For the past decade, youth unemployment has been the concern of the government, the private sector and the civil society in Mauritius. For far too long, emphasis has been laid on hard skills at the expense of soft skills. Our youth perform very well academically and have been prepared to succeed in exams. But when it comes to looking for a job, applying for it and attending interviews, unfortunately only a few young people get through.
The Human Resource Development Council (HRDC) conducted the labour shortage survey in the months of July to October 2011. Nearly 1100 employers participated in the survey that aimed at measuring and understanding the current state and pattern of skills as well as the future evolution of the manpower landscape in Mauritius. One of the major findings of this survey has been the identification of the employability/soft skills that employers are looking for. Based on this survey, and realising that, in this increasingly competitive world, the accomplishment of jobs has evolved to more than just having qualifications and technical skills, the Open University of Mauritius (OU) developed short soft/employability skills courses that would provide the opportunity to everyone to acquire these skills that are as important as the academic qualifications especially in an era where knowledge is evolving rapidly. Experts from the industry were selected to form a team to develop the study materials. The experts from the industry were thoroughly briefed about development of ODL materials. The staff of the Open School Division produced all the materials in collaboration with employers. Each short course, of varying duration, comprises several videos showing the application of the employability skills at the workplace.
These courses include Job Search, Body Language, Time & Priority Management, Interview Skills, Negotiation Skills, Internet & Social Media, Presentation Skills and Public Speaking Skills.
However, one major issue that needed to be addressed was the empowerment of our youth so that they can perform well during a selection interview. The short course “Interview Skills” was produced with a view to giving crucial information that is very important and relevant to every applicant who is preparing for an interview. While our Mauritian youth, including school leavers and young graduates, were striving to find a job, there were some vulnerable youth who were struggling hard to join the workforce – the Chagossian*youth. There are about 10000 Chagossians living in Mauritius, many of them living in the poorest regions facing difficulties such as drugs, alcohol, unemployment, prostitution and ‘poor’ education. Indeed, the scars of exile and suffering are not only in their hearts but are also reflected in their standards of living which are still very meager. They have always tried to integrate into the Mauritian society, but it never successfully happened.
* The depopulation of Chagossians from the Chagos Archipelago was the compelled expulsion of the inhabitants of the island of Diego Garcia and the other islands of the British Indian Ocean Territory (BIOT) by the United Kingdom, at the request of the United States, from 1968 to1973.