About 50,000 graduates are churned out of public and private universities in Kenya every year, piling onto the number of unemployed youth in the country estimated at 2.3 million, according to the ministry of Education. Kenya’s unemployment rate, which stands at 40% is a ticking time bomb that needs to be addressed urgently by stakeholders both from the public and private sectors of our economy.
The Principal Secretary for Technical and Vocational Education and Training (TVET), Dr Dinah Mwinzi, in a TVET forum, said youth unemployment can be reduced if most of the ‘hustling’ population had different technical skills. This, she reiterated, will also accelerate achievement of Kenya’s aspirations on labor market needs for a middle-income economy.
It is interesting to note that only one in every 10 youth secures gainful employment yearly. The other nine find their source of livelihood by either engaging in small businesses or by expending their sweat in the jua kali artisan sector. Globally, unemployment causes debilitating poverty levels among families and as a country we need to mitigate its devastating effects by urgently popularizing vocational training among our youth.
Developed economies like Germany and China are anchored on the pillar of vocational skills training and we can see the dividends these countries are reaping from a mindset shift. Vocational education prepares people to work in a trade, a craft, as a technician, or in professional vocations such as engineering, accountancy, nursing, medicine, architecture, or law.
Craft vocations are usually based on manual or practical activities and are traditionally non-academic but related to a specific trade or occupation. Vocational education is sometimes referred to as career education or technical education. In most African nations and more so Kenya, Vocational Skills Training for a long while, has been given a wide berth by youth due to its tedious and unpopular mode of dirtying hands as a means to an end.
As a country we need to change this ill-advised mindset very fast if we are serious about reducing unemployment and pushing our country into the club of developed nations by the year 2030.
Our population is growing exponentially yet there is no match in figures of new opportunities being created in the economy to fill in the increasing jobs gap. Additionally, Kenyan youth lack the will to acquire market relevant vocational skills from our tertiary institutions.
Instead, we are witnessing a mad rush to acquire degrees in Medicine, Law and Business Management courses. These twin factors are compounding the campaign to reduce unemployment in the country and that is why there is a serious skills gap in the Kenyan economy.
Not enough jobs
Parents, guardians and sponsors have every right to place high expectations on students they are offering education financing. However, we all need to appreciate the fact that not all students can find jobs from the three prestigious disciplines of Medicine, Law and Business Management. Our economy is still young and it has its own capacity limits and can only absorb the number of graduates it can manage.
Today, you should not be surprised to see a placard wielding job seeker in our streets who happens to be an Actuarial Science alumnus. We do not have enough jobs in our economy and a mindset shift is urgently needed. Youth need to be re-programmed to become job creators and not job seekers.
The radical shift ought to start at the curriculum development stage, career counselling departments in school, church mentorship forums and the relevant Government ministries as well. Just like Agri-business is being marketed as a cool business option in the media, stakeholders ought to come up with a well-oiled vocational skills training marketing campaign that has a secretariat similar to the one that manages Brand Kenya.
Unemployment is a disaster that has devastating effects on families and the society at large. One way of increasing our country’s manufacturing capacities is by popularizing vocational skills training. In return, the Kenyan economy will improve its production capacity that will later on translate to more exports of finished goods abroad.
A fund needs to be set aside that will be utilized in periodical upgrading exercises of our existing technical and vocational institutions. This move will help in increasing the supply of adequate and well educated manpower to our manufacturing sector. The stability that vocational skills training brings to the economy will help pull out as many youth as possible from the debilitating effects of unemployment.
Vocational training centres
It is commendable to note that various manufacturing units in the country are now partnering with vocational training centers in a bid to up-skill their employees who later on stand a better chance of securing permanent employment contracts. Examples are ample also of development partners who are joining hands with local corporate entities to offer vocational skills training to youth through their CSR departments like for example the Housing Finance Foundation Iinitiative. All these are proactive measures aimed at reversing the worrying unemployment estimates in the country.
