Unemployment is one of the biggest challenges facing youth in Ethiopia. While finding a job for those who don’t have high school or college certificates is very difficult, the situation for most university graduates also remains very perilous. One of the biggest reasons for the high unemployment rate in Ethiopia is because there are not enough jobs available, and the fact that eligible youth don’t acquire the required soft skills to enhance the job searching process after graduating. Capital spoke to Siham Ayele, Project Manager at Dereja.com, an online platform created to help people find jobs; about the current unemployment situation in Ethiopia and what these platforms do to address the challenges.
Capital: Tell us a bit about Dereja and how it was initiated.
Siham Ayele: Dereja.com was initiated to address the gaps the exist in youth employment and employability and to support and serve as a platform for students, fresh graduates and junior level professionals by providing employability trainings (soft skill and job readiness), resources and job/internship opportunities, job fairs, establishment of Career Centers across Ethiopian Higher Education Institutions as well as initiating discussions and dialogues among stakeholders about how to support the students in their transition from school to work.
Dereja has been established within the operations of ethiojobs.net a human resource and recruitment company that has 20 years of experience in the country.
Capital: What is the major issue you currently see in the job market for the youth?
Siham: Students graduate from the university without being equipped with employability skills that most employers are looking for. They basically lack the soft skills, job search techniques, interview preparation and CV writing ability.
They come out from the university without proper guidance about what the professional world looks like and they have unrealistic expectations and views. Furthermore employers tend to hire more experienced people and look over fresh graduates. It is possible to groom young employees into future leaders. We also do not have significant research on the labor market which creates a huge mismatch in employment.
Capital: What are some of the basic things young people lack to land a good job?
Siham: The majority of graduating students lack soft skills, practical skills, job search and communication skills in order to fully thrive in any competitive market. These skills need to be taught while in they are in the university not after they graduate. Luckily these are the reasons career centers have been established in universities.
Capital: Do you think the education system in higher educational institutions prepares students adequately for the job market?
Siham: No, it does not, the education system for so long has been focused on concepts and theories. I have high hopes for the career centers to change this.
Capital: What would you say is the major reason for high youth unemployment?
Siham: Ethiopia’s population is mainly young and every year we get about 200,000 fresh graduates ready to be employed and their number isn’t being matched by the amount of jobs available. The skills acquired by the students aren’t answering to the demands of employers.
Capital: Tell us a bit about the career expo that will be held in October.
Siham: The National Career Expo is being organized and supported by the Ethiopian Ministry of Education and Dereja. This Expo will serve as a platform to connect the fresh graduates with employers face to face. The Expo will have a series of workshops and sessions to give fresh graduates a glimpse of what the professional world looks like and employers what fresh graduates can bring to the table. This Expo will also hold a conference where it attempts to bring together policy makers, different stakeholders and HR practitioners to discuss the next steps regarding youth employment and what actions need to be taken.
Capital: What has been the previous impact of these type of expos?
Siham: Expos like this have been organized before but this is the first ever expo that only targets fresh graduates. By creating such a platform where job seekers and employers can meet face to face, it gives an opportunity for students to express themselves, how they are a fit for the job and how they stand out from the commotion. This recruitment platform also encourages fresh graduates to network as that is often overlooked by them and can sometimes be seen as nepotism.
Capital: What kind of support do you think the government should provide?
Siham: It is crucial that the government should encourage initiatives like these and work on the issue on multiple levels starting from high school and also make career development as part of their strategy as merely placing people in jobs doesn’t guarantee a long-term solution. Based on this year’s experience, we trust that the government and the different ministries will take initiation to organize this expo yearly.
Capital: If you can, give us some simple tips on how to attract employment.
Siham: I don’t believe that you attract employment. It is more about positioning yourself as the right fit for the right job. I strongly urge fresh graduates to first look within themselves and honestly review what they can actually bring to the table and find jobs based on that.
I believe that fresh graduates shouldn’t fear the interview space if they come prepared though understanding the job and the company itself and by matching that with their much-needed skillset. Also, it is important to let the company know who you are as much as what you can do.
Capital: would you say are some of the common mistakes people make when searching for jobs?
Siham: Usually it starts from how you write your CV. People also suffer from a lack of interview skills as well as communication skills, and not demonstrating motivation or a good attitude.