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Opinions of Monday, 25 September 2017

Columnist: Raphael Kumah Abolasom

Positioning fresh graduates for future jobs starts with strategic national service placements

Prior to the 2016 general elections, Ghana’s unemployment rate stood at about 48%. Fresh graduates have since been churned out from our various institutions to add to the percentage. We cannot neglect the increasing number of people who have lost their jobs and are still losing their jobs for so many reasons. All these factors make bridging the unemployment gap, a very difficult one.

However, for the purpose of the subject matter, this piece will place much emphasis on the role that could be played by the government of Ghana, through the National Service Scheme in equipping fresh graduates with relevant work experiences in their various fields of study. This will in turn prepare and equip them with employable skills in their various fields for the competitive job market.

Almost in all cases, employers require a certain minimum number of years as working experience before accepting new employees into an organization. But the question I would, however, like to put to employers is, who or which organization do you expect to employ a fresh graduate and give him or her the relevant work experience you (Employer) are looking for? A school of thought will suggest that one should get involved in voluntary service to gain relevant work experience, but how feasible will this be, looking at the economic situation of a fresh unemployed graduate? Don’t forget he/she will have to find a means of transport, accommodation and many other necessities.

The practice with the Ghana Medical and Dental Council is that, when medical students or students who did Dentistry graduate, they are posted to the hospitals to do their national service, it is termed, house job or houseman-ship. They get the opportunity to learn on the job.

The Nurses and Midwifery Council has a similar arrangement, where fresh graduates from the various nurses and midwifery schools as well as other institutions that run those programmes are posted to health facilities to do their national service. It’s also termed as Rotation. I believe the Teacher Training colleges have a similar programme where they do the off-campus practice in order to gain the relevant work experience that prepares them for the ultimate adorable teaching profession. One will suggest, that these are professional courses hence the reason for such “national service arrangements” but, what is wrong if this arrangement is reciprocated in all fields of study?

What relevant work experience will a nutritionist gain when he/she is posted to say, the DVLA? Of what use will a medical Laboratory Scientist be, should he or she be posted to say, the University to be a Teaching Assistant in a psychology department? What business has the health science educationist got to do with doing his national service in the Bank when people with accounting or business backgrounds are posted to the classrooms to teach basic education during National service, let alone to talk of a physiotherapist doing his national service at say, SSNIT?

We need to find a way around this “relevant work experience” brouhaha. This is where I strongly believe, the Government of Ghana, through the National service scheme can help ameliorate the situation. The government should design a strategic plan with the national service scheme in such a way, that graduates will strictly be posted to the various agencies according to their fields of study. For instance, the engineers should be posted to areas such as the industries and companies where their services are critically needed. It doesn’t matter if they are even posted to private companies or industries. Government should bear the cost of their normal NSS allowances as one of its numerous ways of contributing to the private sector.

Teachers should strictly be sent to the classroom for National Service, biomedical scientists, Fashion designers, graphic designers, computer scientists, and many more should be sent to their specific areas of study to do their NSS. This will compensate for at least some part of the relevant work experience that employers usually require.

Let me be quick to admit that, yes, sometimes some of these graduates are posted to areas where their courses of study are very relevant, yet, they resort to giving flimsy excuses to get reposting. By so doing, you are doing a great disservice to your own self. That is not to say that, you cannot have other ambitions, but for the purpose for which you were trained, have you done any relevant job in it yet? The experience is very very important, don’t forget that! For us, as country to achieve greater heights, we ought to change the way we think and it shall be well with us!