Over 8,000 young men and women graduated from Rwandan universities over the course of last week, but only a few of them will secure employment.
They include 6,540 bachelor’s degree graduates and 510 PHD holders. They joined another cluster of 1,500 bachelor’s degree holders who graduated from the University of Kigali in July.
While for many graduates, completing university raises optimism and expectations about securing a job, the reality is that many remain unemployed for at least one year.
Over the years, the government has decisively rolled out several programmes to encourage the spirit of entrepreneurship including promoting the “Made in Rwanda” campaign aimed at creating job creators instead of job seekers, but this has yet to yield substantive results as many remain unemployed.
But beyond these initiatives, our universities are still theory based with many graduates leaving without any industrial training that may improve their job prospects.
However, we need to see the private sector taking the lead in addressing unemployment, as the government can only play a catalytic role.
The only sustainable way of creating sustainable employment initiatives it is through the private sector. For instance, businesses make a difference to the employment and skills crisis by collaborating with education and training providers to help people develop the skills they really need in the workplace, and promote lifelong learning.
The private sector can also take a lead in fostering entrepreneurship by supporting start-ups and smaller enterprises and connecting talent to markets by closing the gap between jobseekers and employers.
According to the study Disrupting Unemployment: Business-led Solutions for Action cited by the World Economic Forum, businesses can to do more to address unemployment through multisector partnerships, for instance while a single business can create a partnership with a local academic institution for its own talent needs, partnerships between several businesses and academic institutions can increase the quality of the talent pool available to all, often in a more cost-efficient way and with greater societal benefits.
While potentially more complex to implement, such partnerships take into account the widest range of interests. In addition, WEF underscores that initiatives that match the public good with private interest are often the most sustainable in the long term.
With ongoing technological and economic disruptions, jobs and skills interventions will only be successful if they are designed with a proactive, long-term approach rather than one that is reactive or based on past successes.
For example, apprenticeship programmes where young people are placed in traditional jobs seem pointless if those job categories are likely to be obsolete within five years.
Instead, it might make more sense to create apprenticeship programmes for new high-growth occupations.