Henri Nyakarundi (middle): Managing Director at ARED

As the first article of 2017, I wanted to write about a subject that has been troubling me for a few months now. It all started in 2016, while I was coordinating interviews with the different position we had open.

When I see the statistic: 50% of the youth in Africa are below the age of 30; by 2050 the population in Africa will double, so I cringe just to know the state of future governments if they do not wake up now. My whole issue is that we are not preparing our youth to face the challenges of tomorrow’s world and economy.

Yes, we have increased access to the educational system to a lot more people than before, but the quality is still not there. I spend 2016 doing dozens of interviews for different positions at ARED and I was amazed by the lack of preparedness and skill set most of the new graduates have.

First, we do not even prepare them for basic interview skills; most of the students we interviewed were surprised when we did not pick them. There is a huge sense of entitlement among the youth, forgetting that getting a job is extremely competitive and that a college degree does not guarantee you anything.

The lack of critical thinking is also a problem, we are producing a huge amount of students with a fear or lack of decision-making skills because we have train them to follow rules instead of questioning and developing better ones.

I do predict that the jobs of tomorrow will be filled mostly with consultants and contractors. The jobs of tomorrow will be specialized jobs that will require a specific skills sets. If you are in college today, you need to know that technology is making human capital less valuable.  With the development of robotics, AI, machine learning… a lot of the traditional jobs will be replaced. Tomorrow, all your accounting, customer service and more will not require a human touch. This era of 4 years college with geography classes, etc… will have to end so we can stay competitive.  We also have to factor in that the cost of hiring someone will have to go down to facilitate SME’s to hire more.

Truth be told, I do not even blame the students; we, “the older generation”, the school system and private sectors have failed those kids. There is a total lack of synergy & partnership between universities and the private sector? We do not cooperate on projects, we fail to work together to give practical training to those kids. And to be honest, there is total lacks of accountability on the school system part to make sure those kids are successful after graduation. About 2 years ago, I got in contact with a technical school. The goal was to hire engineer students to help me build a prototype here in Rwanda with the assistance of the school facility and resources.  The first question I was asked: What is the size of the company? When they find out I was a small company, they stop answering my calls. Can you imagine the amount of experience those kids would have got working on this project? I was shocked.

Why don’t we put those students as a focus point? Improve educational material? Be more practical? Focus on specialty school? To be honest I do not know why but for the sake of this article is not crucial. I guess someone else will have to answer the why and if you know the why please send me a message cause I would love to know. What I can say is that if we want to be successful as a continent, we need to stop bringing outside consultants and have a strong grip on our development. We have to produce better students, with a problem-solving mindset.

A small aspect of an education program we rarely talk about is how can we need to produce more qualify leaders on the continent. Leadership can and should be taught in schools. We chronically lack effective leadership globally.

Now, not all is bad, in Rwanda, for example, there is a huge amount of new international schools opening with strong expertise that can allow a new generation of skilled labor with the same standard of the Western countries. However, those schools need to increase dramatically, or the local schools need to adopt part of their curriculum if we want to see a real change within a generation.

 If you are a student today, you need to first decide what specific field I want to get into (engineer, programmer….) and find a specializing school instead of a tradition4-yearear college degree. At the same time, I would offer my services for free for a period of 3 to 6 months to gain the experience needed. Certain skills do not even need you to go to school like social media marketing skills. With the digital edge, you can learn so much on the internet.  I would hire someone with great technical and problem-solving skills in a heart beat compared to someone with a college degree but no experience.  I do not even ask for diplomas.

I truly believe if we can adopt a strong accountability towards school officials by collecting data of students finding jobs after school, understanding the issues on the value chain, listening and partnering with the local private sector to offer onsite experience, internship programs and changing the mindset of our school officials. I believe we could have a better-prepared youth, but more importantly, a youth that is aware of the real challenge they will be facing so they can adapt early on and have a higher chance to be successful in their professional life.

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