Vanessa Atim is the managing director of ProInterns, a company that is working to solve Uganda’s unemployment challenge through skill development. She spoke to The Independent’s Agnes E Nantaba on matters concerning unemployment in the country.
What encompasses your management philosophy?
I am a very ambitious and hardworking manager who believes in being able to produce tangible results. I work with a team of administrators and professionals in human resource management because at times, it requires more than one person to execute the vision and mission of the company. Social intelligence is key to understanding and working with diverse groups of people and communicating with them effectively.
How would you describe your business and work strategy?
ProInterns is an internship solution to Uganda’s unemployment challenge that targets people who are at the university and those planning to graduate. We provide graduates who are readily qualified but lack skills and work experience with internship opportunities in order to successfully kick start their careers. This eases the school to work transition boosting employability.
What is your assessment of Uganda’s labour market?
Majority of Uganda’s labor force remains either unemployed or under-employed. The bulk of the population is engaged in subsistence activities as those involved in the informal sector yet face various constraints including limited access to capital, limited support, and recognition by the authorities that prevent them from achieving high levels of productivity. However, there is hope for better as the retention rate for interns is slowly growing.
Ugandan graduates face high levels of competition for jobs, how then does volunteering help to calm such competition?
It does help to a greater extent because it portrays an individual as willing and committed to learn for the sole purpose of developing his or her skills. This puts such an individual at a competitive advantage over others once a job opportunity strikes. Also, if a person is committed to work for a company or organization for whatever duration without pay, it makes him or her standout.
Uganda has a number of universities that churn out thousands of graduates every year, yet the unemployment figures are startling in a scaring way. What explains the high unemployment in Uganda?
In addition to the fact that there is a skills gap, it could be due to the fact that there is big and strong work force that can hardly get absorbed into the labour market. It is important to look at solid statistics to explain why this is happening.
Some of the major reasons for this high youth unemployment include the lack of employable skills, access to resources like land and capital among the youth. We have also noted that some young people have a negative attitude towards certain types of work, which has also contributed to their inability to find gainful employment. Besides, existing policies also continue focusing on creating job seekers instead of job creators.
While everybody wants to get a job, it is also important to encourage entrepreneurship such that we can understand how training helps to produce individuals who not only seek for jobs but have the ability to go into self-employment.
What should be done about this high youth unemployment?
It is important to expose the youths to several opportunities because many are unemployed because they don’t know about the available opportunities in the different fields.
Training is the most basic element as we strive to bring down youth unemployment. Skills allow firms and companies to operate at a higher level of productivity and empower the labour force to participate in higher productivity jobs. Institutions should provide foundation skills through high quality primary education but the private sector should also increase its participation in upgrading Uganda’s labor force are necessary. It is also important to have a minimum wage in Uganda because it makes it easier for companies to cut costs as its employees are contented knowing they are paid as their counterparts.
Some analysts blame the high unemployment to poor education system that produces more job seekers that job creators. What is your take on this?
I would agree and disagree because there is a lot more to do. Education and training provided to young people throughout the school journey do not have a greater focus on vocational skills and training. Theory instead of practical skills is the order of the day.
The educational structure, especially with the current curriculum does not include enough industrial skills, vocational guidance, and training facilities hence produces graduates whose skills are not transferrable.
This is contrary to the other countries where young people are prepared for the job market through skills training including how to write a good resume, apply for opportunities, and how to handle oneself in an interview setting.
How are you working to bridge the skills mismatch between graduates and available jobs?
We organize and facilitate workshops that have an inclusive approach that coincides with the realities in the job market.