The unemployment rate in Nigeria is increasing geometrically with population increase. But the availability of the jobs seems to be ‘decreasing’ by the day. Unconfirmed statistics has it that thousands of graduates go through the mandatory NYSC scheme on a yearly basis without hope of getting a job after the scheme. However, employers of labour and recruiters have a completely different opinion on this trend. They are of the view that Nigerian fresh graduates are unemployable!
Employers are hiring everyday but they complain that there is scarcity of quality talents in the labour market, that’s what we call ‘the War for Talent’ in human resources (‘The War for Talents’ is a term coined by Steven Hankin of McKinsey Company in 1997). So, which is a bigger problem – unemployment or unemployability?
The above question was the very first question I was asked by the @TFESSAfrica team during the twitter chat held in the month of March 2013. I gave an answer that unemployability was a bigger problem than unemployment but my answer generated more questions and I decided to write this piece to clear the air.
To fully understand my point of view on the subject of unemployment and unemployability, we would need to explore the definitions of the terms for ease of understanding.
According to Wikipedia, Unemployment (or joblessness) occurs when people are without work and actively seeking work. Economist established that there are different types of unemployment, among which are structural, frictional, cyclical, seasonal, classical etc.
The most prevalent type of unemployment among Nigerian fresh graduates is the Structural unemployment! Structural unemployment occurs when a labour market is unable to provide jobs for everyone who wants one because there is a mismatch between the skills of the unemployed workers and the skills needed for the available jobs.
Unemployability is a human resources cum business term derived from the word ‘unemployable’. To be unemployable means inability to find or unfit to get a job. It could also mean being unsuitable for employment or being unable to keep a job. It suffices to say that the jobs are available but job seekers are not able to fill it.
From my experience as a recruiter, it would not be out of place to say that fresh graduates unsuitability for available entry level jobs is worrisome. Yes, we are sure waiting for a ‘job creation miracle’ in Nigeria where there would be more than enough jobs to go round for every graduate. But while we wait, every graduate must take charge of their employability in the following three areas and not blame the government or society for its lack.
#1 – Skills deficit: majority of Nigerian graduates lack the basic composite skills and personal attributes that give them the capacity to function adequately in the world of work. These skills include but are not restricted to basic ICT skills, presentation/communication skills, the capacity for initiative, ability to connect the dots of their course of study and business demands to mention a few. It still baffles me that some graduates cannot operate computers but they have the best of smart phones, some others cannot write a simple letter without typos or abbreviations. The BBM chats are doing us more harm than good. Wake up; get to work on the skills deficit. If our educational system has failed us, most we fail ourselves?
Taking charge of your learning is a part of taking charge of your life, which is the sine qua non in becoming an integrated person – Warren G. Bennis
#2 – Course of Study and Business Demands Disparity: Dr Oby Ezekwesili said recently at an Abuja event that the reason why most graduates in the country remain unemployed is ‘because majority of them study courses that are in low demand in the labour market.’ This answers the question of ‘why do employers often turn down applicants?’ Because of lack of competence, simple! I quite agree with her greatly; in the bid for most of us to get into a tertiary institution of learning, many settle for courses that has little demands in the market place. What is the way out, you would ask? Get a professional certification in another field. I know a few chartered accountants that didn’t study accountancy but currently work as such with their ICAN certification. What are you still waiting for, go ahead and add value to that degree of yours and recreate your career story.
#3 – Sense of Entitlement: the other funny trend among Nigerian graduates is the belief that they deserve to get a job with a ‘fat salary’, one with all the perks of office. So when a job without such comes their way, they walk away. They go about thinking they must be given a chance to prove themselves without any prior extra-curricular activities to lean on as evidence. They go around with a false value on their degree. They fail to understand that employers of labour are looking for value creators not salary earners! What value can you add to your potential employer? How far can you go to acquire additional value to yourself?
It is not out of place to say that you are to develop yourself and be committed to continuous improvement. Please, you do not have to tell employers you would add value to them, you demonstrate value!
So I ask again, are fresh graduates unemployed or unemployable?
Till next time, we are all work in progress…