Finding a job can be hard for graduate students. Agri-food graduates in Ethiopia seemingly struggled to find work because jobs were scarce. When Ayalew Kassahun worked with the Wollo University in Ethiopia in 2019 he noticed that job scarcity wasn’t necessarily the reason that graduates remain unemployed. The assistant professor at the Information Technology group worked with the Wollo University as a volunteer. Having been successful in his field of work, he had joined an IOM program called CD4D (Connecting Diaspora for Development) as a way to give back to his home country. “My work with the Wollo University aimed at the development of a short-term training program on farm-and-food technologies and data analytics” says Ayalew. “But while I worked on the training program, I noticed that there was a gap between what type of candidate companies seek and the kind of graduate that universities produce. Because of the gap job openings remained unfilled, while graduates kept on looking for work.”
Ayalew arranged a visit to three Dutch businesses in Ethiopia to better understand the mismatch between university curricula and company demands. The management of the companies and the academic staff held an open discussion on what the businesses needed in terms of the skill sets of the graduates. With newfound clarity on the gap between university curricula and company demands, Ayalew and other CD4D experts began looking for a way to bridge this gap. “A facility of the European Union called EUDiF came on our path in 2020” says Ayalew. “This facility helps professionals who became successful abroad to give back to their country of origin. In 2021, with help from EUDiF, we were able to team up with the Wollo University to develop a new curriculum. Work began, with the aim to develop a new curriculum that would bridge the gap between graduates’ skills and company demands.”
One way in which the new curriculum will help graduates to find a job is by teaching them entrepreneurial skills. Graduates with these skills are able to start their own businesses. Current figures show that most startups from graduates fail. Graduates with failed start-ups have greater success in finding jobs at a company, though. By trying their hands at starting a business graduates acquire valuable experience. And that is what counts for an employer. Ayalew presented the new curriculum at Wollo University at the end of the summer of 2022.
“In January 2023 I will be back in Ethiopia to deliver a course on Modern Agri-Food Business Value Chains. Me and my fellow experts will be able to surprise the participants in the new curriculum. When a Dutch organisation heard about the good work that we were doing, they gifted us with 20 laptops and 150 wifi extenders. Their gift will help the students in Ethiopia to have the tools to follow the course and develop the skills that they need to find a job when they graduate.” In the meantime, Ayalew has been named as one of CD4D ambassadors and continues to promote the program. “I hope to inspire others to give back to their country of origin, just like I was able to do through the program.”