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Strengthening life skills training for graduates



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Strengthening life skills training for graduates

Traditional labour market entry point positions for young people have been in decline. FILE PHOTO | NMG 

Life skills training is the most effective way to offer young people a foundational basis to be healthy and productive members of the society. Educators, employers and policymakers should increasingly place great emphasis on the development of life skills as a way to prepare young people for success in today’s rapidly changing and globalised world.

Youth unemployment is an issue of concern in Kenya. According to “State of Youth Unemployment in Kenya” 2014 report, it is no secret, with statistics showing that at least 67 per cent of young people in Kenya aged between 15 and 34 are unemployed.

In 2014, Association for Development of Education in Africa commissioned a report dubbed “The 2014 Kenya Country Report on Youth Unemployment” which found that the country’s labour market is characterised by inadequate employment opportunities. It also found that only 31 per cent of those with tertiary education are in formal employment. And while students decry the lack of employment opportunities, employers are also on record expressing concern that majority of Kenyan graduates are not employable.

Given that every year, without fail, Kenyan universities and colleges produce fresh graduates who are expected to be absorbed into the country’s job market, such an impasse cannot be wished away. It is therefore important for corporates to step in to address existing skill gaps in students before/after they graduate which will aid in bridging the gap between prospective employer and employee.

A 2015 report on the expansion of university education and challenges of quality and graduate employability in Kenya observes that: “As the higher education system expands, concerns continue to be raised that these institutions do not produce graduates with a broad range of generic skills to enable them get jobs after graduation”.


When the government of Kenya adopted a policy to increase the number of public universities, it converted middle level colleges to universities and as a result, in a span of five years, they rose from eight to 22. The Government also launched an accelerated admissions plan to universities in 2012, to admit students who previously had to wait for 15—21 months after leaving school before joining public universities as government-sponsored students under the parallel programme. What followed was creation of new courses to slot in the now bulging number of students. The quality of education was subsequently lowered as institutions lacked qualified lecturers and personnel, even worse, funding for university — industry internships; infrastructure and resources were greatly depleted.

Of greater concern is the fact that not only are these graduates not ready for the job market, they also lack technical know-how that would help them run their own businesses and create employment. Making a graduate ready to work through collaboration of learning institutions and corporates can indeed help bridge this gap. It is necessary for fresh graduates to undergo essential skills training such as teamwork, written and oral communication, and adaptability and managing multiple priorities, decision making and problem solving.

There are four main ways that changes in the patterns of employment across Kenya’s economy that have impacted on young people seeking to move from school to work or from higher education to work.

1. Employment growth has occurred in sectors of the economy which do not have well-developed career structures spanning entry level through to higher level roles. The labour market has experienced strong growth in the knowledge sectors, typically in business services and specialist technical roles. However, new jobs in these sectors usually require higher skill levels, attract higher wages and require greater levels of professional and managerial experience as a prerequisite for entry.

2. Employment growth has occurred in sectors characterised by insecure forms of employment. Growth in sectors such as retail, hospitality, personal services and cleaning typically occurs when an economy is strong. Employment in these sectors is often casual, short term, irregular, seasonal and not generally connected to more permanent or longer term career paths.

3. Traditional labour market entry point positions for young people have been in decline.

4. There has been a decline in formalised large-scale recruitment and induction in both public and private organisations. Entry points which may have offered stewardship and training for young people directly from school into full time employment (for example apprenticeships) and from higher education (graduate recruitment) have declined. However, thanks to the public service internship programme which started in 2019 and that has already enrolled more than 5,000 graduates on a one year internship in various government Ministries, Departments and Authorities (MDAs) paying them Sh25,000 stipend per month. The private sector should follow suit to reduce youth unemployment.

The writer is Project Planning and Management Professional.

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