Career guidance: Become an honest carpenter, tailor or fabricator

By Denis Jjuuko

Dominic visited a mutual friend who was finalizing building his house somewhere in Kampala. He found a carpenter who was fixing wardrobes and liked what he saw. Got the carpenter’s contact so he could do similar work at his home. The mutual friend had so far been happy with the work done.

Within that week, the carpenter visited Dominic’s residence and quoted for the wardrobes. They bargained for a fee and Dominic made a deposit. After a few weeks, the carpenter delivered some boards and asked for more money to pay for this and that.

Dominic made another deposit. It is more than year now since the carpenter last showed up at Dominic’s house. The boards are gathering dust and probably harboring snakes and other scary reptiles. The work at the mutual friend, which was fully paid for has also never been finalized.

Half the time, the carpenter’s display shop is closed. Dominic and the mutual friend have committed never to recommend him to anyone. He has completely shut himself out of business to may be a potential 10 or more clientele base these two people would have recommended.

But this particular carpenter is not alone. Many people in the crafts industry behave the same way, giving their customers near heart attacks before the work is finalized, if at all. Almost everyone has a story with tailors, metal fabricators, mechanics, electricians, builders and plumbers among others.

One of my closet friends says he will never recommend any of such people to anyone. He doesn’t want to be blamed for other people’s failures. I recently withdrew a recommendation of some guy who had worked with friends and relatives for some time. Some of the friends who had worked with him for many years said he was no longer trustworthy. I, like my friend, I didn’t want to run amok.

This, however, isn’t new in Uganda. It has been the case for years. Campaigns have been started to streamline work processes in what people consider blue collar jobs. In fact, I first worked on a campaign like this in 2005.

What we consider blue collar jobs is the bedrock of many of the world’s biggest economies. Japan, Germany and South Korea have all excelled by having many of their workers in these technical jobs. Norway has the highest amount paid per hour for blue collar workers at US$57.53 followed by Switzerland, Belgium and Denmark (all paying more than US$50 an hour) according to a report by Bloomberg. Germany though has the highest working conditions.

Blue collar work has been misunderstood and found unworthy in Uganda and I think largely because of the way the people in these jobs I mentioned above have been behaving —failure to honor their word and in many cases outright theft. All these jobs are due for disruption and have the biggest potential in the market.

Look at the automotive industry as an example, there aren’t many Ugandans who aren’t dreaming of buying vehicles. And the vehicles the majority of these Ugandans buy (or can afford) are really old which require constant and high-quality service and maintenance. Many are becoming electric, which requires new skills.

I am yet to meet a Ugandan who doesn’t wish to own a house or some property of sorts. Even those who may not wish to own, they still need buildings to live in and operate their businesses. There is a lot of work here.

Now that the Primary Leaving Exams (PLE) have been released, parents are looking forward to the secondary ones both for senior four (Uganda Certificate of Education – UCE) and senior six (Uganda Advanced Certificate of Education – UACE). Many times, the finalization of these education levels lead to what careers people will pursue, some of them for a lifetime.

Parents, guardians and teachers struggle to advise the children on what careers to pursue. There is an obsession with academic degrees and the so-called white-collar work but there are also a lot of disruptions in this sector with increasingly fewer jobs than ever.

A friend, who is a lawyer in Kampala, sent me a message the other day saying that his law firm used to make some money helping people register businesses, get documents registered and all that. The Uganda Registration Services Bureau (URSB) has digitized that process that one can simply register their businesses and do whatever they need with URSB online, cutting out law and audit firms that were providing this service.

So, if you are struggling for which career for your child to pursue, why not go for technical education? But ensure that more than the technical skills, it is honesty that will keep them in the job so that people like Dominic don’t wait for years to get their wardrobes fixed.

The writer is a communication and visibility consultant.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *