There is nothing more worrisome than the sight of thousands of youngsters, teenagers and un-employed youths fighting and jostling for a limited number of job opportunities, as was the case at a Lusaka plant this week. Close to 5,000 youths turned up for about 100 job openings that were being offered in a hair extension manufacturing company- a fairly menial undertaking.
Thousands others turned up for prospects when the Police and Armed forces announced openings.
The one common denominator in all cases is that the majority of school leavers have left school without any particular vocation but are instead seeking white collar jobs as a first preference hence any job will attract thousands of chancers.
In the job opennings available only a tiny proportion could be catered for and the rest have melted back into the community where they are whiling away their time looking for menial jobs. Each year more youths graduate from schools and higher institutions to join the swelling ranks of the unemployed.
One of the reasons why the youths voted for the Patriotic Front was the prospect of job creation. The campaign promises emphasized more jobs and more money in the pockets.
The youths were confident that Government would find means of resolving the problem by innovative, creative and sound solutions.
So far nothing has happened. There are promises of skills training in the National Service camps, but these will be fairly limited compared to the large number of youth without jobs.
A solution outside the box must be found. In essence the Government must launch a “marshal” plan that will cut across the capital and resource constraint to put youths at work.
The money that is being prepared for by-elections should be used to create “youth banks” that will go beyond the youth funds to enable young people establish business concerns through community effort and enterprise.
A comprehensive solution will involve the Government identifying the appropriate skill areas which can be readily promoted to generate income thereby increase national productivity.
For example the construction industry offers tremendous potential in this direction. The Government is constructing schools and hospitals which are subcontracted to foreign companies. The reality is that few foreign companies bring their own expertise, they depend on local workers who are either already trained or are trained on the job.
Instead of contracting foreign companies which inevitably expatriate profits, an effort should be made to mass train bricklayers, plumbers and electricians who can be amalgamated into construction teams under the supervision of construction graduates from the Copperbelt University to undertake such tasks.
There is no doubt that given appropriate supervision and guidance such Brigades will graduate to more challenging construction programmes.
Zambia can learn from such advancing countries as China which have fully enlisted the synergy of small business in utilizing the most abundant resource they have- human capital. Think out of the box.