The letter to the editor which a concerned, frustrated job seeker wrote in the one of the daily papers last month, reveals many issues which job seekers on one hand; and employers and policy-makers on the other hand should consider about labour market dynamics.
Job seekers and many citizens are frustrated and exploited; thereby forcing them to migrate to the diaspora.
Such a situation can make Zambia continue struggling to achieve sustainable development processes despite this country’s many rich natural resources.
The frustrated job seeker stated that he has both an ACCA and an MBA.
He said he has about 10 years experience at senior management level .
He claims that he has worked both in Zambia and in South Africa before.
He says he is now back in Zambia; and he has been applying for jobs in his field for the past three months; but all in vain.
It is from such a background that this concerned and frustrated job seeker is wondering whether having connections with key decision-makers; and not skills and experience are key to employment doors in this country.
While one can equally be concerned with such a situation, trying to find a job for three months without getting one is too short a time to complain about in this country.
Some people with similar relevant qualifications have waited for more years without getting a job.
This doesn’t mean that this writer accepts such a situation as normal; but that Zambian labour market is so dynamic that it isn’t easy for one to get a job regardless of one’s good qualifications.
But before one addresses critical issues relating to the Zambian labour market, one can ask the following questions:
‘How many people have ACCAs and also hold MBAs with such a long experience in Zambia? What qualifications and experiences do most chief executive officers (CEOs) and most of their top management officials have?
How many private and public organisations in Zambia today can employ someone with ACCA, MBA with ten years experience at senior management levels?
What positions has the concerned and frustrated job seeker been applying for? What positions was he holding in South Africa?
What salary scales did he have in South Africa?
What are the salary scales of the vacant positions he has been applying for?
What experience and skills does his CV show? Does a CV reveal the truth about his experience and skills?
How many CEOs or top management officials in Zambia today can accept to employ a junior whose paper qualifications, experience and skills are equal to or more than theirs?
How many people with full ACCAs, Master’s degrees in any field are in employment or out of formal employment today in this country?
Therefore, to any job seeker, before one gets concerned and frustrated, try to answer such questions because they facilitate understanding why your job applications aren’t received favourably.
Such understanding can facilitate taking corrective measures to such a situation.
This is why in the past under this column, it was emphasised that, firstly, networking is one of the strongest job seeking strategies; and secondly, understand the job description before you apply for a vacant position is critical.
Moreover, researching on an organisation before one applies for position in an organisation also helps one to know many factors before one applies for a job.
But to employers and policy-makers, the concerns and the subsequent frustration of such job seekers are an eye-opener to policy review, reform and implementation. Failure to address such labour market dynamics and concerns can create labour market crisis in a country.
For example, this writer is reliably informed that nowadays, for one to be recruited as a trainee constable at Lilayi Police College, one should be a grade 12 with five ‘0’ levels including English Language and Mathematics.
This is because, many people in this country now have a minimum of grade 12 certificate.
In Western province, some teachers with Master’s degrees complained of not being promoted when those with first degrees have already been promoted.
With increase in those with post graduate qualifications, is it not necessary to raise the entry qualifications for most vacant positions?
To make matters worse, despite having more so-called highly qualified people, there are few job opportunities on the labour market.
In short, there is stiff competition among graduates on the labour market.
So, why continue allowing low qualifications, experience and skills to dominate vacant or existing positions?
In a country where people are getting higher qualifications, experience and skills almost every half a year, is allowing personnel with low qualifications to dominate vacant or existing positions not creating high levels of unemployment and high poverty levels in a country?
Most employed people with lower qualification are now pursuing higher qualifications because they have realized the stiff competition among highly qualified people on the labour market.
Job security today, among others, seems to rest on higher qualifications.
Education is said to be key in sustainable national development processes.
Zambia has many qualified, experienced and skilled personnel; but they are misplaced. Misplacement of personnel in this country has cost us sustainable development processes.
This is because some highly qualified people end up getting good jobs in the Diaspora or getting lower positions in this country where they are underutilized and exploited. This worsens the poor work culture.
To crown it all, the combinations of misplaced qualified personnel, poor work culture and many qualified citizens working in the Diaspora create national development challenges for any country.
Connections to decision-makers seems to be a major factor in getting a job in Zambia.
This is so not because most decision-makers practice nepotism or bribery; but because we have few job opportunities despite having many rich natural resources. And employment policies aren’t in tandem with the situation on the ground.
Such issues bring serious monitoring and evaluation challenges both to Zambia Institute of Human Resource Management (ZIHRM) and Zambia Federation of Employers (ZEF) on one hand; and to labour ministry on the other hand.
If ZIHRM and ZEF cannot see and act swiftly on such critical national issues that affect Zambia’s labour market and national development processes, then labour ministry should formulate relevant employment policies and intervene in such artificial labour market dynamism before things get worse.
Why should people go further in formal education if such education is redundant in their country?
One can argue that, except for few higher institutions of learning like some universities, further education is increasingly becoming redundant in this country because most public and private organisations are not willing to employ someone who is highly qualified than the existing personnel or who might demand higher pay than they can afford to pay.
Unless Zambia’s public and private sector organisations employ workers at all levels of organisation’s hierarchy on merit, Zambia’s national economic development process might continue facing various challenges.
What Post columnist, Prof. Kazhila Chinsembu (2/11/2013) and Copperstone University lecturer, Dr Richard Mbewe (22/6/2014; p.VI) noted about discriminatory tendencies for personal reasons in recruitment processes; poor work timing, and poor work culture in general which according to Dr Mbewe includes unethical practices among some workers and some supervisors provides co-ordinated evidence on the concerns and frustrations most job seeker experience on the Zambian labour market.
Last year or so, Miyanda Maimbo, a recruitment consultant in her column in the Post wrote that an MBA holder with 10 years experience whose employment contract wasn’t renewed wrote to her to find him a job before he was evicted from his rented house; and before his family starved to death.
Can it be true that postgraduate qualifications with such experience are not necessary on Zambia labour market? Could it be ability of many employers to pay workers with such qualifications that negatively affect such graduates? Or is it that there is something wrong with most master’s degree related syllabi?
Or is it, as the concerned and frustrated job seeker puts it, connections or bribery and corruption have taken over recruitment process on the Zambian labour market?
Whatever the case may be, the way things are handled on the labour market determines what decisions citizens make on whether to study further or not; and why? Moreover, the current management of labour related issues seems to be worsening the perceived high unemployment and high poverty levels in the country.
The current dynamic labour market situation seems also to suggest that courses should tilt more to entrepreneurship knowledge and skills than to white collar jobs. Such an approach course syllabi will facilitate graduates going into entrepreneurship as opposed to depending on being employed despite one’s good qualifications and experience.
For students and job seekers, one has to monitor job opportunity trends; and be extremely careful on which career to choose and at what level for one to survive the current labour market turbulences.
From the above analysis of what is happening on the labour market, it is clear that students, job seekers, employers and government need serious and urgent strategies and interventions to help job seekers; and in the process facilitate sustainable national development processes through optimum utilization of available human capital and natural resources.
The author is a trainer and career coach.
Contact: Cell: 0976/0977 450151