Battling nepotism, the who you know factor, a brief account of unemployed graduates

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By ROBERT LUKE IROGA, Editor, SBM & SBMOnline

Just as the dust settled after the new year fetes last week I received an interesting phone call from recent graduate students. As a journalist I am used to getting such calls and they are mostly about people venting their complaints or thrusting their anger against somebody— most times national leaders. As I often do— I listen vividly and after identifying the caller and the intensions of his phone call and those he claims to represent he details his story.  

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His account and that of those whom he asserts to speak on their behalf is a common tale of frustrated graduates who despite acquiring university qualifications can’t still find jobs in the market. They express their dismay one for instance is still jobless three years after graduating and he often feels disconcerted whenever he returns home empty handed knowing that he still relies on his struggling parents – years after graduating from university.

Just listening to the graduates I could feel they are under enormous pressure from their parents and families members whilst others from their peers who have already landed jobs soon after leaving university. In addition, their frustration is evidently fueled by the ‘requirement for experience’ for the jobs they applied for as employers prefer experienced workers than those that have just graduated. Moreover, the graduates alleged that the ‘who you know’ system or factor is the rule of the game in the current workforce. In their view, university degrees or merits don’t count anymore as they were led to believe because the dynamics on the ground are extremely different — as they decide who gets a job and whose unemployed.

As we ended the conversation, I glanced through my notes and obviously I could sense that with more university graduates heading back home into a very small workforce market, there’ll be surely more frustrated university graduates in the coming years.

The limited employment market is not new. And sadly there’s no quick fix to it as it is a result of long time problem that has ballooned overtime as successive governments disappointedly fail to broaden the country’s economy to create more job opportunities for our people. And with COVID-19 slowing down our economy any swift solutions to arrest unemployment is a mighty task and is a mission seem impossible given all the economic indicators have pointed to the negative territory.

But the question that I wish ask is, how do we give opportunities to our new graduates who can’t compete with experienced and qualified workers? One possibility is for the government to introduce a graduate scheme whereby only new university graduates are permitted to apply for a certain job as an entry point into the public service and work their way up. Major private companies could also be encouraged to do the same.

In wishing the graduates all the best in their job hunting, they also reminded me to ask those who read this article to also suggest ways to help them elevate their concerns to the appropriate people and suggest ways to for a fairer employment opportunity in both the private and public sectors.

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