EGAL M. ABDIWALI
Why training is important and needed by Somali corporates (both public and private sectors)
The population of young people in Somalia is at an all-time high. Recent approximations (based on verified scientific data) show that over 70% of the Somali population is below 30 years of age. Within the 70% lies a huge number of young able-bodied people of above 18 years old represents both an immense opportunity for the country and a challenge.
The opportunity is that they represent the best chance that Somalia has at attaining total economic and social renewal; they are the engine with the best chance of success when it comes to uplifting the human, economic and social development in the country. Simply put, the country will be taken into the future on the backs of its young people. As a challenge, Somali youth are disadvantaged when it comes to their possession of the necessary skills that are needed to drive the country forward, especially professional skills.
The two decades of war that the country went through didn’t do any favours to its young people. Most young men (who back then were children) didn’t get the chances that other children in other parts of the world got. They never got the chance to go to school in the country.
This therefore means that most young people in Somalia today are not in possession of formal skills. This is with the exception of those who went out of the country to live in other parts of the world like Canada or United States or Egypt. This small group got proper training, but then again a large percentage of them have decided to settle in the countries that they lived in as kids.
Which brings us to the real and current problem of insufficient professional skills in the country at a time when opportunities to join and work in the corporate world are getting more and more. Somalia is, on the hand, putting together robust investment strategies and reform the entire investment regulatory and institutional framework that would attract and retain needed quality investments. One of the policy requirements for investors is to allocate certain degree of managerial positions for the locals [nationals] and this potentially offers huge opportunity for the youth who are have professional qualifications and training.
Qualified and competent professional skills
In all the different sectors of the economy, the need for professionals in the country is no longer an issue that employers take lightly. Be it the government, the Non-Governmental Organizations or in the private sector, employers are grappling with the shortage of qualified and competent professional skills.
At the moment, they have to contend with professionals from Uganda, Egypt, Turkey, Dubai or any number of other countries. International staff tends to be very steep when it comes to their compensation and other demands.
So what can Somali employers do to build the local talent pool? There is a strong case for on the job training. Most young people in Somalia are quick to pick up new skills and with some basic education, they have shown time and time again that they are capable of taking up new information and new skills at a rather fast pace.
Employers can organize for young people, especially those with high school education, on the job trainings. These are career/field specific trainings that are done within the office. These trainings can be conducted by the older staff or by outside consultants. A media house can for instance have six month training for all their new hires. Call it a media lab for example.
These newly minted journalists are put through the basics and intricacies of being in the field; they get practical skills through the hands of veteran journalists and trainers. They also have a chance to spend time with their equipment (something they may have not done in college) and get familiar with the machines (cameras, recording studio equipment, dictaphones etc.). At the same time, they are taken through the ethics of the job and they get exposed to real life field ethical dilemmas from the experiences of their trainers.
This program basically offers the green horn from journalism school a chance to accelerate their growth by offering real life experiences and skills that will come in handy the moment they get in to the field. They also get to be exposed to the realities of their field. The good thing about these career boot camps is that they can be a month long, or three months long and they can be run as the new hires work.
Also related to but different from office trainings are internships. While still in school, especially towards the end of their college education, young people can be sent into companies in their areas of expertise. While in there, they get to see how work is done, they get taught by the more seasoned workers and are closely monitored and evaluated by supervisors. In the past, getting into a line of work involved taking time working under the tutelage of an older professional for some time. This is the same policy that internships are built on.
Internships work very well for young people and it can be instituted as a policy and also as a project by just one employer. As a policy, employers can come together and lobby for legislation compelling colleges and universities to include 3 month or six month internships as part of college work. Individually, a company can come to an agreement with a specific university for a yearly quota of their relevant final year students to report to its officers for an internship engagement that can last from three to six months.
Equally useful in boosting the skill level of slightly older workers is the formal and informal capacity building training courses that the company can arrange for its people. These trainings can be run as part of some kind of higher education courses or just as monthly or weekend job related training sessions.
The point of these trainings is to ensure that the established employees are well versed in the current trends, new models and new innovations that might affect their field or even change the way that they engage with their tasks. These are more of refresher courses that are administered to the workers as a form of continuous skill gathering training courses.
There are opportunities in the work place that Somali youth can exploit in their quest to bettering their lives. Having a youthful population that is gainfully employed and is making its contribution to the growth of the nation by offering professional skills in various corporate bodies in the country is one of the more meaningful ways the story of Somali youth can be told.
As much as the youth require professional short courses to advance their workplace skills and remain relevant in the job market, companies and public sector institutions need to incorporate training into their strategic plans and provide sustained budget allocation for the same in order to raise efficiency and productivity of the staff.