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Not Hired! Changing the Business Mindset for Youth Employment in Malawi

Updated: Jan 21, 2020

The Malawi labour force is clogged with jobseekers that will take a long time to be matched by vacancies, if they will be matched at all. A significant proportion of these jobseekers must contend with very high employer expectations for jobs that will neither require the high level of expertise they advertise nor compensate workers accordingly with the corresponding demanded effort. Usually, such high expectations are made alongside a lengthy list of professional experience the suitable candidate must have on their CV, which many of Malawi’s young and fresh will never be able to produce. The result is twofold: the same old folk will linger in Malawi’s institutions as key decision makers while, most of the time, they maintain a status quo that is rigid to many forms of change.

Youth unemployment in Malawi stands at 13.6%, mainly as a result of the job market’s reluctance to let in new entrants. Normally, this is a high number as well as a threat to national security by the very fact that a country would put in idle gear its physically and mentally agile, who are left with nothing but imagination as the primary occupation. The lucky few will have access to resources that suffice to finance business and entrepreneurial opportunities. Many will leave their fate to the hands of the Almighty, who usually has the liberty to respond with less urgency than wanted. Some, in finding more practical means to pass their idle time, in turn become statistics for their active contribution to Malawi’s impressive population growth record. Others will contract the HIV and facilitate its unrelenting spread.

Perhaps experience is more often a prerequisite for extraordinary professional outcomes. But some examples from our very own Malawi show that some of the most extraordinary feats have come from inexperienced youngsters, all of whom have been far from formal employment. William Kamkwamba was a not even finished with his Junior Certificate of Education when he learned to harness the wind in his village in Kasungu. Cored Nkosi had never seen the doors of an office of his own nor did he know the shape of a CV when he experimented with scrap metals and cables to turn kinetic water energy from the Kasangazi River in Mzimba into electricity. Felix Kambwiri thanks the freedoms of running his own garage that he was able to dream large and make his own helicopter prototype, which he dreams will take off the ground someday. And young Joyce Chisale may indeed, “little by little,” become a top-notch doctor who will save many lives besides her poetic talents. This website doubts very much that she will need to show a long CV to achieve what many Malawians will only dream to achieve.

To think about recruiting a fresh graduate into a key position sounds like laid-back enthusiasm for demise of one's organization. And sometimes it is. Yet it also embodies the risk of foregoing fresh ideas and talents that many of the organization’s leadership may lack after being socialized with habits and routines that become static with time. In a dynamic world, the business organization that will be unable to embrace new thought is unlikely to efficiently compete in a world whose pace of change has increased tremendously thanks to technological advancements and the freer flow of information.

For Malawi’s organizations, the pool of talent from which they can select the best is infinite, if at all compared to what they need. With more than 64% of the population falling in the category of the young, the number and expertise of younger people who can steer institutions into the future remain vastly untouched. This creates an opportunity for the organization to experiment with what is available almost on a continuous basis by setting up experimentation with young people’s breadth of creative imagination that may be most useful to organizations' operations. The cost to doing this is minimal as young jobseekers, with minimal responsibilities, are not ripe enough to demand too much just yet. However, the organization must be careful enough to quickly remunerate more competitively those it eventually employs in its longer-term operations with the view to retaining them and ensuring that its investments in them can pay back. This is vital as competitors are always on the lookout for the best in the industry and are usually ready to be more persuasive with tempting offers.

This website believes that the obsession with pasting years of experience on a candidate’s curriculum vitae is usually overstated. Although it certainly helps in certain circumstances, there is no real evidence that brandishing years of experience necessarily equates to mastery of the skills that a hiring entity requires for certain jobs. Particularly those jobs that require less routine and more adaptation to changes in the operating environment - and there are many of them in the contemporary workplace - show how competencies to adapt to fast-paced changes in tools, methods and approaches are more superior to experience. And, as many business processes go, including in automated production lines, one’s ability to harness and interpret information would become an asset for organizations.

By virtue of living in the digital age alone, the bulk of our youth are perfectly equipped to process data and interact with software and machines in intuitive ways. In many ways, blending those who bring experience to the work of an organization and a threshold of young talent that has been exposed to alternative – and usually modern – ways of approaching work is necessary for the survival of any institution today. Hiring with the view to advance a tolerable amount of free independent thought might help to move institutions a step further into the future.

If we take the example of the typical National Bank of Malawi (NBM) customer experience in their crowded banking halls today, the changes instituted come in the wake of many advances in technology that the institution has invested in. In a large part, this was to make the bank’s functions more efficient. Yet the bank appears to be in need of more radical thinking as the more likely solution to the plight of clients who deserve better. Once, NBM’s conventional solution to the problem was to install a guide, in flesh and blood, at a ticket machine that would spit out the number of the tills which would address their needs. Overcrowding, in response, got worse. And this new person enjoyed their newfound relevance more than they were to solving the challenge.

The youth are not only advocated for because of their numbers, but because of the possibilities that their talents and expertise may offer Malawi. The requirement to have them mysteriously gather years of experience before they can ripen for secure employment will continue to be a drawback for the advancement of not only business organizations but for Malawi as a whole. While the idea of the inexperienced youth draw on much of our excitement for what young people can do for the future of the country, the business organization needs to ponder an appropriate overhaul in its hiring principles.


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