• Not lack of employment but lack of skill

Not lack of employment but lack of skill

Not lack of employment but lack of skill

27 Aug 2021

I was in deep conversation with my dear friend Emre (Doğu) the other day. When our conversation looped around to the issue of unemployment, here I am with this article thanks to him. Let’s see what your take on this issue will be.

Unemployment is one of the most important problems in our country, one that has been a topic of conversation for years and one that is becoming even graver everyday.

The alarmingly high rate of unemployment, and the continuous upward trend creates an agonizing situation for each of us individually.

I looked up the definition of ‘unemployment’ in the dictionary: “It is the case of adults in any economic society who want to work but cannot find a job” (Keep that in mind, please, ‘can’t find a job even though they want to work’.

According to official data, the unemployment rate in our country is around 13 percent (TÜİK). In other words, we can say that while 87 percent of our total workforce has a job and thus an income, 13 percent is unemployed and without an income in our country today.

I think I can better elucidate the size of the disaster when I note that the rate above represents about 4 million people (and their families).

As you know, we always tend to say, “Let’s make the right diagnosis before we start treating the disease”. So, based on this analogy, would you think it would be the correct diagnosis of this disease to say that there is an unemployment problem in our country?

I don’t think so.

It is obvious that there is a problem of unemployment in the country, but let’s not forget that this is a result.

Unfortunately, there are several diseases that cause this problem/result, and one of them (perhaps the most important) is ‘lack of skills.

Let me try to explain by going through the metaphor of illness again. Sneezing is not a disease; the disease is called a cold. Sneezing is a symptom that appears as a result of catching a cold. That’s why the doctor treats the cold, not the sneezing (I hope I’m not making the wrong analogy).

In our country, unemployment is the result of another disease, perhaps the most important one, namely, the lack of skills.

Please do not get me wrong, of course, there are many countries in the world that have had or are experiencing unemployment problems regardless of the lack of skills or vocation, and of course, there will be others in the future, but I believe that the prevailing cause of unemployment in our country is lack of skills. I have been observing this for several years now.

Of course, by lack of skills/vocation, I am referring to ‘the state of not having knowledge and skills, even if these are simple and contain only some kind of expertise which can be used in a production activity.’

Again, I looked up ‘vocation in the dictionary, and it is defined as: “The permanent work that a person has taken on as his main field of work and from which that person earns a living.” What’s that again? ‘Permanent work’, which means that the work has to be sustainable.

The aim is of course to make a living, but the work we do to make a living needs to be sustainable so that we don’t lose our job, right?

So how does a job become sustainable?

When I consider this issue at a basic level, I think there is only one very solid answer to this question, ‘to know one’s work well and to do it well.’

When I look at our army of unemployed today, I see the lack of human capital suitable for the quality and quantity profile that ‘business life requires’ as the main reason, and our stubbornness as a society, determined to death to sustain the skills deficit.

Oh but please don’t mistake lack of skills with lack of education…

I think that the educated non-professionals make up a considerable mass in our country, because unfortunately very few of the education opportunities in our country create professionals out of their students (Now, this is also a very important problem).

Of course, there are many kinds of educational institution in the market that equip students with theoretical knowledge and make them more cultured and sophisticated individuals, but most of these institutions do not entail and provide or are even able to provide the knowledge and skills required for a profession—please think about that.

In general, many people who graduate from school have to learn a profession by starting their first job as an ‘unskilled worker’ in order to eventually make a living through that profession. And that is only for those who can or want to.

Besides the educated unemployed, there are the uneducated unemployed and their situation is even worse.

When we consider electricians, tailors, accountants, nurses, waiters, bus drivers, gardeners and other people with similar professions, we see or hear that even if these people lose their jobs for one reason or another, they are employed by a new employer in a short time and somehow find a job or an environment to work in very quickly. Because the need/demand for an individual with skills never ends.

With all these in mind, I naturally attribute the rise in unemployment and the number of unemployed people in our country to the increase in the number of people who have not been able to gain proper skills.

Earlier in my article, I mentioned the unemployment rate reaching up to 13 percent, but you know what’s even worse, the ‘youth unemployment’ rate is almost 25 percent.

In our country, where approximately 72 percent of the population is between the ages of 18-25 (TÜİK), I think it is necessary to focus not only on total unemployment, but also on youth unemployment as well as possible solutions.

In fact, I doubt that young people in this age range know the definition of vocational education.

When I look at 18-year-olds today, I see that they are stuck in a perpetual spiral of ‘exam preparation’, where their days, weeks, months and even years are wasted in an exam-focused loop.

How will these kids get their minds off lessons and exams to look at the current professions, the professions that will be needed in the future, or the kinds of skills and competencies these professions will require and of course the career paths that these professions can open up to them?

More importantly, how will they learn more about the subjects and skills they would be interested in and feel relatively strong about? Who will guide them?

The content provided by schools is very, very, very limited when it comes to these issues. Don’t even get me started on the families…

As a matter of fact, ‘the difference between how young people prepare for life in our country and in developed countries’ is also a great topic on its own that we should focus on, and if I can, I would like to address this subject in detail in my next article.

I know that this has been a very boring article, I’m sorry, but believe me, this is a very important subject.

What more could be added to the beginning or the end of all this?

One could write about the Village Institutes or America’s desire to close down the Village Institutes back in the day, one could also write about our countrymen’s endless desire for university degrees or the recently fashionable issue of merit (or lack of it) and so on an so forth.

But you already know these, and for those who don’t and are curious, here is Google.

Let me finish up with what I know and believe in. 

Don’t get me wrong; I’m not disregarding the benefits of a university degree. However, I think that it is much more important for the future of the country that we raise ‘professional’ people with a variety of skills, who will graduate from vocational schools, rather than producing ‘unprofessional’ people from so and so department at so and so university, and who are surplus to requirements.

Let me rewrite this with added emphasis:

– This country needs more vocational schools, not more universities.

– There is a need to correct and glorify the ‘perception of vocational education’ in the eyes of the people of this country.

– There is a need to reconstruct vocational education for the youth of this country.

Let’s recognize that vocational education is just as vital as intellectual education for this country. Those who manage education, those who set up schools as well as families and those who receive education must accept this.

Imaginary conversation overheard by the author:

Industrialist: I can’t find a technician.

Business manager: I can’t find an accounting specialist.

Repairman: I can’t find a journeyman.

Marketing director: I can’t find a graphic designer.

Carpenter: I can’t find a CNC operator.

Warehouse director: I can’t find a forklift driver.

Customs Officer: I can’t find a TAREKS expert.

Young person: I can’t find a job.

Employer: My child, what do you do?

Young person: Sir, I will do anything (Translation: I don’t know how to do any business).