Young people fresh from school and college often face difficulties finding employment. And the main barrier is not often lack of technical qualification, according to a new study, that reveals the right skills aspiring professionals need to have to stand a better chance of being employed.
Besides scoring good grades, it has emerged that life skills such as communication, teamwork and problem-solving are currently considered the most important requirements to make youth more employable in the current competitive job market.
According to three studies commissioned by Zizi Afrique Foundation under the Ujana360 program, core values emerged as the second most critical skillset, followed by social-emotional skills. Technical skills emerged fourth in both formal and informal sectors.
What employers look for
Equally, the youth believe improvements in curriculum and other training resources in TVETs (Technical and Vocational Education and Training) can improve the quality of training and employability.
Some 58% Youth Not in Employment, Education and Training (NEET) in Kenya see vocational training as the most useful in finding a job while only 15% vouch for university training.
The government is improving the curriculum with the development of Competence‐Based Education Training (CBET) framework and other programmes which aim to improve the content of courses offered.
“The quality of the curriculums offered at post‐secondary institutions needs to be more comprehensive to ensure that the youth NEET have the skills required by employers,” says Mr Mudit Sharma, a researcher at Dalberg Design said. “Curricula of TVETs and other post‐secondary institutions should also enhance soft skills, offer multidisciplinary skills training, and mandatory business management and financial skills training.
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The Ujana360 Programme was established in 2017 to embed whole youth development in TVET. The concept of whole youth development implies the core values and capabilities demanded today for youth to create, access and retain jobs, lead fulfilled lives and contribute to the common good of society.
To deepen the understanding of whole youth development in Kenya, and to scope the landscape of youth and TVET overall, the Program conceptualized three studies in 2017.
In Kenya, the challenge of youth skills has caught the attention of various stakeholders. A government report emphasized the need to rethink the skilling of youth, establishing that around one million youth enter the job market every year, most of them unskilled.
Workplace demands a wider range of capabilities, from technical and academic skills, to other transferrable skills like problem-solving and collaboration.
This group comprises those fresh from secondary school, dropouts of the schooling system, and even graduates of universities and technical training institutions who either are deficient in their area of training, or end up doing jobs not aligned to what they trained for.
The first study, conducted by Dalberg, focused on youth aged 15-25 years, those not in employment, education or training (NEET).
Work and life skills balance
The second study, conducted by the African Population and Health Research Centre (APHRC), focused on youth in TVET institutions across the country, at the three levels – National Polytechnics, Technical Training Institutes and Vocational Training Centres.
The East Africa Institute of Aga Khan University conducted the last study, which pitched focus on youth aged 18-30 years, working in formal and informal sectors, including those who are self-employed.
The findings for capabilities for work and life, which ranked the skills employers list as important to qualify to be employed in different sectors (formal, informal and self-employment), life skills emerged top at 20.1% for those in formal employment, 21.7% for informal employment and 20.0% for the self-employed.
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Core values came second at 17.6%, 20.1% and 17.4% respectively. Social & emotional skills were ranked third with 11.3% in formal employment, 13.7% in informal and 11.3% in self-employment. Technical skills were ranked forth with those in formal employment polling 9.8%, 11.2% in informal employment and 10.2 for entrepreneurs.
The respondents were also to rank the qualities they considered most important in getting a job. Overall, having the right skills and competences was considered the most important attribute (43.9%), followed by one’s education level (24.7%), possessing the right attitude and values, and having the relevant job experience in that order.
Having the right documentation (papers), one’s gender or ethnicity and the expected remuneration were among the attributes viewed as the least important.
Region and wealth factors
“The complex worlds of work and spaces for living demand a wider range of capabilities, ranging from technical and academic skills, to other transferrable skills like problem-solving and collaboration. The rapid changes and the incessant technological disruptions require a working force able to adapt, and learn rapidly,” Dr Moses Ngware, Senior Researcher APHRC said.
The results showed that male youth have almost five times as high chances to be employed than females. On household poverty levels, a young person from a wealthy household has significantly higher chances (40%) of accessing employment over their counterparts from poor households. Similarly, belonging to a community group increases the chances of a young person garnering employment by around 43%.
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