The Vocational Skills Training Movement began in 24th June 2013 and since then we have constantly been urged to positively embrace it by leaders both from the national and county level. Worryingly, demand for skills upgrade among the youth is gaining tract in a rather subdued way. Funding for TVET has been set aside. About Kshs 2.5 billion in the current financial year, we agree but enrollment levels at our vocational training institutions still remain low.
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Guardians and instructors need to be advised that up-skilling is the only viable valve youth can use to escape the unforgiving shackles of unemployment. We should therefore not sit back and watch as our youth continue making wrong career moves. Continued resistance to vocational skills training is a worrying trend and needs to be checked so that we may achieve our country’s sustainable development goals much faster.
Solutions to this worrying trend are many and here is a summary of the most urgent ones. One, stakeholders in the manufacturing sector should now be involved in curriculum development as a way of coming up with market relevant course outlines. Two, the ministry of vocational training with the help of other relevant ministries should sell the benefits of vocational skills training in the main stream media with alumni of technical institutions as vocational training brand ambassadors. This will help invite more youth to acquire vocational skills training since they will have seen and heard successful self-employment stories from vocational training graduates currently in the job market.
Three, instructors at all vocational training centers must be aware of the enormous responsibility on their shoulders of transforming Kenya into a developed economy through vocational skills training. Relevant stakeholders should ensure that instructors are positively motivated to teach, are adequately remunerated and should come up with policies that will ensure loyalty to vocational skills training.
We should all agree in unison that vocational skills training is the best remedy so far to youth unemployment and if Germany and China succeeded in implementing it, I do not see why Kenya cannot.
BBC seeks digital journalists for Nairobi hub
As part of its expansion plans, BBC recently held a career fair in Nairobi this week where more than 400 practicing and aspiring media professionals turned up
The British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) is seeking six journalists as it readies to launch its new digital innovation hub in Nairobi.
In an advertisement placed in a section of today’s press, the BBC said it is hiring a broadcast journalist (digital), women’s affairs journalist, interactive journalist, broadcast journalist, social media visual artist and growth editor.
Candidates must have demonstrable skills and experience in their area and have until November 6 to apply.
The Nairobi hub is part of BBC’s ambition to develop digital journalism in Africa.
As part of its expansion plans, BBC recently held a career fair in Nairobi this week where more than 400 practicing and aspiring media professionals turned up.
In May, the broadcaster revealed it is investing nearly Ksh 1.04 billion (US$10 million) in modern multimedia production studios in Kenya, which will lead to the creation of 250 new jobs.
BBC Africa Regional Editor Solomon Mugeral told President Uhuru Kenyatta 200 of the jobs will go to Kenyans, and, additionally, the investment will provide an internship and mentoring programme for upcoming journalists, digital and technical producers.
“From Nairobi, the BBC will work with local broadcasters and independent production companies to create local and regional content across various genres, including business and health,” he said in a briefing note.
“The international broadcaster is also introducing six new language services: three of them Amharic, Afaan Oromo and Tigrinya will be produced in Nairobi for audiences in Ethiopia and Eritrea. The BBC already produces Kiswahili and Somali programmes from its bureau in Nairobi. The other three new languages Yoruba, Igbo and Pidgin will be based in Lagos, Nigeria,” the note said.
President Uhuru commended the BBC for its new investment in Kenya, saying that the country was known for its free and robust media, skilled talent in the media and the arts, and unmatched ICT infrastructure on the continent.
“We have made massive investments in infrastructure that make us the investment destination of choice for many and we are elated that the BBC is making these giant steps that will lead to employment of some of Kenya’s talent,” he said.
Jumia opens door for female drivers
Online food delivery company, Jumia Food has launched an initiative aimed at recruiting more women riders in order to match the number of men working for the company.
With over 200 restaurants listed on the site, in Nairobi and Mombasa the recently appointed Managing Director Shreenal Ruparelia who replaces outgoing MD – Duncan Muchangi- pointed to the need for gender diversity as well as creating equal opportunities in the growing eCommerce industry.
Quoting a 2016 report by McKinsey which places women at 25 per cent share in male dominated fields, Celebrating female riders, whom the MD terms as heroes, she noted that the gender gap in the workforce is quite prevalent throughout all levels, citing what she refers to as “societal beliefs” as a major cause.
