Saturday 3 November 2012

Skills deficit denies Kenyan youths gainful employment

A section of youths who turned up at a past KWS recruitment at Busia Municipal stadium.Picture courtesy of West FM
Kenyan youths are struggling to secure decent form of employment largely due to insufficient vocational skills and social capital alongside limited understanding of market dynamics.

Experts said on Thursday that solution to Kenya's unemployment crises hinges on overhaul of post secondary education to make it relevant to an evolving economic landscape. "Many young people around the world especially in poor countries are leaving school without the skills they need to thrive in society and find decent jobs. These education failures are jeopardizing equitable economic growth and social cohesion, while denying countries a chance to reap from potential benefits of their growing youth population," Acting Director of UNESCO Multi-sectoral Office in Nairobi, Abou Amani said.He spoke during a forum on youth education and employment at the University of Nairobi. The open forum brought on board university students, faculty and industry to discuss how tertiary education can be transformed to enable the Kenyan youth secure decent jobs.

A critical proportion of Kenyan youths have enrolled in universities and colleges yet cannot fit in the formal job market due to skills mismatch and irrelevance of their courses. "There is an urgent need to ensure equitable access to appropriate skills development programs. Many African including Kenya have seen a rapid rise in youth population who require market relevant skills to find work and escape from poverty," Amani said. Over 100 young people from the University of Nairobi, youth polytechnics, and vocational training institutions engaged with representatives of government, employers and providers of education and training.

The day took form of a discussion on skills development programs in Kenya and how they can be improved to boost young people's opportunities for employment. The event was arranged in the wake of the release of the tenth Education for All (EFA) Global Monitoring Report, Putting education to work, which reveals one in three young people in sub- Saharan Africa never completed primary school and lack skills to find decent work. The was organized by UNESCO's Multi-Sectoral Office in Nairobi in partnership with the African Development Bank; Kenya's ministries and various non-governmental organizations.

Amani stressed that youth unemployment pose serious threat to Kenya's social and political fabric. An estimated 67 percent of Kenyan youths lack vocational skills after dropping out of secondary education.The head of the Research and Advocacy of the Federation of Kenya Employers (FKE), Linet Oyugi, regretted that rampant deficiency in vocational and lifelong skills has denied young Kenyans an opportunity to work."Kenya has abundant labor force but the skills do not meet demands of a highly competitive economy," said Oyugi.She noted that Kenya has experienced a bulge in youthful population yet the economy cannot absorb them because they lack employable skills. The education system should emphasize on skills development alongside career mentorship to adequately prepare the youths for a competitive job market.

Oyugi stressed that entrepreneur skills and emphasis on critical thinking are critical ingredients to enable the youths secure income generating opportunities."There is need to create robust linkages between universities and industry to expose students. Career mentorship and guidance at tertiary institutions is crucial to enable students make informed choices on their future career paths," Oyugi said.She challenged university students to identify their potential employers at formative stages and equip themselves with relevant skills.Oyugi warned the youths against commercializing internships and attachments and instead concentrate on acquiring skills and exposure.    "The whole essence of internships should be overhauled to emphasize on mentorship, exposure and skills development. Industry champions should take the lead in supervising young interns,"  she stressed.

Oyugi called on public-private partnerships to help undertake a manpower survey in Kenya and ascertain the demand levels on various professional cadres. "We need a national census to inform policy makers and employers how many engineers, lawyers and doctors we require as a country at any given episode," Oyugi said. The Education for All (EFA) Global Monitoring Report looks in depth at one of the least analyzed EFA goals on youth skills.It shows that young people need the skills taught at primary and lower secondary school to find work paying enough to put food on the table and money in their pockets. Yet, in sub-Saharan Africa, about 30 million children are still missing out on primary school while 22 million teenagers are out of secondary school, missing out on vital skills for future employment.While in Kenya the figures are better, still one in ten young people lack the skills learnt at primary school and are struggling to find dignified work.

Those who are most likely to lack these skills are from the poorest households, either living in urban poverty or in rural areas. The report says one in three young women living in rural Kenya has spent fewer than four years in school.High youth unemployment in Kenya can be tackled through harnessing their entrepreneur and innovative skills.A leading Kenyan economist Githaiga Kibuka challenged the youths to embrace self employment that is providing steady income flow to enterprising Kenyans. The Ministry of Labor reckons that 2.1 million Kenyans were in formal employment by 2011 while 9.3 million people were self- employed in the same year.Kibuka reiterated that passion, grasp of the market dynamics, skills and capital are critical tools to enable the youth secure long-term income generating opportunities."The youth should focus more on agriculture and information and communication technologies (ICTs) that have potential for growth in the country," said Kibuka. (Xinhua)

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