Unemployed Graduates in the Northern Province – making them employable graduates

A Concept Note


Recently there was a demonstration by the unemployed graduates of the Northern Province in front of the office of the Provincial Council of the Northern Province. This was shown in a Tamil TV News programme. When the Chief Minister arrived, the graduates blocked his passage and one of them asked why the Council is not doing anything to help these graduates to get employment. He responded by saying he would try to help them but that there is nothing he could do to provide employment for them. That prompted me to think whether the diaspora organisations could help these graduates in one way or the other.

After some effort it was possible to contact one of the leaders of the Unemployed Graduates Society of the Northern Province of Sri Lanka. It was learnt from them that there are about 2298 unemployed graduates in the five districts of the Northern Province. They could be classified broadly as follows:

All these show that there is a need to do a study of the current lot of unemployed graduates in the North to see how the organisations in the diaspora could help to make them employable. What the Post-Graduate Institute of Management Studies did then was to grade the graduates on the basis of the data they obtained about them, according to their marketability and provided them short term intensive courses in the basic skills and knowledge they should have to enable them to vie for positions available in the state and private sector effectively. Since a majority of the unemployed graduates were from the non-science streams, the Institute organised training for them in the fields such as -

B.Sc - 226
B’Sc (Agri) - 62
B.Com & BBA - 287
B.F.A. - 323
B.A. - 1135
Others - 265 M -
Total 2298

Approximately half of them are female graduates, some of whom are married.

These figures reminded me of a World Bank funded Project in Sri Lanka during the early 1990s. It was a project of the Post Graduate Institute of Management of the Sri Jayawardena University which was implemented under Prof. Gunapala Nanayakkara. They did a survey of the 8000 unemployed graduates in the whole of Sri Lanka and arrived at the conclusion that they are unemployable graduates rather than as unemployed graduates. It was so stated because most of them had got their degrees with subjects such as Tamil, Sinhala, Tamil/Sinhala culture and civilization, philosophy, Fine Arts, etc. and had done nothing more to equip themselves with any of the skills or knowledge that would enable them to start working straightaway, if someone employed them. The absence sufficient knowledge of English made them unsuitable for employment even in the private sector institutions in Sri Lanka inspite of some of them having 2 a first class degree. en. Perhaps many of the graduates who conconfronted a first class degree. When the graduates who confronted the Chief Minister of the NPC, asked why he has not done anything to provide employment for them, it shows that these graduates did not even know what a Provincial Council can do and what it cannot do.

English for communication;

Use of computers in their day to day activities;

Basic Management skills;

Knowledge of current issues in the development of the country;

Knowledge of the political and economic environment ;

Development of communication skills;

Inter-personnel issues in organisations and how to manage them;

For those with science degrees too they conducted a slightly different training to make their changes of getting employment more in their relevant fields.

Perhaps we could think of doing something similar to the the unemployed graduates in the Northern Province. Since the number of persons concerned is too large, we may consider a pilot project for these graduates from the Mullaitivu and Mannar Districts as their numbers are in the region of 15 to 20 per cent of the total population of unemployed graduates.

We may get the relevant particulars of such graduates in the Mullaitivu and Mannar Districts through the Unemployed Graduates’ Society of Northern Province and prepare a data base to find out their skills and inadequacies. An analysis of the data so collected could help us to identify the training needs of those graduates. We could then see how best those needs could be met by using the training skills available within the province.

We need to remember that among the unemployed graduates are those with degrees in the Information Technology field and in the field of Agriculture. The possibility of these graduates getting employment in the North, are high if they are equipped with the kind of skills this project is trying to impart to them. Among these graduates are also persons who have obtained first 3 class degrees in their courses of studies. They too would benefit greatly from the training we hope to provide.

A project proposal has to be prepared based on all this information and the data we hope to collect and funds could be sought from prospective funding agencies.

It is hoped that once they are so equipped, the prospect of these graduates getting employment in the relevant sectors would increase. Depending on the success of this pilot project, the training could be extended to cover the remaining graduates too. There is an expectation that under the present government investment in development projects in the Northern Province would get an impetus. That would again open new avenues of employment to these graduates. The organisations in the Tamil diaspora would then be able to make a meaningful contribution in helping the graduates in the Northern Province to find employment not just in the Northern Province but elsewhere as well.

Prepared by: M.C.M. Iqbal

For further particulars you may contact him at: iqbals37@gmail.com

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