I was in an Uber the other day, trying to mind my own business but failing dismally, when I decided to start a conversation with the driver, a young man who looked oddly familiar.
It turned out I may have bumped into him once or twice on campus because we attended the same university at the same time.
I was piqued. He told me he studied engineering and graduated a year before me. He said he had struggled to find a job after that and he was now working as driver to keep himself busy while he looked for a job.
This shocked me. Not because it was another story of how one went to university and remained unemployed. Everyone knows this is possible. I had classmates like him who graduated and couldn’t find jobs, only for them to settle for jobs that didn’t require any form of education.
I even know of former classmates who opted to study further because they couldn’t find jobs after graduation. This could happen to anyone. What shocked me is that if I didn’t find the job I’m in right now, it could have been me.
So let’s talk about the plight of young people and the struggles that come with growing up in an education system that encourages, or glamourises, tertiary education and tells you that it is the ultimate goal, and after earning your well respected degree, your life gets better.
Does it, really?
There was a study done by Cambridge International that said “85% of South African students aspire to continue their studies at university once they have left a school. In addition, many still aspire to go into the more traditional, highly respected careers like medicine and dentistry (13%), engineering (13%) and psychology and psychiatry (11%)”.
Involved in the study was Wallace Isaacs, deputy director: student recruitment and enrolment at the University of Pretoria. He said: “Going to university after high school is a journey that is still expected for students in South Africa by many parents, educators and the students themselves.
“I find a significant number of students aspire to pursue careers in what is considered more conventional but well-respected fields like medicine and engineering.”
The problem with only putting your eggs in one basket and aspiring to become a professional in these highly competitive fields that require tertiary degrees is the probability of you not getting the job.
No one owes you a job and if you don’t get a job, what do you do then?
After briefly telling me about his unfortunate circumstances, the Uber driver started telling me about his next new idea: to open a small company with his friends.
I glanced at his face in the mirror and I saw the glint of hope in his eyes as he spoke about it.
Just the thought that he didn’t have to rely on anyone for his next cheque or job perked him up.
He was going to take his own destiny into his own hands.
That, to me, is why entrepreneurship is important.
As unglamorous and exhausting as it may look, it gives you the power to free yourself from financial slavery, rudely brought to you by unemployment.