Degree in hand, now what?

Published: Sunday | November 11, 2012 Comments 0

Aubyn Allen, Contributor

With the euphoria of collecting my degree from former Prime Minister Edward Seaga, lots of joyous smiles, proud hugs and tons of pictures, one would assume that I was on cloud nine. For one of my friends, the rapture of a one-night stand with his canister that contains his bachelor's degree was just that - a one-night stand.

A fitting end to that would have been being able to report for work, however tired, on Monday morning. The feeling that some of us are left with is close to a sour aftertaste with a lingering question, "Degree in hand, now what?"

I graduated two Saturdays ago with my schoolmates from the University of Technology, Jamaica, achieving a Bachelor of Business Administration with a major in finance and banking and a minor in economics.

Let me be frank: I am not saying that nobody has got jobs, but what percentage of the graduating class is actually working? I now feel that even though I am proud of my accomplishment and the knowledge that the next step is my master's, it is merely now a piece of paper.

WHY BUILD FOREIGN COUNTRIES?

It is disheartening to hear business people encouraging students that they should be considering working overseas. My dream was to be able to build a Jamaica that we all could be proud of, not having to go overseas to build another country. The reality is, however, that is the case.

For some of my friends, the journey to the next chapter has been a long and disappointing road. In an article published in this paper on Monday, November 5, 2012, my former classmate Jerold Davis pointed out that he has sent out almost 200 applications and has so far received one reply.

The minister and other officials - and even Mr Berry, my former economics tutor - pointed out that we should choose career paths that would be sustainable in a changing working environment. My issue with that statement is that if that is the case, should we not also choose career paths that we would enjoy? No one wants to be in a job they do not like and cannot see the sense of getting out of bed to do.

I will not say I have even sent out 100 applications, but I have certainly sent out much more than I thought I would have needed to submit. Friends of mine are currently working in jobs they cannot stand and that they are overqualified for that barely meet their monthly expenses.

The Government may have a theory about how to create jobs, but one has to wonder if it is going about it the wrong way. In the months leading up to the general election, it came up with the Jamaica Emergency Employment Programme (JEEP). Many people said that the JEEP was rolled out and was ready 'to touch the road', but the driver forgot that it had no gas, tyres and had engine problems.

To be honest, I believe that they got at least one thing right, the fact that Jamaica has an emergency where employment is concerned, and a programme is indeed necessary. I have seen people working on roads, clearing bushes, and cleaning drains. I wonder how this will help a person who graduates with honours in business, law or pharmacy.

In September, the Government signed an agreement to create 40,000 jobs for university graduates and qualified persons. I thought, "Now they are making progress." Yet I find it disturbing that the persons managing this initiative would not even send a reply to let you know that they have actually received your application.

ALL ABOUT CONNECTIONS

In this current working environment, if you do not possess a 'link' or a certain 'chain', the possibility of gaining work seems dim, at best. I dream of the day when you do not get a job because of your political persuasion or people you may know, but because of the work you can do and the difference you can make.

In school, they told us that they are training us to build our own businesses so that we can employ people. It is a nice concept, but not necessarily realistic. Many people with ideas will not get the funding they need to start their own businesses. People will still have to search for jobs, especially those who have loans to repay.

For some of us, after years of blood, sweat and tears, midnight snacks over books and all-nighters studying for exams and working on projects, I believe we are being cheated. Cheated out of realising our full potential; cheated out of the money invested in improving our human capital; and cheated Jamaica out of talent that is being wasted on the street corner, on the bed and on computer games because of lack of jobs.

So after our years of schooling, a glitzy graduation ceremony, dreams and aspirations, I still ask the power brokers, "Degree in hand, now what?"

Email feedback to columns@gleanerjm.com and ajallen09@gmail.com.

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