Monday, December 17, 2012

December 17th, 2012

Fresh Air Matters... with Capt. Yaw

This is the last Fresh Air Matters of 2012 – so greetings and wishes of the best possible nature for you and yours! Now, niceties over, and back to business.

The aviation industry, just like all the other industries, relies on people. Yup, those variable, oxygen consuming, exasperating, necessary, wonderful, carbon based life-forms – just like you and me – that we call employees. People are necessary for the development of the business, the country and the planet. They can build it – or destroy it – simply based on their attitudes to work.

Now, I am not alone in being frustrated at the challenges of recruitment. Not at all. I hardly ever (OK, I cannot remember a single occasion) come across a leader of industry who finds ‘recruitment’ easy. It seems that finding the right talent is a not getting easier. Not at all. Standards seem to be lowering – and even reaching new lows, in some areas. At the same time, we see unemployment rising in many parts of the world, and it leads to the consideration ‘Is it that people are unemployable or do not want employment that is restricting growth?’ It could well be the case.

We have tried this year to recruit a full-time nurse and an administrator – without success. The primary reason given is ‘but you are not in the city.’ WOW. People prefer jobs in the city? I am dumbfounded. Who wants to work in the city?

When I probe further, I get told of the wonders of the city – night clubs, parties, friends, things to do… Well, those are not the people we want to employ! When I challenge some of the comments I learn ‘the city pays more money.’ Well, duh, that is because the city costs more… Everywhere in the world the city costs more to live in, and the salaries are adjusted accordingly. Rural dwellers often have a better quality of life, in my opinion.

More and more folks desire to live and work in the city, to earn more money to pay the higher bills, spend lots of time in congested traffic and to go to lots of social functions. OK, but are these the people we want in the industry? I wonder!

One young woman, who worked with us for a short time a couple of years ago, added a new dimension when we met by chance last week. ‘I needed to work in the city to meet a boyfriend’ she explained. Well, I guess that the boyfriends are all going to the city to find girlfriends too…

I am confused and, more importantly, concerned. Young people are migrating to the city for the wrong reasons. They are also losing sight of the real development potential of Ghana – the rural areas.

Rural areas offer a lower cost of living, more peaceful atmospheres, generally calmer people, and a different pace of life. Let us make some city ‘v’ rural comparisons.

The city is noisy and often dirty. Rural areas are quieter and the air cleaner. The city is hot and hurried. The rural areas are cooler and have a steadier pace. The city is expensive and about the ‘rat race’. The rural areas are less expensive and more about people.

Everybody must make their choices, and live with them. However, those who choose to live and work in the rural areas are going to be the outright winners in years to come. The city is congested and growth is limited. The rural areas have lots of expansion potential and growth is practically unlimited, at this point.

I see the ‘city-types’ yearning to travel to the rural areas at the weekends, yet never see the ‘rural-types’ yearning to visit the city – they only go there if they have to. It is time for the urbanites to open their eyes, and to stop spreading their malicious rumours about the city being paved with gold.

Those of us who are working in the rural areas, taking technology and skills to the point of need, are enjoying-oo! We really are… with the one exception, that of recruitment.

I can sit with a candidate who tells me how much more money they will earn in Accra or Kumasi compared to Kpong or Sogakope, but they will not listen to how much ‘nett earnings’ they will end up with after their expenses.

I fervently believe that many companies will start their relocation out of Accra in the coming years. The cost of operations there is too high, and the stresses of transport issues (average speed of less than 10kph) and the associated health issues that the city donates to its victims results in poor attendance.

I also propose that the employees who are ready to seek rural employment today will be the winners tomorrow. As the rural companies grow, the early staff are the long term winners. It requires patience and commitment, but the early joiners, who stay with the developing company through the tough times, are the long term winners.

It is quite possible for a rural worker to consider purchasing some small plot of land, and overseeing the building process, close to their place of work. Such is not possible for the urban worker. It all comes down to ‘what you want’. If you want to see growth and be a part of a company that is in development, then you will enjoy the rural business more than the city. If you just want to make some money, and hop from job to job, then the city is the best option. You have to decide.

I am more and more against employing people from the cities, even if they want to come out to the rural areas. They appear to come with an ‘attitude’ of ‘city-superiority’. Yet, I find the rural-origin personnel are more stable, committed and genuine in their approach – even if they need more training.

It reminds me of working in the French Alps, where one company had a policy ‘only to employ people who lived from above 2,000 feet up the mountains.’ The argument being that those from the valley had an easier life than those up the mountains and it affected their attitudes to work. Perhaps it is the same here. Those in the cities are not used to the same daily struggle that rural dwellers endure. Perhaps those who are used to the real struggle of living with fewer amenities appreciate having a job more than those who see it as ‘their right’ to have certain things?

2013 will be a year when rural developments make the headlines. With it I hope that the employers will give many opportunities to those who know how hard living the rural life is. Such staff will spend and invest their earnings into the rural areas. Employers must as a part of this ensure that the necessary training, to make sustainable rural growth a reality, is available.

Capt. Yaw is Chief Flying Instructor and Chief Engineer at WAASPS, and lead Pilot with Medicine on the Move, Humanitarian Aviation Logistics ( e-mail

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