[OPINION] Why Todays Graduates Has Remained Unemployable And Unemployed By Cornel Osigwe

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The reason today’s graduates has remained unemployable and constantly unemployed can be likened to the story of the four characters: “Sniff” and “Scurry, and the two little people, “Hem” and “Haw” in the Newyork Times best selling business book- Who Moved My Cheese written by Dr Spencer Johnson.


According to the story in the book, at the beginning these four characters live in a maze, which can be seen as a representation of one’s environment, and looked for cheese, which also can be referred to as representative of happiness and success.


Initially without the cheese, the two groups, the mice and the two little people, formed a team where they travelled to look for cheese. One day both groups found a cheese-filled corridor known as “Cheese Station C.” Happy at their discovery, the two little people made the cheese station their comfort zone and fed from it on daily basis.


One day Sniff and Scurry arrived at Cheese Station C to discover that there was no cheese left, but they were not surprised. They had earlier noticed the dwindling supply of cheese and therefore mentally prepared for the arduous but inevitable task of finding new cheese elsewhere.


Leaving Cheese Station C behind, they begin their hunt for new cheese together. Later that day, Hem and Haw arrive at Cheese Station C only to notice the same thing, no cheese. Angered and annoyed, Hem demands, “Who moved my cheese?” The little people had counted on the cheese supply to be constant, and so are unprepared for this eventuality. After deciding that the cheese is indeed gone they get angry at the unfairness of the situation and both went home starved. They returned the next day hoping to meet another cheese supply but did not. Starting to realize the situation at hand, Haw thinks of a search for new cheese. But Hem is dead set in his victimized mindset and dismisses the proposal.


Meanwhile, Sniff and Scurry have found “Cheese Station N,” and new cheese. But back at Cheese Station C, Hem and Haw are affected by their lack of cheese and blame each other for their problem. Hoping for a change, Haw again proposes a search for new cheese. However, Hem is comforted by his old routine and is frightened about the unknown. He believed that one day the cheese supply will continue. Haw woke up one day and realized there won’t be any more cheese and decided to move on in search of another cheese some other place. He wrote on the wall for his friend to read, “If You Do Not Change, You Can Become Extinct”.


As Haw began his journey to find another cheese station he realizes that the cheese has not suddenly vanished, but has dwindled from continual eating. He has even began to smile again! He is realizing that “When you move beyond your fear, you feel free.” After a painstaking search, Haw one day comes across Cheese Station N, abundant with cheese, including some varieties that are strange to him, and he realizes he has found what he is looking for. After eating, Haw reflects on his experience. He ponders a return to see his old friend. But Haw decides to let Hem find his own way. Finding the largest wall in Cheese Station N, he writes some quotes which includes:


Change Happens

They Keep Moving The Cheese

Anticipate Change

Get Ready For The Cheese To Move

Monitor Change

Adapt To Change Quickly

Move With The Cheese

Enjoy Change! Etc


Cautious from past experience, Haw now inspects Cheese Station N daily and explores different parts of the maze regularly to prevent any complacency from setting in.


The above scenario aptly describes the current situation with some of the unemployed and unemployable Nigerian graduate. They seem not to be aware that the workplace has changed. They never anticipated the change that has happened in the workplace. Daily they keep lamenting; why are there no jobs in this country? Why am I finding it hard to get a job? Just like the character “haw” noted, they never anticipated change and they are suffering the consequences.

Today’s graduate where born to hear stories from our parents on how having education and a 4year degree is the pathway to success. They heard stories like: most times what you read doesn’t matter but just make sure you have a 4year degree and you are up for a successful life; that employers of labour are looking for graduates with best certificate and qualifications; that promotion in work comes by the number of years you spend in the organisation; that you don’t need to worry about retirement because there is a pension savings already done on your behalf by your employers.

Today’s graduate with this mindset went to school and struggle to pass through higher institutions and in most cases reading available courses, only to graduate and suddenly discover that there are no jobs and sadly too they are not employable. Today, they have been wondering what really happened. Why are there not enough jobs for them in this country and most especially they wonder why employers of labour tells them they are not qualified to fill in the available vacant positions.

They find themselves in a sad situation whereby an organisation looking for a vacancy of 500 workers will get over 50,000 resumes, a sad situation where an organisation cannot see enough Nigerian graduates to employ on certain job positions all because they don’t possess the necessary skills and certifications.

The truth is that times have changed. Charles Darwin, one of the greatest biologists in the world said “It is not the most intelligent or the strongest species that survives but the one that is responsive to change”. Today’s graduates therefore should note the following changes that have occurred in the workplace;

  • Higher need for specialized skills. Workplace of today is looking for people with specialized skills. Today’s graduate must enter into the labour market with specialized skills. The absence of specialized skills among graduates is the reason why many have remained not just unemployed but unemployable. For instance; how does a first class degree holder in sociology expects to be employed in a company that all its work mechanism is automated and technologically driven? These companies nowadays are looking for people with a specific specialised skill. Therefore 4 year degree is no longer enough.


  • Today’s employers of labour are not much interested in your certificate but highly interested in what you can offer and the skills you possess
  • Those who succeed are self-managing individuals who know their strengths, limitations and have confidence to follow their dreams.
  • Majority of today’s graduates lack the current competencies in today’s job. This is mainly due to the inability of our educational system to respond with curriculum upgrade to the changes that has taken place in the workplace. Most of the courses offered now are no longer necessary and current 21st century courses are not yet being offered in majority of our universities.
  • Our educational system has constantly failed to produce graduates that are well equipped for today’s workplace.

Today’s graduate therefore as a matter of urgency should start thinking of capacity building and the development of their skills and competencies. The workplace of today is changing and would be employees must keep pace with employers’ expectations. Today’s workplace doesn’t require individuals with general skills; it is in high need of individuals with specialized skills. Graduates therefore should be noted of having the ability to solve a particular problem in the workplace because that will be the only guarantee of getting not just a job but becoming employable.


Cornel Osigwe is a Career Development Consultant and the Executive Director of SELF Nigeria, a Youth Development NGO.

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