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Employment Outcomes of University Graduates in Sierra Leone

May 5, 2016 By Sulayman Koroma*

One of the biggest challenges facing universities in modern Sierra Leone is how to ascertain the relationship between graduates employability and the relevance of the discipline or subjects they study. Universities should be seen as sources of talent development and acquisition of skills and knowledge. This is why it is extremely necessary that they bridge the existing gaps.

The World Economic Forum in 2013 focused on talent scarcity and population dynamics and developed countries are fighting this wave by reviewing their universities educational systems, making it relevant to the present and future society needs.

The Prime Minister of Singapore, Goh Chok Thong, famously stated: “A nation’s wealth in the 21st century will depend on the capacity of its people to learn and a dynamic educational systems.” Singapore is seen today as the third most competitive economies in the world. The government was successfully matching supply with demand of education and talent development.

The World Economic Forum 2016 Report also states that competitiveness – understood as higher productivity – is a key driver of growth and resilience. This wave has moved countries to upgrade their educational system that best meets the needs of a competitive economy. The  average growth rates report of most of the least competitive economies in sub-Saharan Africa showcase  Mauritius, South Africa, Rwanda and Botswana as having  good global percentage ranking, because  of their talent-driven economies that best  adapt to the changes brought about by technology revolution. These nations reverse their downward trends largely due to an increase update of ICT in university curriculum, improvement in innovations and they look at talent development as an essential aspect of growth and sustainability.

Sierra Leone is an exception, though it is doing its best, given the prevailing trends; we lack the appropriate human capital skills that will contribute substantially to socio-economic development. That is, we don’t have National Human Resource Development Scheme, relevant educational system and proper workplace environment for talent integration. And we cannot boast of having a human capital report that will showcase the type of expertise that is available in the country.

The Population dynamics and talent scarcity wave are trends towards today’s global talent shortage. McKinsey & Company projected in their annual report of human capital management that the number of workers aged 35–44 years in the United States will decline by 15% between 2000 and 2016. In countries like Germany, Italy, and Japan, the problem is even more acute. In Japan, the working population between the ages of 15 and 29 years has declined from 34% to 20% since 1970 as a result of decreasing birth rates.

According to United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTDA ) on  Least Developed Countries (LDC) Report 2013, between 2010 and 2050, the LDC working-age population (i.e. those between 15 and 64 years of age) is expected to increase by 630 million people, or an average 15.7 million people per year.  By 2050, the Least Developed Countries will account for 19 per cent of the global working-age population.

In eleven (11) LDCs, that population is likely to rise by at least 0.5 million a year.

The projected increases are highest in African LDCs: Democratic Republic of Congo, Ethiopia, United Republic of Tanzania, Uganda and  Sierra Leone for example, will each increase their working-age population by more than 1 million people per annum. These countries need to know where they stand today, so that they can make the right kind of talent investment that will be absorbed into the new labour market entrants.

For example, the World Economic Forum 2016 also focused on technological shifts. That is, businesses should be preparing for technological shifts in the labour market. And this phenomenon has threatened five million jobs in the global market.

Inasmuch as the government is doing its best to create a platform for the technological shift by installing the fibre optic, universities in Sierra Leone, on the other hand, should start automating their operations by creating an online class room management, integrating technology in their curriculum and developing staff capacity for new advancement in technology.

Kimani Njoroge (Human Capital Leader, Deloitte Consulting (Pty) Ltd) stated that talent acquisition, development and access have changed in fundamental ways due to shifts in global talent markets, skills shortages, new ways of working and the growing importance of social media and employment brand. These are phenomenal social planners that educationist and politicians should take into account when planning the future of the country.

To reiterate, for a university to become a talent pipeline in 2020, it must move to more marketing oriented, technological innovation and global approaches to talent development. This demand for a re-examination of university curriculum, making it more relevant to the changes in society. Universities need to include new skills and knowledge in their curriculum when the need arises at regular periods in order to meet the challenges of a dynamic and unstable economic climate.

Such developments ask important questions if universities in Sierra Leone have a relevant educational system or unit in terms of reviewing curriculum contents, assessing teaching mechanism and learning processes, skills acquisition and expertise of educational professionals.

Also, organisational behaviour and performance should be tied to the universities’ curriculum. The dynamic trends of organisational performance should be studied and followed, if we are to produce graduates who are of quality, with the right skills, knowledge and competence.

Universities’ strategic priority should be to produce students of quality, but only quality curriculum will produce quality students, which will replicate the organisation’s total quality management process and performance.

Taking cue from George Ayitteh, I have deduced from this article that if universities curriculums are not re-examined, the number of mismatch graduates will increase for each academic year and the non-functional illiterate rates will increase in Sierra Leone.

Having made the above observations there are still ways in which we can solve the persistent malaise of the vacuums between curriculum contents and needs of society.

I therefore recommended thatuniversities in Sierra Leone:

üShould embed a talent mindset in the entire universities, which breeds competitive advantage,with benefits for both the graduates and the universities.

üShould keep databases of their graduates on completion and work performance.

ü Should involve the employment sector in the development and reviewing process of curriculum. This will enhance campus recruitment.

üShould establish an internal audit of skills and competence framework for on-going students required by the employment sector.

ü Should launch labour market surveys in order to collect information and forecasting the employment situation for graduates and introduce new programmes.

*The author is Dean of Technology, IAMTECH.
































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