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President Edgar Chagwa Lungu. PICTURE: SALIM HENRY/STATE HOUSE ©2017

Manage the youth asset

WHEN the Zambia Correctional Services advertised its 200 vacancies last month, a record 30,000 youths countrywide responded.The massive response is a testimony of the high demand for employment by the youth to get jobs, start earning income, settle and have respective families.
But not all the youth who have dropped out of school can be absorbed by formal employment.
In fact, the number of young people dropping out of school – including graduates churned by colleges and universities each year – in the last decade has increased exponentially.
This is because Government has massively expanded the higher education sector in the recent past.
The number of public and private colleges and universities has increased but the job market has somewhat remained static despite the various measures Government and the private sector have taken to create jobs.
Being a nation with a growing young population, there is need to cash in on this demographic dividend.
But like President Edgar Lungu observed in Kafue yesterday, some frustrated young people are abusing the demographic dividend.
At the 2017 commissioning parade of officer cadets’ orientation course intake 10 at Zambia National Service (ZNS) Kafue military training school, President Lungu noted the posting of fake recruitment advertisements on social media to attract desperate youths and individuals.
The President said this is a wake-up call for Government and all other stakeholders that there are many youth in dire need of life skills to enable them to be self-reliant.
The President regretted the sudden mushrooming of youth gangs in some parts of the country, especially the Copperbelt Province, one of the vices of having most of the youth idle.
President Lungu has therefore noted the need to empower young people with necessary skills to enhance their employability – either by the formal sector or indeed the informal sector.
This calls for alternative forms of employment, and life-sustaining skills are the way to go for Zambia.
Government’s commitment to opening up more youth skills training centres in some of the ZNS strategic units across the country is timely.
The country’s unemployment rate is a time bomb in-waiting as alluded to by the President if unattended to, hence the need for Government to redress the situation.
Life-sustaining skills such as agriculture, metal fabrication, tailoring, cooking, information and communication technology can enable the youth to form co-operatives, which can be financed through the Youth Empowerment Fund and the Citizens Economic Empowerment Commission, among other institutions.
This gesture will certainly help mitigate the high unemployment among youth and contribute positively to national development.
The youth are future leaders and they should start becoming useful and productive in good time.
By equipping them with appropriate skills, Government will not only make them ready for the demands of the labour market but also make them self-reliant.
While Government is doing everything to find the best for young people, the private sector and the Church among other stakeholders should also help or up their game in mitigating challenges posed by the youth.