Fresh graduates look out for job opportunities during a job fair in Kigali recently. Sam Ngendahimana.
The Private Sector Federation (PSF) is pushing for the removal of work experience as a means to provide employment opportunities for youth.
Deus Kayitakirwa, the Director of Advocacy at PSF told Sunday Times that the private sector is ensuring that this applies within the constituency of the private sector players.
“There’s a role for businesses and the people who work in them to help bridge the gap between education and the world of work. We will make sure that the previous work experience, in the related field is also scrapped off from part of the requirements for one to get a job.”
In 2010, the Government of Rwanda decided to remove working experience as a requirement to enter the public service. Eight years on, many young graduates have since used the chance to start their careers or had their initial working experience in civil service.
“It is something that we will emulate and see. Ofcourse it’s not going to be a straight forward initiative, as we will need to do awareness campaigns and explain to our members the benefits of having young people in the industry because after all private sector members are driven by profits so anybody who can add value whether they have experience or not, is something they will probably consider,” Kayitakirwa added.
Gaspard Musonera, the Permanent Secretary at the Ministry of Public Service and Labour (MIFOTRA), says that the government has always put the youth at the center of its transformation. For him, the move demolished the myth perpetuated by some that young people are unwilling or unable to hold down a responsible job.
“Only managerial positions that need high levels of strategic thinking, require some experience because logically speaking, you cannot require everyone to have working experience before he starts working. It will just be discrimination. With the public service there is a level of competence considered,” he says.
Rwanda’s unemployment rate stands at 16.7 per cent (as of 2017), according to figures from the National Institute Statistics of Rwanda. Youth unemployment stands at 21 per cent. The fourth Integrated Household Living Conditions Survey (EICV4) shows that university graduates’ unemployment rate is at 13.5 per cent of 135,000 graduates.
The public service employs close to 100,000.
François Ntakiyimana, Executive Secretary, Congrès du Travail et de la Fraternité des Travailleurs (COTRAF), a labour union, said that in reality, relatively few employers are able to take up this initiative since only few of them have actually recruited a young person direct from education and given job-seekers an opportunity to “try their luck”.
“It is possible for the private sector to emulate the same although it could be a herculean task, because they may prioritise with their family members since no experience is required and they want to maximize profits. Besides, they will not have the time and patience to groom these young talents and this could be a hindrance in the workforce,” he says.
He added that in the first instance, many of the entry level jobs that have traditionally helped young people into work such as waiters, and retail assistants are stagnating or in long-term decline. That makes it much harder for young people to take their first steps onto the career ladder.
“Most people in the corporate world are young yet the existing jobs in the market are temporary jobs. There’s an increasing number of low-skill jobs at the bottom end, and a shortage of suitable people for high skill professional roles at the top end.”
Ntakiyimana further adds that unemployment in Rwanda is not the only problem that the youth are facing as there is a big section in disguised unemployment.
“The government should emphasise on vocational training but also provide capacity building to vocational schools so that students who leave vocational schools are equipped with practical skills,” he says.
Over 90,000 Rwandans are said to complete tertiary education annually.
Musonera however blames this on the poor communication in sensitizing the youth about this opportunity. He added that applicants face competition and therefore have to prove their capability at a professional level.
“Young people should be able to fulfill perfectly the roles and responsibility and will give them exposure. That is sustainable because competent fresh graduates will perform well in public service at that level and that is the only way to allow them acquire working experience putting aside the internship that they may take after completion of their studies.”
“So far, we have not seen any challenge in implementation of the required services and wherever people may tamper with it and include requirement of experience for that level where government has decided for exemption it is subjected to appeal and the process is cancelled strictly,” he says.
Ntakiyimana is however of the view that public institutions need to put in place criteria that will not bring about unfair judgment when recruiting candidates.
Pie Habinshuti who has worked in the public sector agrees that removing work experience means that there will be stiff competition which might compromise other entrants that do not possess any experience.
“The best candidate will get the position, but then those with experience will out compete others. I think that the employer should prepare different tests that cater for both the experienced and inexperienced. The youth are able and maybe more competent than those said to have experience. I think there should be investigations in the first three months and compare the results,” he says.
On the other hand, Meable Abaabo a finance officer, believes that scrapping off work experience is beneficial to the youth but maybe challenging on the institutions as they will have to spend more money training the new entrants.
“This implies that the budget will have to be strained although the competition being stiff means that the best candidates will be picked, she says.
Surviving stiff competition
Habinshuti says the first ‘requirement’ is that one has self-confidence: “The energy of Rwandan youth is needed for the counrty’s transformation. The youth also need to realise their potential and protect their status by continuous learning which will enable them achieve and contribute to the country’s development”.