There has been a longstanding discussion in several circles about the employability of graduates being produced in the higher institutions of today. To many employers of labour, a lot of graduates are not employable. On the other hand, the graduates are wondering what the employers are talking about.
I don’t have to join the debate of who is employable or who is not even fit to employ others. I just need some young graduates or people changing jobs to understand what it really means to be employable. If you stumble on this article before becoming a graduate, that’s good for you. I think so because you will be able to take care of some basics before you start searching for jobs.
So let’s begin with the basics. What is employability or what does it mean to be employable? I think, in simple terms, it means:
- to be employable
- To be suited for a job
- To have a skill that an employer of labour can use
- To be able to render a relevant service in a given organisation in exchange for money
- Ability to deliver
- Capacity to match competence and certification
All of these sound very simple but when you interact with a lot of employers, you will realise that there are so many graduates who are parading certificates who can’t be described by the terms above.
Where did we miss it as a nation or as people either training people or employing them? The big issue, wherever or whenever it started, was that we began to substitute capacity for certificates. So over time, when people are able to acquire a lot of degrees, they think they are automatically employable.
Just as I said in the last term I used to describe employability, it is actually the capacity to match competence with certification. What makes you employable is not the fact that you went to school. Education, for many, has become garbage in garbage out. Anyone can store up information in their heads for a couple of days in order to pass an exam. If you do that consistently for about four years or less, depending on your program in the university, you should make a first class or a second class.
And that’s where the problem is. Education has become just a certificate and a certificate is simply your teacher’s opinion of you. It may be right or wrong. You may be better than what your teachers says you are and in some cases, you may be worse.
What you therefore have to do is not to rely absolutely on just what the certificate says about you. Your certificate may say that you are a first class product but when you get to a company, will you be able to deliver first class results? That is what makes you employable. It is what you can do on the job and not what you wrote down in examinations to enable you get a degree.
We have seen plenty of people with degrees who can’t express themselves or don’t know jack about the course they claimed to have studied. So they have papers in their hands that say they can do something but when given the chance, they can’t do what the paper says they can do.
You have to ensure that you are not just working towards getting a paper. While certification is really good, you must do much more than the paper says you can do. In fact, some organisations are already moving in the direction of forgetting whatever certificate you claim to have. They want to see what you can do and not what your certificate says you can do.
Please let me admonish that while learning, ensure that your learning process is not just theoretical. Gain some practical skills. You should also bear in mind that somewhere along the line, anything can happen to your certificates. They can go missing or get burnt! You certainly don’t like that and I am sure you will never pray for than to happen but if it does, what will keep you going? You will have nothing to show anyone but your practical skills only and that is the real think that makes you employable.
The other side to being employable is to have a strong mental capacity to include creating thinking and problem solving skills. So when you don’t get a job as you hope to, you can use your creating thinking and problem solving skills to solve your own unemployment problem and then employ others.
Always remember that employability is not your certificate but your practical skills that can deliver the results that others are looking for.