I love playing devil’s advocate. For me it is a sure way of ensuring that the other side’s point of view is not lost in the rigmaroles of saving face and maintaining the status quo.
I have heard it said over and over that our universities need to educate our youth to match the needs of our economy and I wonder what exactly does this mean? I have had youngsters come to me to ask what course they should take at college and my standard first question is; what do you think you should take and why? One of their standard criteria is that it needs to be marketable. When I ask them how they judge a course to be marketable, the general answer is one where they can get a job quickly and start earning money as soon as possible after completing their studies.
Each person seems to have a different view on which the ‘marketable’ courses are: ranging from medicine to teaching. Views seem to be generally based on their friends’ and families’ experiences.
On the flip side, when speaking to my age-mages (not quite youngsters anymore), all I hear is how graduates today are half-baked and not prepared for work; how frustrated managers are because you can rarely trust a graduate to complete a job and how they all wish the campuses would style up and spew forth competent graduates.
So yes! There is definitely a problem. However, I beg to differ with the majority of writers and opinion makers in what our problem is. I will be the first to acknowledge that the universities are not preparing our youth sufficiently for the job market. I am sick and tired of having fresh employs think that it is fine not to finish their work or to keep shifting blame instead of standing up and taking responsibilities. This however is not as a result of taking the wrong course. This, I feel, is as a result of what I would call ‘a complete failure to mentor the youth’.
Question is, whose failure? Here, I am extremely liberal in spreading the blame and if you do not see yourself in any of these classes, consider yourself a saint.
The Parents (to include aunties, uncles and elder siblings)
For failing to allow the children to do chores that are the backbone of work ethic.
Primary and Secondary School Teachers
For insisting that the children spend all their waking hours studying for exams, failing to realise that once the exams are done, these same children will still have to perform in a world where exams do not mean everything.
For forcing the now young adults to cram millions of words in a specific order, numbing and at times even killing the ability to think.
For adopting a defeatist mentality where the youth are concerned. Mark my words, if employers fail to mould the young employees, they will suffer as their workforce dwindles and becomes more expensive.
The Young Adults themselves
For failing to realise that they are on a path to self-destruction and resisting all attempts to bring them back.
In all this however, I do not see the place of the ‘wrong’ course. What I see instead is the wrong attitude and approach to life. Unfortunately, our educators have got it all wrong; introducing a course called ‘Life Skills’ will not teach life skills. This is something that has to be done by everyone who comes into contact with a child long before they have even thought about what ‘course’ to take in college. Our forefathers were right when they said it takes a village to raise a child.
So, what now?
Having failed our children (think village not actual offspring), we now have a responsibility to teach them what we did not teach them in their younger years.
What we do today will definitely dictate what kind of employees, managers and entrepreneurs we have tomorrow…