When a local TV station recently aired the story of a homeless and unemployed brilliant university graduate, Kenyans poured out their unwavering sympathies. The heart touching story brought to the fore the tribulations of unemployed university graduates whose bright future dreams never materialized.
The graduate is a victim of an education system that glorifies acquisition of academic papers with no regard for their utility in the labour market. What the sympathizers failed to address were the causes of unemployment of university graduates and how they can be addressed.
Here are five ways of reducing the persistent unemployment, which are ignored and sometimes wished away.
Overhaul University Curricula: Universities have been accused of continually implementing curricula that is out of touch with the knowledge and skills required in the labour market. But they arguing that their role is to transfer learning and not to create jobs for their graduates. Such misleading arguments have led to developing curricula that focuses more on theory than practice in the field of student.
It is, therefore, not surprising that a university graduate fails to get a job with their first degree unless he or she cements it with a post-graduate diploma in a particular field of specialization. A first degree nowadays is a confirmation that one is literate. Days are gone when a first degree was a passport to white-collar jobs. The onus is on universities to review some of their outdated courses to produce employable graduates.
Acquisition of Pre-Employment Skills: It’s fooling yourself to imagine that the first degree is all you need to secure a job in the ever competitive labour market. The first degree is a prerequisite for further training that would equip graduates with employable skills for either the corporate sector or in pursuing self-employment.
The workplace place requires new employees who have been exposed to basic aspects of working in organizations. There is need for students to undergo formal intensive internships (or apprenticeships) during their studies or soon after graduation to expose them to the demands of a working environment.
Promote Self-Employment: Societal perception of university degrees creates unrealistic expectations of the fresh holders of the qualification. While university education was preparing them for paid employment, the reality on the ground is that self-employment opportunities are beckoning the graduates.
On graduation, they face an uphill task when they try to venture into the micro and small enterprise they were not prepared for. Curriculum development and implementation at all levels of education should incorporate entrepreneurship studies to provide graduates with employment options.
Promotion of Small Enterprises: Unlike the early days when the both public and private sectors were the main employers, the small enterprises are proving to create more jobs that before. The dwindling capacity of job creation in the formal sector should shift attention to the promotion of small enterprises. Concerned authorities need to level the playing field particularly on overhauling legislation that impedes entry and expansion of small businesses.
County Investment Destination: Although devolution was aimed at decentralizing investment opportunities from major urban areas such as Nairobi City to upcoming county towns, the latter have not positioned themselves as investment destinations. The performance of some urban centres is worse than when they operated as county or municipal councils.
Counties would create jobs through offering incentives that attract manufacturing investments which use local resources. Graduates should seek for jobs in county towns instead of flocking to Nairobi City whose employment absorption capacity is already outstretched.
Samson Osero, HRD Consultant, [email protected]