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Career Guidance - Using ICT to enhance the appeal of career information

Hello Everyone,

I want to share with you some of the work am involved in. It is something that some of you may find interesting and therefore wish to share your own experiences too. Over a year ago I founded an organization called Careermate to help young people with career information. Although I have always known this problem of career guidance in our education system over my many years working in the sector, it was only last year that I was motivated to get involved more actively by setting up the organization. Earlier, before that, I was contracted to carry out a country wide assessment of the technical and human capacity of technical and vocational training centers in the country and the lessons and experiences from that undertaking compelled me to do something.

Since we started last year the response has been very encouraging.  I have never received such reception for a new idea in my whole working life and it shows just how far one can go when what you doing, is readily appreciated. I will regularly be sharing with you much of what is taking place on this platform. But I thought I should first give you some basic information about what Careermate is all about.

Basic background information: Unemployment in Zambia is a grave and growing problem. Of the total population of 13Million people, about 4.5 million young people mainly with basic and college level education are unemployed. Every year, about 400,000 new young people unable to proceed further in their education at University level, join the unemployed youths on the streets. The rate at which government is creating employment at 7,000 annually means it will take forever to solve this problem.  What compounds this problem further is that most young people seem keen only to work for somebody else or take up careers that are considered prestigious. And such jobs are fewer and hard to get. And yet the country knows that agriculture is the area with a great potential for employment. But because of the negative perceptions that young people have about agriculture, very few want to even go there. And the problem is not with youths but that generally career information about such less prestigious vocations, is poorly presented and less than inspiring. 

Additionally the country does not have a comprehensive career guidance programme in schools especially at technical and vocational level. Most young people enter and leave school without any idea of what they want to do. Many of them don’t really know their talents, and not even aware of the world around them. The type of career information available in Zambia is biased towards careers considered very prestigious such as Engineering, Medicine, Law and ICT. And in most cases this information is sponsored by commercial interest therefore very selective and misleading. When career information on Agriculture, Art, entertainment etc is found, it is often static, boring and less inspiring for young people. This in part leads to the negative perception of such field and prevents many young people from seeking career in these potentially viable vocations.  It is in these areas where the country can create enough jobs.  But to do that, we need to improve the way in which information in these areas is presented to young people. This is what Careermate is all about. .

Careermate is an educational trust setup to offer career guidance to youths in Zambia. The goal of Careermate is to usher more people into vocations or career fields generally considered as less prestigious but were employment or livelihood opportunities abound. E.g. Agriculture or Arts, Entertainment.

Our target is young people in two transitional stages of our education system i.e. senior secondary school and vocational training, where progression to higher level education is severely limited.

Careermate has three strategic programme components;

1. Career guidance - this is concerned with developing career guidance materials and sharing them with youths. The unique feature of this component is the way it uses ICT to enhance the appeal of career information and making it more interactive and interesting to young people. Here we use videos, high quality graphics as well as interactive content to fully engage the youths. The content is characterized by inspirational interviews and documentation of tasks performed in a particular job.

2. Sharing and Networking - the key feature of this component is activities to link youths to experts, knowledge and other leveraging initiatives. In this component we offer young people access to our digital library as well as conduct face-face career talks in training centers. During this time we share the career content we generate as well those our partners send us. Starting next year 2012, Careermate will embark on a programme to assist schools especially those with problems accessing Internet, to create more digital educational libraries of DVDs.

Another interesting feature of this component is the learning exchange. Here we are trying to facilitate learning exchange programmes with other youths within and outside the country.

3. Talent Development ; this component is concerned with assisting youths with talents to further develop their talents by offering them basic tools, facilities to practice. For instance, we offer our members access to music instruments to learn how to use them, or coaching and validation/contests on public speaking.

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