A new journey

July is the month where so many university students graduate and prepare for a new journey. After graduation there is a lot that awaits a graduate: they are going to join a new world where they have to apply for work and look for opportunities that will grant them their long dreamed fat paycheck.

For so many graduates the next step is not clear. Many graduates hope that they get hired to work, some are preparing to move into new areas different from their area of study, and some decide to proceed with their studies here in Ethiopia or abroad. So the immediate plan for many graduates after graduation is looking out for vacancies, which is a grand plan because most graduates have not had sufficient preparation on job applications, preparing a CV or preparing for interviews. University students in Ethiopia do not have platforms to develop skills other than those in their direct area of study.

Additionally, most graduates do not have any work experience beside an externship that they might have done. Combined with the fact only few jobs hire individuals with zero experience means that many graduates are unemployed for a long time. Even when such vacancies are available, due to their lack of experience on job applications, the new graduates are challenged. Thus their applications may not match the position that they are applying, not because they lack the skills for the job, but due to their inability to highlight their skills.

The government claims to be creating job opportunities, but the graduates on whom it has invested so much are not prepared to join the work force upon graduation. Education curricula need to be updated in a manner that students are given opportunities to develop different life skills. Even those who want to be entrepreneurs or go into business for themselves require certain work place skills that take time to acquire. In order to decrease the number of unemployed graduates, they need to be given these skills and allowed to see the different opportunities before they graduate. Because the number of graduates does not matter if they do not have certain skills.

Thus education system should not only focus on increasing the number of universities it has but also work on the quality of education and graduates. It should work on allowing the graduates see all the options that they have before graduation. These can be done by creating different summer internship programs, mentorship and life skill trainings. It is about the education system ensuring that the graduates are the strong competitors in the labor market.

It is also important to allow graduates see that employment opportunities exist outside of Addis Ababa. On a daily basis the population size of the capital is increasing. Both educated and uneducated Ethiopians move to Addis Ababa in search of better work.  What many fail to see are the opportunities in their hometowns or the opportunities that they can create, which is also beneficial for others unemployed youth. Furthermore the government can also play a role by ensuring that congested job opportunities are also spread out around the regions. This will make the people stay in the hometown with the better opportunity they look for. This action of setting some direction in the life of graduates can also help in decreasing the number of migrants who go overseas in search of a better job.

Graduating from university is just a first step to a bigger journey; thus the education system should help the youth – the future of this nation – prepare to make decisions that will take the nation forward. As much as the education system strives to increase the access of education, it should also concentrate on the quality of graduates. Since the success of the graduates in any arena of life will reflect the success of the educational system. There are many gaps in the Ethiopian workplace that require an educated force – let us make sure the work force we build has the skills to fill these gaps.