment and directors after six months. This is the biggest challenge, along with laziness and too many excuses,” she explained.
Mbena said, “We need to establish a strategic partnership between the private sector (industry) and academia. TPSF and UDSM should unite and create a platform to strengthen permanent cooperation so that we can help this generation and the next.”
Tanzanian graduates do meet the competence that’s required on the job market, but they miss the vital character that accounts for the lion’s share of employers’ requirements, said Superdoll Tanzania CEO, Mr Seif Ali Seif.
He reiterated that many graduates have been missing out on required character, some competencies, and chemistry, which employers need more than GPA performance.
He noted that they are now forced to formulate a special programme to transform graduates from ordinary people into professionals and experts.
For instance, for a graduate to be employed in such companies, their character must be 70 percent strong, their competence 20 percent, and their chemistry 10 percent.
“Characteristics are things that are developed at home, training should start at home and not just put all the blame on colleges. The second is competence, which involves colleges, and the third is chemistry, which is basically looking at whether one is capable of working with and tolerating other people,” he told Success.
UDSM’s focus in the next 60 years
UDSM has been advised to go with this agenda in the next 60 years of providing excellence in education and research to lead other colleges by example and ensure that students have all the necessary qualifications to be employed.
In response to the lack of skills required of its graduates and the plan for the journey of the next six decades, UDSM has launched a strategy to partner with some of the country’s top employers in key sectors such as engineering in order to find a lasting solution.
The need has prompted the university’ Vice Chancellor, Prof William Anangisye, along with a panel of heads of departments from the institution, to visit some recruiting companies such as Superdoll.
“We would now like our institution to be part of the solution to the problems facing Tanzanians. This is what worries us and makes us move quickly to seek this close cooperation,” he said in an interview.
“…I believe that when we work with them (industry), great things will happen that will be beneficial to all Tanzanians because our goal is to see what we teach become relevant to our students,” he noted.
In order to face the challenge, experts advise all universities to create a culture and strategies to exchange experiences with employers on how best to handle the situation.
“We would like universities to come and see the work we do and the type of employees we need. We will also be ready to receive lecturers for a while before they go to teach students we will need to hire later,” said Simon Shayo, vice president (sustainability), Geita Gold Mine.
On her part, Dr Justina Mkombozi, an expert in psychological issues, said the ministry of education needs to take the matter into consideration.
“The ministry can also accommodate the opinions of employers so that, if possible, attitude and soft skills can be taught from primary school while parents carry out their duty of upbringing to help our young people,” she proposed.