Politics and policy
Local graduates lack key skills for job market
Posted Monday, August 19 2013 at 19:41
- Washington-based Results for Development Institute (R4D) says varsities need to equip students depending on what industry requires.
- The think-tank also called on African institutions to link with employers and industry to bridge the skills gap.
- The findings come in the wake of disagreements between universities and professional associations over the quality of graduates.
Graduates from Kenyan universities are less competitive in the job market due to gaps between their training and the skills employers want, a new study has shown.
The report by Washington-based Results for Development Institute (R4D) says local tertiary institutions need to impart graduates with skills such as communication, leadership, decision making and critical thinking to stay ahead of the dynamic career race.
The think-tank also called on African institutions to link with employers and industry to bridge the skills gap.
“Non-cognitive skills are becoming increasingly important as economies change,” reads the report released in Nairobi last week.
“Theoretical knowledge acquired in the classroom is just the ‘tip of the iceberg’ and it is insufficient by itself.”
The findings say soft skills are crucial for economies like Kenya where the informal sector generates about 80 per cent of jobs.
“Non-cognitive skills may be even more important in the informal than in the formal economy—most informal workers are self-employed and thus need to be able to work along the entire value chain, running their own businesses,” it says.
R4D argues that the jua kali and SME sectors require players with entrepreneurial and business skills such as financial management, market research and marketing.
“Informal economy workers need to be more self-reliant than formal economy ones.”
The findings come in the wake of disagreements between universities and professional associations over the quality of graduates as many of them fail to meet expectations at the work place necessitating that employers conduct on-the-job training.
It also partly explains the continued appetite for foreign universities, which focus on developing more rounded graduates.
“We must pay closer attention to what students are learning and how they are learning so we can determine how to prepare them for employment in an increasingly interconnected global economy,” said Nicholas Burnett, managing director at R4D.
The American institution says 21st century work places need graduates with a mix of life skills, cognitive and non-cognitive skills.
Interestingly, Kenya does not have a national manpower strategy — a policy document that should define and catalogue the country’s human resource and align it to the labour market.
Furthermore, most universities do not have mandatory career counselling programmes, job placement centres to coordinate internships and trainings with industry or exchange programmes with foreign universities.