LETTERS: Varsities must do more to prepare students for the real world of work

I couldn’t agree more with Ms Rutagengwa’s diagnosis that the biggest challenge for our labour market is a shortage of usable, real-life skills that business needs, especially cogent communications and practical problem-solving skills.

Editor,

RE: “Language proficiency is still a challenge in the labour market, says talent scout Rutagengwa” (The New Times, September 11).

 

I couldn’t agree more with Ms Rutagengwa’s diagnosis that the biggest challenge for our labour market is a shortage of usable, real-life skills that business needs, especially cogent communications and practical problem-solving skills.

 

I have stopped counting the number of shoddy, practically unreadable résumés and cover letters I have received from graduates, supposedly with higher qualifications than bachelor’s degrees, seeking my assistance to link them with potential employers that I would never pass on to any would-be employer.

 

It is high time our tertiary education institutions understood that, in today’s world, preparing their charges for our globalised labour market requires more than giving them some grounding in the state-of-the-art knowledge of their chosen discipline (if they in fact do even that).

Real education must equip students with the tools they will need in real life outside the ivory tower of academia, including the skills to communicate with potential employers (or to be self-employed) and to convince them that they have what it takes to solve problems they encounter in their businesses, even if that might require some modest investment in industry and firm-specific understanding and skills. This also requires that teaching and training institutions need investments in developing the capacity to provide effective career counseling services to their students.

For now, one gets the impression that teaching and skills training institutions believe that preparing students for the real world of work and helping to place them in work is not part of their function. They couldn’t be more wrong; their effectiveness—and their value to us as tax-payers who meet most of their costs – should only be judged on how many of their graduates get good jobs in the labour and how the business world considers the human resource capacity output of our teaching and training system or how many successful businesses have been established by their graduates.

As a society we should also judge our educational and training system on how relevant, supportive and responsive its curriculum is to the continuously (sometimes rapidly) evolving needs of our labour market.

Mwene Kalinda

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