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University of Rwanda to Tackle Unemployment

By Collins Mwai

University of Rwanda's College of Science and Technology has rolled out a new programme to help improve students' entrepreneurial capacity.

The initiative is designed to improve the chances of the college graduates to create and sustain self-employment.

The programme, dubbed 'Creating Job Creators, was started in September at the beginning of the 2015/2016 academic year.

It is aimed at modifying the training of learners to enhance their capacities in job creation.

The initiative was prompted by the understanding within the college's management that conventional education programmes are designed to suit jobseekers, not job creators.

In an interview with The New Times, the college principal, Prof. Manasse Mbonye, said that assumption that training always leads to employment has proved to be untrue, saying that thousands of graduates have ended up being jobless.

"Underlying this scenario are several assumptions, among which is the often unjustified belief that sought-for-jobs are always readily available. Unfortunately, such an idealised state of affairs is generally untrue anywhere, much more so in the so-called developing countries," Prof. Mbonye said.

He said that the resulting scenario often leads to a set of challenges, such as an economy requiring a large number of engineers and scientists than it can train and the system's capacity to employ before it can take in the graduating number.

"For example this past year the College of Science and Technology graduated close to 1400 scientists and engineers. The skills gap analysis shows that the number still falls short of what is needed. However, the existing industrial base is not yet capable of accommodating such a number," Prof Mbonye explained.

In response to status quo, the college moved to shift the way and mode of training of their learners to ensure that by the time they graduate, job creation is the more preferred option as opposed to job search.

"What is needed is a shift in the way we train our students so that as they graduate, job creation is the more preferred option for them than job search. To achieve this, the training must focus on eradicating the fear of and lack of self-confidence in self employment that's common among our graduates," he added.

Among the strategies laid out include training of the students in innovation, entrepreneurship and confidence building.

The new approach has necessitated some adjustments in the college's curriculum beginning with the current second year students.

According to a concept note on the new programme, some of the affected courses include those related to entrepreneurship and research, while new courses; development of business concepts, internships and awards have also been rolled out.

"With the 'Creating Job Creators' programme, it is possible to create about 300 projects that could lead to about 300 high-tech businesses each year. This alternative is clearly more attractive and worth pursuing compared to the status quo. The approach has the potential to generate many more jobs in the future and to create all the other positive spin-offs as stated above," Prof. Mbonye said.

The college is also in the process of reaching out to private sector players, especially in the financial sector, to work out ways to make it possible for emerging entrepreneurs to secure capital for their start-ups.

The initiative is well in line with the objectives of the Smart Rwanda Master Plan which, among other objectives, aims at increasing the number of local tech related firms as well as their market capitalisation.

The move also augers well with this year's Labour Day theme, "promoting productive work by supporting young entrepreneurs", that has seen increased calls for the youth to actively partake in the effort to create jobs.