Training our youth can help increase job opportunities

In Kenya, more than 800,000 young people enter the job market every year. file photo | nmg
In Kenya, more than 800,000 young people enter the job market every year. file photo | nmg 

It is estimated that there more than 75 million young people who are unemployed worldwide, yet many organisations struggle to find potential employees with the skills needed for entry level jobs.

Globally and locally, there exists a manifest mismatch between graduates from learning institutions and the human resource needs in the real economy.

Jemima, a single mother struggling to make ends meet despite having completed her high school education, aptly personifies this challenge.

In Kenya, more than 800,000 young people enter the job market every year after completing primary, secondary school or higher learning.

Now more than ever, there is need for constant training and education that prepares young people for employment by making them more equipped to face challenges associated with the demand and supply disconnect of the skilled workforce.

A report commissioned by the World Bank spotlights the way in which attempts to close the skills gap are currently bogged down by lack of business experience on the part of the trainers and inadequate training curricula which lack sufficient integration with the formal Technical and Vocational Education and Training (TVET) system.

Human development is indispensable in any country’s quest for economic development. This is even more so at a time when the government seeks to raise the share of manufacturing sector from nine to 15 per cent of the gross domestic product (GDP) by 2022, expand food production and supply, provide universal health coverage for all Kenyan homes and build 500,000 affordable houses.

To raise labour participation for unemployed youth like Jemima in the government big-four agenda, the government in collaboration with other stakeholders will need to employ a model that is defined by dynamic measurement of supply and demand, with economic rewards being inescapably linked to value addition.

All stakeholders will need to be more innovative in the approach to this problem in order to be successful.

There is a need for TVETs to adapt rapidly to the government’s agenda as well as have a paradigm shift in their curricula to focus more on jobs and measure TVETs performance based more on job placement, rather than the number of students trained.

This effort to improve vocational education’s attractiveness would attract more stakeholders to put their innovations and best practices in place towards increased impact in skills training and low unemployment rates among the youth.

Youth labour participation is integral to the government’s ambitious plans, in view of the fact that the government plans to create 1.3 million manufacturing jobs by 2022.

To realise the government’s big-four agenda, TVETs and other stakeholders need to work closely together towards increasing the pool of skilled workers in industries in Kenya, as well as create opportunities for the utilisation of the skilled labour for improved productivity.

Since youth make the largest unemployed age group and will face these challenges throughout their careers, there needs to be a focus on programmes that connect young people like Jemima with a pathway to skills and entry-level employment and that focus on demand-driven skills.

Jayaram is a senior partner at Generation Kenya, and Sinaceur the director at Generation Kenya.