A great moment for any student is to finally graduate from a tertiary institution. After enduring sleepless nights doing assignments and preparing for strenuous presentations, and having to attend many interesting lectures with some of them mind boggling, it is like reaching a pinnacle once you have made the grades to graduate.
Last month saw a number of students around the country from the Polytechnic and University of Namibia make themselves as well as their parents proud even though a handful of them had spent a considerable number of years more, completing a four year degree.
Not to sound insensitive on that matter but truth be said, the graduates now are the small fish cast into a shark tank. The recent graduates are simply the newcomers to the unemployment statistics of the country, as they will not immediately be the captains of industry, as they delude themselves into believeing. There is a long journey ahead of them.
Now as they enter the real world, they still have to learn about the concepts of the work environment. People often confuse getting a degree or a qualification, seeing it as a guarantee to a good job,a new car, moving out on your own and simply fending for your self. This is not usually the case.
Graduates simply have a long way to go. Graduates should remember that a significant number of them completed the same kind of programme and obtained the same qualification, meaning that competition will be stiff, and all that knowledge attained at school will be put to the test and only a few will make it.
Obtaining a degree was the easiest hurdle. Now one major task lay in their path. It is the ability to connect their academic theory with the practical requirements of their work, and that’s when they realise the struggle continues.
Mr Carva Pop from the Centre of Co-operative Education did not mince his words in an interview which was conducted some time ago. He bluntly stated that the issue saying there seems to be a large disconnect between what is being taught and what employers actually expect recent graduates to know and do.
With a clear statement like that it seems this is a challenge for both sides as neither side gets what they want. Because the employers don’t believe they can get the skilled people locally, they source them from abroad. The fact that there is a heavy reliance on expatriates for skilled work in the country doesn’t maximise our development efforts.
This means that instead of trying to remedy the situation by improving the graduates the employers simply sweep the problem under the carpet. Basically students graduate by hook or by crook and when placed in a working environment they lack experience and skills like communication, presentation skills and even conforming to the basic dress code.
When graduates rationally look at this, it will start to sink in. The struggle they thought was dead and buried is only at the preamble stage.
I have to admit, not all graduates can be labelled as not having the skills as some of them would have gained first-hand experience during their studies where they usually are attached to companies as interns.
But again, not all the interns are going to perform so easily in the work environment and regurgitate what they learnt at school as they do not get the right training.
Yes, during internship some of the interns are given duties that are totaly different to what they would have learnt at school and in the end it would simply render them incompetent when they finally enter the job market after graduation.
So, just a few kind words of encouragement to graduates. Pick as much as you can during an internship so that you can apply it and be able to bridge the skills-gap between varsity and the working environment. But for now, the struggle will continue.