Towards the end of calendar years, we see a number of educational institutions performing their graduation ceremonies.
This follows the end of academic year that marks the end of education for concerned students.
Students graduate from different training institutions and in different disciplines of studies.
These include those graduating from various colleges and universities across the world in general and Tanzania in particular in the context of this article. The main concern of those graduating especially at institutions of higher learning is getting employed or becoming self employed.
Preparing students for the competitive labour market is very important.
Unemployment is a challenge in Tanzania in general - and among the youth in particular.
According to UNDP there are between 800,000 and 1,000,000 new entrants annually to the labour market in Tanzania.
Youth unemployment has been estimated at 11.7 percent with a 28.8 percent rate in Dar es Salaam.
This represents a pool of wasted human potential and a potential source of unrest if not addressed.
Labour market preparations
Education institutions are among the labour market stakeholders that should prepare students for the labour market.
Others are parents and guardians, career guiders as well as students themselves. It is important to understand that some students will want to be employed while others will opt for self-employment.
Reality shows that not all who want are getting employed. Also not all who want are self employed. There is a need for more proper preparations for labour market entry for graduates well before students graduate.
For those who want to get employed, it is important to understand reasons for unemployment. Basically, unemployment is a function of labour market supply and demand factors.
If labour supply is greater than demand, then there will be labour surplus and therefore unemployment. Unemployment depends on products market demand as well. If there is no demand for goods and services, producers cannot produce and by extension cannot employ.
Therefore, demand for labour is derived demand based on demand for goods and services.
Employers look for a number of variables before employing a specific labour force. These include technical skills taught in schools and practical skills gained from experience.
These must be highly supplemented with labour market soft skills.
There is a long litany of soft skills that are demanded by the labour market.
These include interpersonal skills; confidence; communication including oral, written, reading and listening skills; team spirit; innovation and creativity; perseverance; taking initiatives; multi-tasking; outgoing; aggressiveness; exposure; geographical and occupational mobility as well as creating and using networks and connections.
Labour market skills
A number of interventions are needed to enhance students’ labour market skills.
These include showing students career possibilities; organising career days; developing skills to search for available vacancies; job application skills; Curriculum vitae and interview techniques; volunteering, part timing and interning as well as ability to seek and share labour market information.
For graduate opting for self employment a number of key issues need to be considered.
They include teaching entrepreneurship as a cross-cutting course; preparing jobs creators not just job seekers; understanding entrepreneurship and what it takes including seeing opportunities amidst challenges; having soft skills listed above; risk-taking; practical entrepreneurship skills and linkages with entrepreneurship programmes - among others.
Implications for trainers
Training institutions should ensure that they prepare students for the labour market in its broad sense of getting employed and self employment.
This entails among other things proper linkages between theories and practice. This includes having adequate field attachments for students and guest lectures from practitioners in the world of work.
They should also improve linkages with employers so as to have demand- as opposed to supply-driven education. Approaches towards this include having joint curricula development and review in the context of university-industry linkages.
They should also introduce labour market skills, conduct tracer studies and entrepreneurship courses.
They should also involve employers to advise students on their labour market needs possible before students even enroll into various courses.
The author is Associate Professor of Economics at Mzumbe University