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LETTERS: Employers send mixed signals on job-related skills




Job seekers during a past recruitment exercise. FILE PHOTO | NMG 

The workplace defines a person based on the job one does be it a banker, tinsmith, engineer, model or even politician.

However, the modern workplace does not generally define an individual due to a lack of symmetry between one’s education and the job one holds.

In the past, an accountant, for example, did work related to one’s training but these days you might find one working in a field outside one’s professional training.

This is even evident on people’s social media status where the qualification based on what one studied and the job one has sometimes made one wonder about the skill gap and why the organisation decided to take such a risk.

In most cases, there are many jobless Kenyans with skills, experience or education that match the job.

When I sample some of my peers, I find one who has a degree in tourism manages a big hospital in Nairobi, an anthropologist is a banker, an engineer is a manager at an insurance company, a teacher works for a milling company and a finance and banking graduate is a teacher at a private school.

Not forgetting my former boss, who has a masters in public health, now heads IT projects at a multinational.

Such an arrangement has forced many employees to seek further education to align themselves after giving up or realising that they could never get jobs in their field of study.

That leaves one to wonder whether the education is the problem given that policymakers and employers claim that there is a skill gap between the education and the existing jobs.

If as noted earlier an anthropologist can be a banker why not a finance graduate? When one goes about seeking a job, it is common for the candidate to be disqualified because one lacks certification such as computerised accounting or other IT-based applications not taught at the universities.

Where is the place of on-job training to familiarise fresh graduates with the organisational procedures? Employers should be obligated to train inexperienced jobseekers or else a graduate looking for a job with all qualifications but is not acquainted with the latest technology would be disadvantaged

It would be akin to tech giants like Apple, Google and Microsoft not hiring a skilled jobseeker only because one is familiar with a rival’s web browser.

Although I often hear from editors in the media circles that it is easier to train a business graduate to be reporters on financial matters than to hire a journalist and train them to write about business matters.

With these realities is it better to look for jobs before studying?

One reason for such an approach is that a job seeker will find where to put his or her head in a tent like the proverbial camel that later gets in.

The other explanation is that jobs are too scarce to match employees with matching skills based on their professions. Therefore, this excuse of skill gap is just to escape fundamental economic issues of joblessness. Again if there is a skill gap why are employers not hiring highly paid expatriates with the rare skills that Kenyan graduates apparently lack?

It seems that the only skill that is still relevant to many Kenyan organisations is that every graduate should possess the secure a job is the ability to speak excellent English while for others apprenticeship will do.