The theme of the upcoming GBSN/EFMD Joint Conference in Africa - Markets Shaping Management Education – touches on a question of huge global concern: why do so many of the world’s employers have such a hard time finding the talent they need, while massive unemployment persists?
One of the answers is that in all too many countries employers and educational institutions live on different planets. A recent World Bank country report notes that “Kenya’s education system is failing to meet market needs, as it does not prepare the labor market entrants with appropriate skills. Although the quantity of graduates is rising rapidly, businesses are increasingly complaining about shortages of skills in the labor market.” According to the African Management Initiative, “In Nigeria, there is a significant and growing mismatch with graduates not prepared for the job market.”
A second mismatch, which is prevalent especially in low-income countries, is the fact that most people earn their living in the “informal sector” and not in sizeable companies. Improving their living standards requires entrepreneurial skills, yet most business schools are still geared to producing recruits for established companies.
In the words of an excellent report by the Association of African Business Schools and the Association of MBAs: “Demand for better management education is increasing throughout Africa, and there is a real need for provision to expand to meet this demand. There is a predominant focus on executive education, short interventions and business support services. Shorter, flexible and more hands-on learning are increasingly seen as the most effective ways to deliver management education. Entrepreneurship education has become a critical aspect of the offer with a raft of initiatives looking to support small to medium-sized businesses and entrepreneurs alongside a greater emphasis within post-graduate management education on enterprise. The MBA is not widely seen as the most relevant choice for many students.” In other words, a second mismatch exists in the developing world between markets, which demand “bootstrapping” entrepreneurial talent, and traditional business schools that produce managerial employees.
An article entitled “Graduate Unemployment In Ghana: Who Is To Blame?” lays the blame as follows:“There are fewer job openings relative to the vast number of students who graduate from the various tertiary institutions in the country. One root cause of the current graduate unemployment is the mismatch between the supply (by schools) and the demand in the labour market. The skills and experience that employers require are quite different from what jobseekers possess. … Most universities have virtually ignored giving training in entrepreneurship and innovation to equip students for self-employment; therefore most graduates have tended to be jobseekers rather than job creators.”
A sad testimonial to the disconnect between markets and education is the existence in Ghana, Nigeria, and probably other countries, of unemployed graduates.
Nor is the disconnect unique to Africa. A report by the Asian Development Bank notes that “A paradox of higher education particularly evident across Asia is that, even at a time when countries are producing a record number of graduates, employers complain of a shortage of qualified workers, and graduate unemployment continues to creep higher. There is growing concern among employers that graduates’ knowledge and skills are not consistently aligned with labor market needs. Indeed, whether countries have too few or too many graduates depends on what kind of graduates are being produced.” Alarming surveys of India show that a majority of business and engineering graduates are for all practical purposes, unemployable.
Specific skills most often thought to be lacking are precisely those which high-quality business schools are particularly good at imparting: critical thinking, problem-solving, decision-making, strategic thinking, being good at team work, and effective communication. Good business schools ground teaching in real-world problems by means of experiential learning, developing and teaching relevant cases and other pedagogical tools. They leverage the power of the internet, tapping relevant educational materials and nurturing learning communities. Mobile education, which is in its infancy, also holds a huge potential to narrow the skills gap. Leading business schools in Africa as elsewhere work in close partnership with the private sector as well as public sector employers in shaping their offerings. They share best practices by engaging their leaders and faculty in international, regional and national fora. And in doing so, they contribute their energies toward achieving the new global Sustainable Development Goals.
At the conference in Accra this November we look forward to a vibrant dialogue with educators from across Africa and around the globe on advances and trends that will shape management education for the Continent going forward. Leaders from the business sector and academia will come together with students for conversations around industry-specific needs. Innovative educators from Africa will share new programs and approaches to management education. Researchers will give insights into the various markets that business schools serve. And delegates will have the opportunity to debate, network, share and learn with a diverse group of colleagues who share a commitment to improving access to quality management education in Africa.
GBSN and EFMD are excited to be partnering for this special conference hosted by GIMPA and encourage any educator with an involvement, interest or even curiosity around business education in Africa to join the conversation.
Earlybird registration ends on September 15, and thanks to the support of our sponsors a discounted rate is available to African faculty and deans who register. Find out more and register today at gbsn.org/africa2016.
Guy Pfeffermann is the founder and CEO of the Global Business School Network.