Employment Mentoring Crucial for Final Year University Students
Final year Makerere/Carnergie Corporation Female scholarship beneficiaries attending a workshop to equip them with skills of how to get jobs quickly .

Employment Mentoring Crucial for Final Year University Students

Challenges in finding jobs in Uganda.

By Jude Bukenya and Risdel Kasasira
more from author >>
First published: April 14, 2006

As the employment patterns continue to change, many University graduates have been facing challenges in finding jobs. You may have heard stories of graduates wearing away their shoe soles on the streets with out getting jobs for years and years.

As the job market in Uganda becomes competitive, the need for students to acquire knowledge and creativity to attack the job market with a drive for success and overturning all the hurdles that stand in their way has been emphasized.

It is from this background that the Gender Mainstreaming Division of Makerere University organized a two-day workshop to train final year and alumni beneficiaries of the Makerere University/Carnegie Female Scholarship Initiative (FSI) aimed at enabling final year and alumni beneficiaries to acquire the right attitude, knowledge and skills for employment acquisition/creation and personal effectiveness in the job market.

Facilitators from Human Capital Development Consult (HCDC), a local human resource consultancy firm advised the final year students and alumni to always look for Immediate Employability Value in themselves by identifying functional capabilities they posses, if they are to get employed and maintain their jobs.

According to statistics from the Uganda Population Report 2005, over 390,000 people join the labour market annually but only 3000 get jobs. There are many factors that contribute to this unemployment problem including the small size of the economy, lack of skills, poor government policies and others. With skills many employers want people who have experience, which sometimes becomes an obstacle to fresh graduates.

The Executive Director of HCDC, Ambrose Kibuuka Mukiibi told students that they should be prepared to identify their competences in relation to the jobs they want. Kibuuka says that there are many employment opportunities in Uganda, but graduates do not know how to market their skills.

"You should first know the skill you have, and then market it to the right place," he said. He says that knowing and capitalizing on the skills one has will help graduates in personal marketing, all of which are necessary for one to get a job.

Kibuuka says employers want competence from employees to ensure that they get the desired outputs in their organizations, which depend on the skills of employees.

He advises those who already have jobs to study the organizational goals of their employers and be good team players in those organizations in order to add value.

Arthur Rutaroh, also a consultant with HCDC advised students to set personal goals if they are to succeed in life. He told the participants to design a personal mission statement and vision to guide their efforts to success. He says this can be achieved by having a positive attitude and being prepared to learn more after university education.

Participants were also urged to improve their assertiveness when they are looking for jobs. "Always be alert and prepared to capture any opportunity around you and turn it into success," Rutaroh advised participants.

Rutaroh says some people have become successful and are earning a lot of money in businesses, which other people despise. He says after school many graduates do not think about creating their own small businesses no matter the little amount of money required to start such businesses.

He says one can start a business with as little as 100,000 Ushs and it expands to a multi-million shilling project, as long as one is creative and has a positive attitude.

He gave an example of Grace Kabatangare Ntare who was working with Environment Conservation Transport Uganda which was funded by United States Development Agency but lost her job after (USAID) stopped funding the company.

Ntare who is a graduate of Forestry became jobless and decided to start teaching Nursery kids. After sometime she started pottery and using the little savings from teaching kids she would buy seedlings from the markets around Kampala and then started gardening.

Ntare did not reveal the amount she started out with but she says it was little and now she is overwhelmed by the market of her gardening business. "I have contracts with over 10 companies and am overwhelmed," she says.

Among over ten companies she now supplies to include Nina Interiors and Wild Life Authority. She is currently doing a masters degree in Agro Business Management from the savings she makes from her business. Ntare says opportunities exist everywhere but people need to be patient and creative in order to exploit them.

But as Ntare says, those dreaming of self employment must be prepared to work very hard. "When I was begging, I had to do everything personally in order to reduce the costs," she says.

The workshop was one of three to help FSI beneficiaries get jobs.

Susan Mbabazi, the FSI desk officer says the workshop was aimed at helping participants acquire knowledge and skills in employment strategies and the world of work by helping students appreciate the nature of the labour market and its requirements.

The Makerere University Academic Registrar, Amos Olal-Odur also advised the participants to be decisive, set goals and pursue them if they are to succeed in getting employment after completion of university education.

Olal-Odur says that students must prepare for the job market by putting attention on both their academic struggles and the quality of relationships they build because the people they relate to could help them to get a job.

Evelyn Nyakojo, a Senior Assistant Registrar in the Gender Mainstreaming Division advised students not only concentrate on what they have acquired in class but read widely on other material so as to enhance their knowledge about other happenings in society.

However, despite the emphasis laid on creating relationships and the quality of education, there is still lack of a mentoring body/workforce that can assist the students with out straining their pockets and taking them for a ride.

Corporate managers need to mentor students

The academic registrar says that co-operate managers in Uganda should come out and help in mentoring the students through telling them about life out side the university because many of the students are "pumped with knowledge" but lack skills to survive in the employment world after graduating.

Rutaroh says that mentoring students on employment is important because it creates a new avenue of approaching the ultimate challenge of completing school.

"The focus of mentoring is to help orient the students through decongesting and reconstructing a mind set of practical skills that will guide their survival," he explains.

Kibuuka says that the idea of cooperate mangers speaking to university students can work out but it's hampered by the way universities conduct their academic businesses.

Universities should open their doors to advise

"Universities like Makerere have tended to treat them selves as towers of excellence and knowledge power centers hence sending off some people who would attempt to package an input of any kind for students," Kibuuka told Ultimate Media in an interview.

He says that universities should open their doors through what he calls "an industry-school link" to allow full interaction of cooperate representatives and students.

Kibuuka says that until the doors to University students are opened, the education system right from nursery to university will continue to be almost 100% theory with no chance for the students to interact with and interpret the system and situation that is awaiting them after completion of their academic journey.

He adds that there is need to help students and graduates interprete the employment system in entrepreneurial terms so as to build a system that will create a lasting relationship with what students want and expect to do after school.

"There is need to utilize the minimum exposure that has been built in schools through accompanying it with knowledge of braving the demands of the job market which is basically provided through mentoring." said Rutaroh.

Although this kind of input is crucial for the students, mentoring on employment is not a compulsory subject on the university curriculum, leaving many university students without the opportunity to get such knowledge.

Ambrose Kibuuka says that a new era should be ushered in the education institutions to make sure that no new degree program is designed with out consulting the industry that finally consumes the labour force produced.

According to him, there is need to project the requirements for the industry before a lot money is wasted by students who want to prosper by taking such subjects which they believe can ensure their success but in the long run flop on the streets.

By Jude Bukenya and Risdel Kasasira
more from author >>
First published: April 14, 2006
To learn more about Ultimate Media Consult go to www.ultimatemediaconsult.com.

Jude Bukenya is a senior political and business reporter with Ultimate Media Consult (U) Ltd.

Risdel Kasasira is a graduate Journalist who reports for Ultimate Media Consult. He has worked for The Daily Monitor, Radio Uganda and has done several communication related consultancies. He is also the Research Executive at Ultimate Media Consult (U) Ltd.