Winning Essay: At the Crossroads: Skills Development and Unemployment among Young People.
Bakali Kalisa | Senior Three Student | Helm Senior School | Kisoga
Youth skills development, poverty, and unemployment are prominent global concerns in Africa as a continent where the population of young people between the ages of 15–24 is rapidly growing, but not in tandem with the job market. There is pressure to expand past basic education in countries with low to moderate enrollment and concerns of high unemployment have encouraged the development of a “skills for job” education reform.
Uganda has one of the youngest and most rapidly growing populations in the world, about 50% population are younger than 15. In Uganda, many people are expected to enter the labor market every year, hence the number of entrants into the labor force will be growing and will be younger in the next few decades, currently, 50% of the unemployed are aged 24.
In addition, the problem of job creation of a diverse team of younger professionals from multiple multinational development institutions has initiated youth entrepreneurs in Uganda. More than three-quarters of Ugandans are 15–24, this huge youth population has the potential to lift the Country out of poverty, but only if high levels of unemployment can be reduced, volunteers are stepping up to help and change lives in the process.
Furthermore, younger people of the Albertine region are at the crossroads of oil and gas exploration, and a boom forecast in related industries such as construction and tourism is predicted to create more than a hundred thousand jobs in the coming years. The existing challenge they however face is the mismatch of skills to the jobs that will be generated.
Not only that but also to get a job, one needs to pass vocational skills of an International training and at the moment, these are severely lacking in the local scheme of things. Vocational training has always been viewed as the route for “failures” whose poor grades keep them from studying at the university level. Vocational training centers themselves have been underfunded and struggle to stay afloat with volunteers working hard to bridge the gap and make sure Uganda’s Youth have the skills to succeed and build a better future.
Despite all the challenges, youth still remain resilient and optimistic. They have for example started small enterprises to build up capital while still in school. They are confident that this will prepare them for the eventuality of not having jobs after school. This however has its own pitfalls since personal savings as the most certain source of capital is inadequate in most cases and they lack collateral to access loans and networks to connect them to government programs.
Consequently, for those who have completed school and joined the labor market, the aspiration for getting formal jobs has since been replied by disillusionment. Some have resorted to vending in the market and dream of becoming importers (traders) of merchandise from places like China. Youth still in school, and those looking for jobs contend that the demand for good jobs exceeds the supply.
And that is how we find ourselves at the crossroads! Youth and high levels of unemployment call for urgent action and innovative solutions. Uganda’s Ministry of Gender, Labour, and Social Development must work in tandem with youth and their leaders in local communities. The purpose should be to collect, views of younger people, through focus group discussions to better understand youth unemployment, and create an implementation roadmap that will create better skilling programs for youth, and directly connect them to existing and new job opportunities.
Runners Up: Technology is Fast Changing. Youth Need Access to Digital Technologies Right Now
Nalumansi Deborah | Primary Six | Kagoma International School
Growing up, I’ve always heard my mother say that we go with what the world throws to us and I didn’t understand this but now I think I do understand it. Technology is advancing by the hour every day in the world. Mobile phones are being realized series after series in just a month and computers are advanced every year. Unfortunately, in my country, we don’t seem to notice this.
I see this with the kind of behavior people have towards phones. When you buy a new phone which is a bit more advanced than what people have known they start saying you’re wasting money on useless things.
In my country youth see that buying a good up to date mobile phone is rubbish and money wasting. They prefer to buy small button phones just for someone to call them and use the rest of the money. We however need to understand the use and applicability of digital technologies and their purpose in developing our communities.
I do understand that better use of technologies connects us to the global world and opens up opportunities to learn new skills and collaborate with other young people across the globe. If I for example want to learn a new mathematical concept or a new way of baking, I can easily find this with a few clicks on social media tools, the internet archives, and the hundreds of blog posts that have been written by experts in these areas. It is therefore important that young people have access to smart mobile devices, to enable them to connect to up-to-date knowledge and skills.
If we opened up access to digital tools for young people, you will see a greater transformation in skills. A young person for example can start their own business and sell all their products online, without the need for a lot of startup money to acquire physical space.
So I think the government can help improve the especially the digital skill sets of youths by holding seminars and studies that will help youths understand the good use of technology around them. However, this alone will not be enough. The government can do more by providing startup funds or digital devices like phones and computers to youths after such seminars to help motivate and jumpstart their skills growth.