Prof. Vincent Bagire
This piece comes around the time most universities in Uganda will reopen for the new academic year. It is this very period that many senior six leavers will make entry into Universities, tertiary education and colleges. We can conclusively say that their real career paths are paved. However, it would be prudent to ask whether they are prepared for decision shocks regarding their career choices.
The focus in writing this is both on the courses that the students have been admitted to, thereby determining what they might be in future, as well as the substance of training they will go through. What to do with that knowledge is the foundation of one’s career path and not necessarily what one got trained in. That is, the career choice and dilemma. But, there is the other stretch – of what the student will actually do after graduation.
The career we choose by way of what to train in are increasingly becoming untenable. The dictionary definition of career is “job or profession for which one is trained and which job one does for a long time”. This may no longer be so. The issue of career guidance has remained more said than achieved. Reason is that career issues have been so dynamic and over paced over good career masters. The changes or rather, the instability in our educational training makes it hard for many students to reliably choose what they want to be.
Lately, students are only looking at getting marks to enter university, regardless of what course to take; even they are uncertain of what options to choose from especially if one is not good at particular courses.
Although Advanced level subject combinations had already sorted them out into science or art, new dynamics set in. I know that for example, several courses at university opened up entry requirements regardless of the subject combinations. Yet while in senior six, students and parents remain focused on having points rather than what subjects lead to professions. In fact, if we check brochures from the many universities in Uganda today, they list the courses, never the job openings for them.
With private sponsorship, parents should be keen than ever before on what the young have been admitted to study. The dilemma is whether it will have openings for varied work opportunities. Even when they join the university, for many, they will not know yet what they are likely to become.
The first thing that students ask me before choosing a course is whether job opportunities in that area will be available, then if it is passable, cost, etc. I am usually at cross roads to give jacket-cut answers on jobs. Likewise, there are many unsuccessful students who are driven by peer’s passion to join university for the sake of it I would say. Yet, there are many who have already experienced work and the crafted success out of the confusion of careers.
In the current world of employment, the basic definition of career is to be resilient and dynamic in the world of work. That is, to have skills and knowledge to be employable anywhere, any time. Employers are interested in results, not the degree or diploma that you obtained. If any one cannot measure to that, there you go. So, life long careers are changing. Successful careers are no longer on permanent but contract jobs.
Even those with degrees must continually have improvements in their skills and knowledge if they are to be needed tomorrow. Organisations are downsizing, combining jobs and creating complex jobs that need multiple skills. No institution teaches that. With computers, many jobs will soon disappear; importantly is to be career resilient.
Jobs will continue to change and to be scarce. What we need is knowledge and skills versatility, whether embodied in certificates, diplomas or degrees. Career choices are indeed at cross roads. We need to prepare the young generation and sensitize the congregation on these enfolded facts. Those in employment must also take heed to prepare for change.
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