Higher Education and changes in the work environment: Keeping up

Higher Education and changes in the work environment: Keeping up

On one end it has been new institutions built under the sponsorship of religious organisations and private individuals and on the other it has been the upgrading of what were once Diploma and Advanced Diploma institutions. Our public employment systems had been based on the simple formula that the higher the education the higher the pay.

This has in part driven the demand for ‘higher education’. Degrees pay higher than Diplomas. The postgraduate qualifications such as MBAs offer even more. So why shouldn’t all strive for the higher qualifications that pay more? As we understood it then, Diploma holders were the ‘hands on' people; trained to handle the more things more practically upon graduation.

The degree holders were more ‘academic’ or theoretical. Labour market segments such as customer support needs strong hands-on approaches, while academic or the theory aspect may be more important in areas such in Research and Teaching. Based on this perspective, our proportion of Diplomas to Degrees is probably wrong… or we may have to redefine these qualifications in Tanzania as we target the labour market.

The other ‘formula’ was that the higher the position one held on the hierarchy, the better the pay and perks. Rising up the ranks took time and the more experienced staff would naturally be more senior. Occasionally, the ‘education cadres’ would conflict with the ‘experience cadres’ and tensions would ensue.

The basic educational qualification is still important to the estimation of starting salaries but the ‘education-pay’ linkage has been disrupted by the emergence of the private sector as the major employer; salaries are being negotiated on a one to one basis. Even the seniority issues are now being overlooked as a basis of pay by private employers.

The new employers simply want value. I have the experience of a colleague with over 20 years as an electrical technician. Upon installation of new computerized machines at the factory where he worked, a new kid with the relevant skills got employed at double his salary. It frustrated my friend no end, but that’s market forces.

The factory owner is in fact anxious to get rid of him because, like the old machines, he has become obsolete.  With new trends in the employment sector, my advice to young men and women who will later compete in the job market to be well versed in theory, broad based in general knowledge and be as ‘hands on’ as possible.

A positive attitude is a serious asset. In future going to the workplace with a piece of paper signifying that you did attend a certain college may no longer be enough; the ability to actually do is most important. Employers are becoming wary of ‘University za Kata’. In the old days, work was compartmentalized; a typical office had a secretary, (or a typist or both!) a tea person, a cleaner, a driver and a messenger.

Today, one has to be able to use the computer to do all the work; reports, presentations, communications and data management. One is expected to drive and to market or promote his or her company or institution by the right PR attitude.

One has to be flexible so as to adapt to changes in the scope or volume of work. Universities or institutions of higher learning must produce such people. The new workplace is a good training ground for self employment. The key words are quality and timely delivery.




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