On the upside…
• Several participants from Asia, the Caribbean and the Middle East shared positive experiences as foreign students studying at universities abroad. Yasymn, 24, from Guadeloupe (currently studying in Canada), said that in comparison (to her home country), “young people here [in Montreal] are highly trained.” Sara, from Yemen, who studied at the American University in Dubai, went further to say that she found her communication course “extremely practical and hands on.” They both agreed that they felt well prepared to find a job once they completed their studies.
• Rishabh, 21, from India and several others also noted that the experience of finding a job back in their home country was, however, easier than in the country where they had studied.
• There was debate amongst young Indians as to the quality of tertiary education in their country. Kirthi, 24, from India, however, noted that as an emerging economy, India has a:
“Fairly well-balanced education system…most of our colleges are well-equipped with curricula that offer both practical and theoretical knowledge, in the form of both course study and internship options that help students understand the exact demands of their chosen paths. Medical school requires a mandatory house residency that teaches students hands on. Law and engineering schools require students to take up internships.”
On the down side…
• Posts such as this one from Dayo, 26, in Nigeria were common:
“My academic training did not prepare me for paid employment at all. I cannot still believe that we were taught programming languages that were not in use any more like Pascal, Cobol, and the like (I did computer/mathematics). We had to read and pass, not read to understand and apply.”
• The general consensus was that “academic institutions are focused too much on theoretical learning, and not enough on practical skills” (Ivan, 26, with the Youth Section of the Union of Autonomous Trade Unions of Croatia). Ivan went on to say:
“Schools are not equipping young people with some of the skills required for employment such as entrepreneurship, negotiation and networking skills. There is a lack of mentoring and guidance within schools on how to access employment. Only certain careers, such as medicine or law, seem to require practical experience to validate the final qualification.”
• The frustration among participants was evident: Bijay, 27, from Nepal commented:
“The education in Nepal is producing educated unemployed youths. For example, last year I visited a rural district, Rolpa. The youth got vocational training; house wiring for young men and sewing for females, but only 5 per cent got a job or became self‐employed after.”
This example also illustrates the persistence of occupational sex segregation.
• Furthermore, several participants noted that the private and State employment sectors also need to collaborate more effectively with educational institutions (in order to communicate their needs). Schools and private enterprises lack coordinated and consistent linkages with each other, as Sanda_87 commented:
“Universities are not connected and do not cooperate with national and international companies in a way that provides their students with practical education, including how to work with people from different countries.”
It is, however, important to note that this is not the case in all countries; one young Egyptian reported that there is a “booming trend in Egypt from private institutions that are providing trainings to match careers [with] labour market trends.”
• Many participants also expressed frustration and even anger over the inequalities experienced in education systems across the globe. There remain great divides (particularly with regard to quality teaching) between private and public institutions. What’s more, Emad, 28, from Egypt, working with Etijah, Youth & Development Consultancy Institute, observed that “institutions also tend to push and support only the best students to access employment,” and leave the ones who actually need the most support behind. Education is often only available for the best-off… and some young people with limited resources still find it difficult to access.
We were reminded by Mr. Matthieu Cognac, the International Labour Organization’s Regional Specialist on Youth Employment in the Asia-Pacific region, (talking on the APYouthNet podcast) that, “obtaining degrees by itself is not an end to employability.”
Instability and political unrest: Awa, 30, from Cameroon left all of us with a stark warning:
“Most students have no career guidance, no formal or informal trainings on CV/résumé development, job searching guidance, and interpersonal skills. With this mindset, youths find themselves confronted with the work world and its ever increasing challenges. The consequence among many is immediate frustration and desperation, and instead of serving as assets to their communities, they are instead liabilities. I say it is just a matter of time before the youth of most sub‐Saharan African [countries] feel the multiplier effect of the Arab Spring.”