Don’t Go to University, Go to a Trade School! Learn a Skill


By Ian Ortega

A lot of young people are wasting time at University. Not only are they wasting time, they are wasting money will no clear return on investment. They come out of University, more or less the same way they went in, just a little bit older in body but not in thoughts. Then they hit the job market and voila, reality hits home!

If I had to do it all over again, I would cut my education short as fast as possible. Uganda as a country is not in need of University graduates, it’s the biggest illusion ever! What we need as a country are trade skills! And if government cut down funding to University and shifted its focus to trade schools, unemployment would drop in an instant and the economy would skyrocket.

Unfortunately, that’s not the case. We are running a system that’s completely out of touch with the needs of this young economy. Here’s what we need to be doing with our young men and women.

The most our young men should be doing is studying up to Senior Four (Ordinary Level). Beyond this, these young men and women should be getting real skills to use in the real world. In this case, they should be joining trade schools. If we focused our efforts as a country on trade schools, it wouldn’t take long before we become the market leader in a skilled market force.

Imagine having a country that produces the best plumbers, welders, fabricators, electricians, heavy equipment operators, beauticians, appliance repairs, construction trades, cosmetologists, mechanics to mention but a few. These skills will never go out of vogue. They are not about to be automated!!! And they will always be in short supply. That already means that the country would be occupying its Unfair Advantage on the market.

Africa and the world at large will have to be looking at Uganda for these skills that the world can’t find. Take a look at the oil and gas industry. Almost every Ugandan has enrolled for a certificate in oil and gas. And that is another bubble. The oil and gas industry is or will be in short supply of certified welders when it goes on full throttle. As you can guess, most of these will probably come from Kenya or Ethiopia. Because? You can’t find enough welders in the country. You can’t find great pipe fitters in this country. You can’t even find people skilled enough to do proper house tiling. You move around some of the hyped hotels in this country and tiles are already warping out.

What if for a moment we stopped chasing this white collar illusion and embraced a trade skill? What if Universities would be measured on their ability to transfer actual skills to the students upon graduation? For now, we are having majority of the population going to University to chase ‘useless degrees.’

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