Changing perspectives at  Kandahar job fair

By Creative Associates International

July 29, 2013

Kandahar-job-fair
Employers discuss business needs with job seekers over tea at Kandahar’s job fair. © Nazir Ahemad / OHW

For many companies in Kandahar, conducting “business as usual” has little to do with hiring the most qualified employees.

Haji Nazir Ahmed, a representative of Anadara Private Gas Company, says most businesses emphasize “trust” over capability—the result of prolonged insecurity and the city’s onerous customs regulations.

Instead of seeking the most skilled applicants, employers often hire trusted relatives, friends or tribal members regardless of their credentials. This modus operandi ultimately weakens Kandahar’s business community and stifles economic growth, while leaving the most skilled applicants unemployed and frustrated.

“Finding qualified skilled labor is difficult in Kandahar,” says Ahmed. “But it is necessary for the growth and competitiveness of our company—growth that indirectly benefits the security of our region.”

When Ahmed participated on his company’s behalf in the first-ever Kandahar Job Fair in late April, he was helping modern employment practices gain a foothold in a largely traditional context.

Supported by the USAID-funded Afghanistan Workforce Development Program (AWDP), the job fair was organized by the Organization of Human Welfare (OHW), a Kandahar-based NGO that specializes in preparing women to successfully compete in the city’s job market.

Seven private firms including Anadara Private Gas Co. attended the fair, which attracted 33 mid-level job seekers including nine women. The attendees had a range of educational backgrounds, from high school dropouts with five to ten years of work experience to university graduates.

Though the event itself bucked traditional hiring practices, it was true to local custom in other ways: the job seekers—mostly from Kandahar—became acquainted with their potential employers over tea.

“I never thought that employment could be found through such a process,” says Bassria, a woman who attended the one-day event.

The fair was the first step toward enabling the private sector to gain greater access to capable job seekers based on their qualifications.

It also marked a new beginning for the labor force in Kandahar, which can benefit from changing local perceptions of how employers can benefit by extending employment opportunities to a wider pool of skilled workers. It is a crucial stepping stone for attracting talent to the struggling city.

If companies like Anadara Private Gas Co. succeed in finding able employees through new vehicles like the Kandahar job fair, they may be willing to look beyond their traditional networks and tap Afghanistan’s growing pool of talent.

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