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Leroy Dzenga Features Writer
It is common knowledge that Zimbabwe is producing more graduates than what the industry can absorb. This is why there have been efforts to encourage school leavers to try and find ways to create their own employment. One cannot wait forever for corporates and existing organisations to have space for them, space which is not guaranteed even to those who have proceeded to read for master’s degrees with hopes of increasing their chances.
There are fears in academia and industry that years spent by students in college may go to waste if they do not get to apply their gained skills.
For those who learnt at State universities, skills redundancy due to industrial inactivity is a waste of Government money as the education is subsidised.
A degree should bring a return on investment on the holder and the country.
Presently, there is a danger that the more unemployed graduates are allowed to be left behind in their disciplines, the cost incurred at micro and macro levels to ensure they are educated will never be recovered.
A person who studied technology in 2010, for example, and has waited for employment without sharpening their skills, may have to re-enrol for that degree due to technological changes.
The same applies to disciplines like media, where multi-skilling is now taking precedence over other abilities.
With new approaches and techniques, even those who are working in newsrooms are at risk of being left behind, let alone someone who holds a qualification, but is waiting for the rains.
A lot of fault has been placed on the graduates, albeit, unfairly. More often they are called out for “lacking inventiveness” or “sitting on their hands.”
This argument is dishonest as it forgets that not everyone can be an entrepreneur.
A group of young Zimbabweans has understood the need for practical experience, and are trying to build a system that will facilitate volunteering opportunities for out of work graduates.
The idea behind the system operationalising through a non-profit organisation called Volunteer Troops for Sustainable Development (VTSD), is to ensure that when graduates finally crack the employment code, they are in tune with trends in their industry.
“Our idea is to facilitate volunteering opportunities for graduates so that when they wait for employment they are at least getting experience,” VTSD national coordinator Taurai Kandishaya told The Herald.
“Most job opportunities will be asking for experience which some graduates will not have, thus, reducing their chances of being gainfully employed.”
Kandishaya and his colleagues have an ambitious outlook of the clout they will wield.
“We are building a database of skilled young Zimbabweans,” he said.
“This will be the first step once we have a large number of graduates, industry will know where to find committed volunteers.”
The idea is not exactly new, but maybe to Zimbabwe it is.
Global organisations like the United Nations have a volunteering system where people apply for opportunities to self-improve.
“We have designed an application for registration of interested volunteers, so they can enlist remotely and we connect them with appropriate organisations which will be in need of their services on a voluntary basis,” said Kandishaya.
Volunteering has been treated with scepticism in some sections.
It is believed, that the model can open floodgates of exploitation on unsuspecting youths.
“What we will be doing will be in good faith, we hope the companies will not use this undertaking to volunteer as an opening for exploiting youths who seek to gain the much needed experience,” Kandishaya said.
Perhaps this could be the answer which many small businesses have been searching for.
“We will be targeting small to medium enterprises and small businesses,” said Kandishaya.
“We would like to get our accounting graduates to help out with proper business planning at markets like Siyaso and Glen View Industrial Complex.”
Kandishaya says they have close to 1 000 graduates ready to be placed as volunteers and they are in the process of courting Government, as well as businesses, with propositions.
Besides being a potential outlet for Zimbabwean talent to express itself, it is a scientific elementary step in career progression.
A paper by psychiatrist Dr Cynthia Moore and Professor Joseph Allen from University of Virginia titled, “The Effects of Volunteering on the Young Volunteer,” suggests that people who volunteer significantly get enhanced occupational achievement.
“It is widely believed that for those not currently working, volunteering can be a stepping stone to paid employment,” they said.
“Also, it is widely believed that, for those who currently have a job, being a volunteer advances one’s chances of getting ahead.”
The concept of volunteering will be a tough sell to young graduates who have fantasies of an air conditioned office and other niceties.
It will need companies to play ball and open their doors, while colleges give their students regular pronouncements on how reality differs with what they envision as they read their modules.
Zimbabwe needs to look into this idea, the outcome will not only be employment, but that experience in an organisation may help other students identify niches where they can build their own companies.