For five years, Richard Ross Kamanga had struggled to secure a decent job befitting his academic qualification. He had just finished his then prestigious Malawi School Certificate of Education (MSCE) and he was on the lookout for a white-collar job.
Kamanga was just one in a pool of other young people across Malawi facing this painful, but common story as unemployment levels continued rising thereby shattering hopes among graduating students and those currently undergoing post-secondary education.
Kamanga attests that vocational qualifications cannot only improve the employment chances of unqualified school leavers, but also help them set up their own business.
“Vocational skills played a major part in the birth of my company, Ross Welding Contractors, which has created job opportunities for eight people as of today,” says Kamanga.
Among major projects, the company was behind the fabrication of four fermentation tanks at Ethanol Company, as well as fabrication and installation of liquid sugar tanks including all pipe work in the main factory at Dwangwa Sugar Corporation between 1999 and 2000.
It is Kamanga that fabricated and erected poster canopies for Simama, Dwangwa, Njechere and Nchalo filling stations in Karonga, Nkhotakota, Lilongwe and Chikhwawa respectively, between 2001 and 2008.
“We are winning more and more contracts across the country to construct filling stations and other structures. The company is growing and more job opportunities will be created for the idle youths,” promises Kamanga.
National coordinator for the newly established non-governmental organisation, Training for Entrepreneurship and Employment (T4EE), Aggripa Phiri, says as job scarcity exacerbates, there is need for the youth to develop resilient mechanisms to the increasing unemployment challenges by making a decision on what they will do after high school graduation.
Phiri, however, blames the mess on the current school curriculum which he believes was hurriedly designed at the time to respond to white-collar job market.
“For Malawi to reverse the situation, we need to reform our curriculum to ensure that issues of vocational skills are taken on board so that learners undergoing formal education system are also exposed to vocational skills that they can use if they fail to penetrate the formal job market.
“For the last 40 years also, our education has been designed in such a way that it responds to white-collar jobs. And currently, we don’t have more of those opportunities,” he says.