YOUTH are Zambia’s greatest asset which if well-harnessed, as great potential to spur national economic development and help rejuvenate the quality of life of every Zambian.
But sadly, this highly energetic asset, remains hugely untapped and simply continues to wallow in unemployment, poverty, crime, and unproductive vises like drug abuse. Zambia is yet to release the potential benefits of its huge youth population, two thirds of which remains unemployed, discouraged, or marginally employed.
Few of our nation’s youths are in respectable and well-paying jobs because most of them are employed in low-paying support jobs. Most youth in our nation are either working as general workers on road and building construction projects, or as security guards, bus conductors, call boys, vendors etc.
Those that fail to secure these low-paying jobs, end up just hanging around beer halls, bus stops, markets and other places they can easily raise a bit of cash to support their daily-drinking habit as they drown their sorrows and frustrations.
There is also another group of youths that has failed to secure formal employment but has decided to instead seriously take to sporting activities as a way of earning a living. Sporting activities are there days awash with young men and women seeking to try their luck in their quest to find a livelihood.
What is unfortunate about the situation is the fact that even when jobs become available, the youth often do not possess the necessary skills to get them. The most affected are the young women who face an even much greater barriers to accessing the work opportunities.
The low levels of entrepreneurship, coupled with limited access to appropriate finance, technology and markets, the low absorptive capacity of the labour market and the low growth of highly capital-intensive, urban-based sectors like mining, are some of the major factors stopping the youth from progressing.
Skills mismatch is another factor which has complicated the situation for the youth even more. Most skills offered by the training institutions are generally not relevant to today’s labour market demands and requirements. The resultant is that, the youth are getting training but in outdated and irrelevant skills which still end up taking them nowhere.
Zambia’s current education system is largely oriented to academic achievements rather than to creating opportunities for employment or enterprise creation. Less than 6% of grade 12 leavers proceed into TEVET or other tertiary education, far below what is required and desired to ensure that employers have a sufficient pool of educated and skilled people to recruit from.
And according to a study by SNV in 2010, many
graduates from vocational training institutions have actually not been trained
in the skills needed and demanded by the labour market. This is a problem that
is rooted partly in poor quality basic primary schooling, and followed through
into the TEVET skills training system.
What is dire though, is the need for proactive approach among various stakeholders in the nation to address the ever-growing challenge of youth unemployment in order to slowly diffuse this time-bomb.