Minister of Higher Education Brian Mushimba says it was unfortunate that some courses that were being offered by colleges were not relevant to the industrial requirement thereby making graduates stay home without employment after completing school.
He says it was important that colleges begun to offer courses that were relevant so that graduates were quickly absorbed into the labour market upon completion of school.
There are challenges to doing so.
Colleges or universities can update and change their curriculum.
Many current business leaders graduated knowing one discipline well with some skills to use their knowledge. They typically worked for a business that gave on-the-job training. Over time, they took a further qualification to broaden their skills for management roles. The MBA, for example, has developed for that purpose.
Today, it’s different. Small and medium sized businesses (SMEs) have neither the time nor budget to train graduates. They face cost and price competition and want to hire experienced workers.
At the other end, big businesses hire fewer fresh graduates.
For example, where large numbers of graduates used to build on their skills and gain experience through preparing documents, most of this is now automated and employers want graduates to have that experience already.
What does this mean for universities?
Discipline knowledge, such as engineering or media is important. But graduates also need experience collaborating in multi-disciplinary to solve complex problems, using significant amounts of information and data. Communication and technology skills are essential.
Collaboration skills, as well as specific discipline knowledge, are important for making graduates employable.
The problem isn’t unskilled graduates, it’s a lack of full-time job opportunities.
To achieve this, universities need to use their deep knowledge of research to reinvent both the curriculum and the way they deliver it.
One challenge is how we scale, bridge the experience gap, and help SMEs to use graduates to build business productivity and competitiveness.
First, we need to increase authentic professional experiences embedded in the curriculum, and replicate and simulate workplace challenges.
The key is to ensure increased collaboration between employers and colleges or universities and to pay attention to the changing needs of businesses. Employers can then take advantage of graduates who have the skills and capabilities to drive their productivity and future success.