ONE of the reasons why local university graduates lack skills employers are looking for is because the private sector is often reluctant to accept students for field attachment.
Speaking on the first day of the East Africa Academia- Private Sector Partnership Forum and Exhibition 2013 at Kenyatta International Conference Centre, various speakers expressed concern about the lack of cooperation by some organizations when it comes to giving students internship opportunities.
There have been persistent complaints by the private sector that the graduates being churned out of local universities in the region lack the skills necessary to drive East African economies.
"We sometimes have to beg some private organisations to give our students opportunities to do their field industrial attachment," said Dr Tombola Gustave, Vice-Rector for Academics at the Rwanda Tourism University College.
The reasons for this problem, the forum heard, include fear of leaking company secrets, as well as avoidance of financial commitment. Uganda's Madhvani Group was praised as one of the companies having an excellent arrangement for assisting students to benefit from industrial attachment.
Failure by the private sector to cooperate with the academia in developing the human capacity needed by East African countries is bound to derail both social and economic development efforts in the region, the forum was told.
"Human capital is our greatest asset and we must utilise it if we are to realize our development agenda," said Prof Keto Mshigeni, the Vice-Chancellor of Hubert Kairuki Memorial University in Dar es Salaam during his keynote presentation to the forum.
The ongoing efforts to bridge the academia and the private sector through public sector engagement were applauded by the more than 200 participants.
Some of the key areas of partnership, the forum noted, include research, science and technology, development of new technologies and innovations. This will translate into mutual benefit for both sectors.
There is need to cooperate in the area of curriculum development so that learners can be provided with an education that will enable them to contribute to both social and economic development, the forum heard.
As a result, close collaboration between the academia and the private sector is called for in developing the university curriculum. What will be taught at the university will have to have the content that meets the common good of both sectors.