I’ve just returned from conducting workshops in Harare as a U.S. State Department speaker specialist. The focus of my work was to introduce the concept of career planning and advising and to discuss how to develop a stand-alone career service office. You can listen to this podcast where I was interviewed by the Embassy’s Public Affairs Counselor about my work and observations http://harare.usembassy.gov/podcast.html
I met with teams from the country’s major public and private institutions. At this time, there are no trained career staff at any of the nation’s universities. Sometimes Deans of Students play a career advising role, sometimes faculty make themselves available; however, there is no systematic effort at any institution to prepare students to integrate their academic work with their career goals. But Zimbabwe’s higher education system does provide a very unique opportunity for students to gain substantial practical experience in the workplace –in their third year, all students are required to obtain an “attachment” with an employer which lasts the full year. The difficulty is that in their British structure, there are not a sufficient number of placements for students in the varied professional “faculties.” It appears students in the Faculty of Commerce have the easiest time although I left unclear as to how the process of identifying prospective placements takes place. In the absence of a career office to plan and implement this system, it appears to be a somewhat haphazard combination of faculty contacting people they know and/or of students themselves going out into their communities to ask if an employer would take them on.
Unemployment for graduates is extremely high and there is a lack of diversity of businesses apart from banking, mining and financial services companies to a more limited degree. The economy does not now provide a sufficient base of revenue to improve the poor infrastructure at universities nor does it adequately provide funds to fully staff their institutions. Those whom I met and worked with were exceptionally motivated to improve career planning for their students in whatever way they could. They understand how weakened the country is due to the exit – ongoing for many years – of the country’s best and brightest students (educated at elite private schools and usually then going on for their further education in South Africa, Europe or North America). They know there is a need to professionalize the student affairs function of career advising…but for the near term, they must make do with much less.
The following explanation about university attachment programs comes from a staff member at the Embassy in Harare:
Of the 10 universities, I think only 7 require ALL their students to have an internship. At the University of Zimbabwe (UZ) it’s mostly students from the Faculties of Commerce, Law, Rural & Urban Planning and Engineering I think who are required to do attachment. At the Women’s University in Africa, only students doing social sciences have an attachment component this applies to Great Zimbabwe University as well. Of the state universities, the National University of Science & Technology (NUST) degree from the onset had an attachment component to them. GZU, BUSE, CUT and MSU which were established after NUST followed suit. Catholic University, Solusi and Africa University (private) also started out with the attachment component built into all their degree programs. The UZ is incorporating this aspect in phases, thus only a few faculties have attachment. The trend is that more often than not, students usually get employment with organizations that they have interned with and this put students that don’t have attachment as a requirement at a disadvantage.