We must collectively empower the youth with employable skills

A RECURRING theme in political and economic discourse in Rwanda is that young people should alter their mindset and move away from thinking as job-seekers to job-creators. 
Junior Sabena Mutabazi
Junior Sabena Mutabazi

A RECURRING theme in political and economic discourse in Rwanda is that young people should alter their mindset and move away from thinking as job-seekers to job-creators. 

Similarly, young people are constantly, and rightly so, reminded that the future of Rwanda is in their hands and that they ought to grab every opportunity that comes their way with both hands and utilize it appropriately. 

 

I am all for these calls and genuinely believe that indeed, Rwanda’s future rests in the hands of the young generation and the quicker they get on with it the better chances we all stand to live in a prosperous Rwanda.

 

It is therefore not surprising that the Rwandan government has continued to seek ways in which young people are trained to become the best they can be whether as future employers or employees. 

 

This is evident when one takes a closer look at programmes such as Careers Education Advisory Services, Rwanda Youth Internship Programme, and Entrepreneurship Development Programme all run by Rwanda Development Board (RDB). 

The overall objective of these programmes is to ensure that our private sector is adequately supplied with skilled capacity required to maintain economic growth.

That said, we must ask ourselves, are we collectively doing enough to equip these young people with the right skills necessary to become accomplished workers and entrepreneurs in an increasingly competitive world?  The answer to that is inconclusive. 

Although a few public and private institutions have fully embraced the idea of internships, placements and graduate schemes, the majority of institutions have not yet fully embraced the notion that nurturing young people into an innovative workforce is a collective effort that requires all stakeholders to pull in the same direction. 

I am mindful of the risks taken and investments made by these institutions in their quest to become successful, however, I am not entirely convinced by the laissez-faire approach that most of them take when faced with the task of nurturing young labour. 

It is true that an individual has the primary responsibility of improving his/her employment skills, and this is often achieved through education, however, it can also be argued that although the education system is slowly adjusting to the needs of the market place, there remains a skills gap that needs to be filled one way or another. 

Yet, in Rwanda, and in many developing countries few private and public institutions appear willing to nurture and invest in developing that very workforce needed to succeed in the global market place. 

Could it be that those in charge are asking the wrong old-age question of - what if we train them and they leave? Surely, what they ought to be asking is - what if we do not train them and they stay?

On the contrary. it is often the case that successful firms across the globe often go that extra mile to ensure that a young workforce is well trained from the onset. 

Several programmes including internships, placements and graduate schemes are run by institutions such as Barclays Bank PLC, J.P. Morgan, the African Development Bank, and BP, to ensure that they attract, train and retain the best available young talent. 

The programmes mentioned above enable new recruits to settle quickly into a professional work environment, receive relevant skills development and get hands on experience. Organisations benefit from the enthusiasm and high motivation that those interns and graduates bring.

Organisations also have the opportunity to mould young people into future leaders as they have no pre-conceived ideas about what can and cannot be done. Bearing in mind that most employers are increasingly valuing interpersonal, communication and teamwork skills above technical aptitude, trainees are ideally placed to learn very useful soft skills which are transferable to suit many aspects of life. 

With regards to boosting entrepreneurship and innovation in the private sector, few can argue against the idea that internships, placements and graduate schemes are capable of equipping young entrepreneurs with skills necessary to identity opportunities, source the necessary resources to start business ventures and ultimately succeed in the market place both at home and far beyond. 

It is perhaps worth noting that some of the most successful innovative entrepreneurs of our time including the late Steve Jobs of Apple Inc, Bill Gates of Microsoft, and Steven Spielberg all started as interns at Hewlett-Packard, U.S House of Representatives, and Universal Studios, respectively.

As a nation striving to establish itself as a regional service hub, we must be willing to collectively pull in the same direction by ensuring that young people are nurtured into a workforce capable of identifying what works and improving it; what doesn’t work and finding a solution. 

All stakeholders including business leaders, policy makers, and civil society must work hand in hand and on equal footing to ensure that Rwanda’s prized asset, human capital, is adequately ready. 

The writer is a UK Parliamentary Intern and holds a Master of Science in Public Service Policy.

Twitter: @Jsabex

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