Azerbaijan International

Winter 2003 (11.4)

Readers' Forum
Qualified and Trained, But Still no Jobs

One of the greatest concerns of youth these days is to find a good job. Since the collapse of the USSR, the process of guaranteeing university graduates jobs has lost its prestige. In the past, universities used to almost guarantee their graduates jobs in the public sectors. Nowadays, a similar system may still exist, but the question is: how attractive and well-paying are those "guaranteed" jobs?

In the early 1990s, when foreign companies first started to appear in Azerbaijan, students and graduates who spoke English were in great demand and found jobs that paid much more than what their parents earned. It didn't matter much whether a graduate possessed professional knowledge or not, the ability to converse in English was the main qualification for landing these jobs. Many graduates from the State Foreign Languages University were the first to be employed. Graduates from other universities (such as Law, Economics and Medicine) who spoke English were also employed, but rarely in roles related to their academic background.

During the same period, various educational exchange programs were put in place by foreign governments, offering students at various education levels (high school to graduate master's levels) the opportunity to spend a year or more abroad in academic study. As time passed, more and more students returned home, speaking English. Knowledge of English still remains the key success factor, but there are now many more youth who can demonstrate a desirable level of language fluency and basic computer literacy. Consequently, the competition for jobs has increased, but the market has neither developed nor expanded to offer more jobs.

Perhaps, this is a natural process, and we'll have to wait until the market picks up and we develop a more diversified economy with multiple industries. Until that time arrives, I foresee many Azerbaijani youth earning advanced degrees abroad but remaining outside of Azerbaijan to pursue what they perceive to be as greater opportunities for career development in foreign markets.

With the oil revenues that are predicted to come soon to Azerbaijan, it's critically important that the government does its best is to create opportunities to attract some of the most qualified members of the younger generation to return back home.

There are many well-known systemic problems that have contributed to the worsening of our national education system. My main concern is that we build a more merit-based system, especially in the public sector, to attract highly qualified youth. It is evident that many of us shy away from government jobs due to the lack of adequate pay and limited opportunities for career development. Nepotism should definitely be routed out as we move into a new era.

Khalig Dadashev
Alumnus of Khazar University (Baku)
and Yale University (USA)

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