A few years ago before the digital revolution took hold, doing a computer course was considered the edge of technological advancement. Now, it seems as if the use of computer for basic tasks such as typing comes almost naturally as children as young as 10 years old can do it flawlessly.
We live in an age where every new technology renders previous innovations obsolete and consequently careers.
As a result, careers that have been around for centuries no longer make the cut while careers that did not exist a decade ago are steadfastly on the rise. In other words careers are no longer about who you want to be but what value you can add to your community.
Sarah Kirabo is a Senior Six student at St Mark’s College, Namagoma whose career path has been illuminated with possibilities, and she has her father to thank.
“My father is not a highly educated man but one thing he has always told us, (my young sister in Senior Five and our younger brother) is that, ‘he is not educating us so that we become lawyers or pilots or any such a thing, but he is educating us so that we become better citizens able to serve our country and the people,” she says.
And because there are many ways one can serve people, Kirabo’s mind is open to possibilities of what she can do or become in the future.
“Because of this, I have grown to understand that education is not just to lead you to a particular career in future but to open up your eyes to opportunities. How you decide to exploit those opportunities does not necessarily depend on which profession one acquired at higher institutions of learning,” she asserts.
Solving issues at hand
It is important to note that the new technologically driven world is able to defy strict traditional professional barriers. Tom Muhinga is a student at Makerere University pursuing a Bachelors in Education but with a passion in building computer-related applications.
“I am not an IT student, but we are in a world that allows you to explore things beyond one’s profession. I had the interest in helping people maneuver around Kampala, so I taught self and came up with a transport application that can help one order for a special hire and boda boda services from their service provider of,” he explains, adding that he is still in the process of building the App.
Muhinga also thinks that this has been enabled by the information explosion and anticipates that with time, almost everyone will be able to work in other professional fields, rendering the strict ‘what do you want to be when you grow up’ question outdated.
On the one hand, Charles Okurut, a lecturer at Lira University, notes that among the challenges that have been highlighted in the current education system is the mismatch between what students study, and what the job market actually requires. “Our task today is to embark on a rigorous change of mind at policy level, to the teachers, students, parents and the general public. Opening our minds to embrace the unknown career field ahead of us because the earlier we realise that career trends are changing in Uganda and world over, the better,” he notes.
On the other hand, Harriet Nalukwago, a parent, says though some progressive parents no longer care a lot about strict orthodox professions/ careers as we know them and have adjusted to the thought of their children pursuing talent-based and locally applicable careers in the emerging fields of technology among others, a number of parents are still stuck in the past.
“I for example know a friend – a mother, who forced his son into pursuing an Accounting course at university though the child had wanted Music, Dance and Drama,” she says.
“I said look here, banks, organisations and individuals may not need accountants in years from now as they do today. Look at mobile money and mobile banking – they are taking away all the jobs a teller would have done. All she cared about was priding herself that her son was doing a ‘serious course’ at university,” Nalukwago says adding that the biggest challenge with parents is that they want their children to study for them forgetting that theirs was a different era with different opportunities.
Lydia Namutebi, a career guidance counsellor, observes that market trends, both local and global, have been constantly changing and reshaping employment opportunities.
She notes that with the use of technologies for communication and economic purposes, jobs are beginning to transform, and new ones are starting to emerge which means that unless our perceptions about work as a whole change we face a future where there is an abundance of both job displacements and mismatches.
“If you want to know how to guide a student in planning for future careers it would be advisable to take in in the exponential growth in the fields of artificial intelligence, robotics, autonomous vehicles, nanotechnology, biotechnology and quantum computing,” Namutebi explains.
Namutebi say the good news is that this development has come with numerous new business opportunities. She observes that unlike in the past, the most successful people are not those necessarily dealing in tangible things but those using their creativity to add value to their communities.
She further observes that skills such critical thinking and creativity are very essential qualities in the current atmosphere of the gig economy.
“The most successful careers these days tend to be those that solve an everyday task as creatively as possible. When you think of transportation Uber comes to mind, there are countless companies ready to clean, do shopping for you at just a click,” Namutebi explains.
Therefore, new career perceptions, attitudes, and competencies are important for success in the new economy.
The issue of irrelevant topics
John Bosco Sserwadda, headmaster Bunga Primary School, observes that in light of the rate of technological advancements employment changes, schools would be doing their students a disservice by sticking to the traditional way of teaching. “Instead of teaching children to become employees, we should be equipping them with skills that make them self-driven people who are able to create avenues for earning income while contributing positively to their communities” he advises.
One way Sserwadda is doing this is by weeding out the irrelevant topics that riddled subjects such as Mathematics, Social Studies and English. “We have since upgraded those subjects to become functional literacy and numeracy studies. We teach children using every day and practical examples and encourage critical thinking which equips them with skills at a very young age,” Sserwadda explains.