Mitchelle Khaemba, who takes pride as the company’s first female rider reiterates on the MD’s comments as she narrates her experience thus, “economically uplifting for women and a gateway for women to create a foundation for talent exploration to greater heights”
Mitchelle, who works alongside her husband Thomas Khaemba says the decision to join the Jumia Food fleet was well supported by her husband, even though her neighbours and extended family still act surprised by her otherwise “manly” occupation.
Kenya has very few number of Licenced drivers, and those who hold the licences are hardly employed since driving is considered a masculine job.
BBC set to hire more than 100 journalists
Currently, broadcaster employs more than 300 natives in the region compared to more than 200 in West Africa
BBC World Service is preparing to hire more than 100 staff members in the East African region by early next year, in one of its ambitious expansion plans.
This was announced during a career fair held in Nairobi this week where more than 400 practicing and aspiring media professionals took part.
According to trainers, who spoke to the attendees, the Kenyan and East African Bureau are set to expand to cover more localised stories in the local dialect including Swahili and the Somali language in Somalia.
Currently, BBC employs more than 300 natives in the East African region compared to more than 200 in the West African region, according to sources within the administration. If the projected 100 employees are brought on board, BBC will be competing with some local media houses in terms of employee numbers.
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Averagely, the leading Kenyan media companies employ around 1,000 people directly each, hence BBC will be almost halfway the number. Most media outlets employ far much below the number, with some employing as little as 20, despite the big number of professionals churned out the training colleges and universities in Kenya.
According to World Bank estimates, close to 800,000 youth, mostly from the numerous institutions of learning, enter the Kenyan job market annually. Out of this number, only about 70,000 may succeed in securing professional employment in the formal sector.
Media graduates may constitute 3-5% of the total population of graduates, meaning that at least 20,000 communication and media practitioners graduate every year.
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Going by the World Bank statistics, around 1,500-2,000 media practitioners are absorbed in the formal employment sector every year. This leaves at least 18,000 without formal employment in the sectors they majored in, hence some end up in other sectors or are completely unemployed.
This was reflected in the BBC Career Fair, where only 400 out of more than 2,000 applicants were shortlisted for the fair.
Most of the applicants were fresh graduates looking for employment with very few applicants looking for greener pastures.
According to experts, very few graduates have competent skills that may secure them employment in leading/competent employers, hence will walk a long way towards finding attractive employment. Others argue that the job market is flooded, hence fresh graduates should be taught self-help skills that can benefit them even without employment.
7 tips for getting the most out of a job fair
Your elevator speech is people’s first impression of what you have to offer. Begin with a firm handshake and good eye contact.
Does the very idea of a job fair make your palms sweat? Or do you get truly excited at the thought of getting to meet so many potential employers?
Whatever your personality, follow these simple tips to help you make the most of any job fair experience:
1. Set your expectations correctly
At a job fair, you can expect to introduce yourself to potential employers and answer employer questions, as well as get information and leads that are not available on the employer’s website. But don’t expect to have on-the-spot, full interviews or walk away with a job offer.
2. Research participating employers
Research is a critical part of the job search process. Find out ahead of time which employers hire people with your skills. Even if the company is not on your list of target employers, treat them as if they were.
3. Make a list of questions for employers
Ask about how they recruit and hire people with your skill set. Your target employers will likely have similar hiring practices.
4. Practice your elevator speech
Your elevator speech is people’s first impression of what you have to offer. Begin with a firm handshake and good eye contact. Use a clear voice and provide the employer with concise and relevant information. It’s a good idea to practice with someone else.
5. Prepare your supplies
Bring several copies of your resume, pen and paper for notes, and breath mints.
6. Follow-up with yourself right away
After meeting someone, make a few notes. What did you discuss with them? Did you commit to any follow-up? It’s a lot easier to remember right after the meeting!
7. Send a thank-you email or letter
Remind your contacts of who you are and any specifics you discussed. Thank your contacts for their time and ask about next steps. Make sure to organize your job fair notes and contact information.
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