Given the current state of the global economy and the recent outpouring of discontent in countries where job opportunities are few, unemployment is arguably the most pressing issue confronting policymakers worldwide.
As we approach the General Elections, one issue that has always been included in every politician’s manifesto is youth employment. The problem is that when a new government takes office, it seems to prioritise youth employment, but as time passes, this is not the case.
How do we increase the number of jobs available to young people?
Tackling this challenge needs a totally different approach. If I were a presidential contestant in the upcoming elections, my manifesto would approach this issue from an angle. Before handling the employment issues, first, it is essential to note that the private sector will still be a major employer and its strengthening will be essential.
For the segment to create more jobs, it is important to note that youths’ needs as well as those of companies change over time. It is vital to stay engaged and adapt programmes accordingly. This goes back to tracking the quality of training the youth receive. Does it match up with what awaits them?
Is the training programme thoroughly preparing the person for the job? And are there skills that are still lacking? If so, how can the curriculum be refined to incorporate those skills? Keeping a steady pulse on the economy and global development is also part of ensuring that demand-driven tactics remain flexible.
All job creation efforts should aim to promote healthy economic growth. Economists suggest that yearly GDP growth rates of two to three percent are sustainable and yet Kenya GDP is growing by close five percent on yearly basis.
When economic growth is healthy in a free market, the government does not need to intervene; capitalism encourages small enterprises to compete, resulting in new ways to meet consumers' demands. In this way, more jobs are created thus bridging the unemployment gap.
The private sector should also emphasise skills training. This will benefit the company and the individuals since it improves the job's efficiency, quality, and scope. However, this may face several challenges.
Private firms may be hesitant to fully participate in these projects for a variety of reasons, including a fear of not receiving a return on investment as a trainee may end up working elsewhere, lack of resources, expertise, time or information about benefits to the company.
Another great suggestion for presidential candidates is to consider how their government can be able to encourage innovations from young people which will not only create jobs but will also lead to economic growth.
Governments can foster innovation in four basic ways: by buying innovations, by reducing innovation risk, by collaborating on innovations, and by using standards or regulations to encourage them.
By buying innovation, the government will play a key role to foster innovation when it becomes the lead customer for the innovations developed. This will provide market access for innovative products and services.
When it comes to reducing risks of innovation, this can be done through government support to reduce the technical, commercial, and financial risks associated with innovations.
The government will also need to facilitate innovation by collaborating on advanced research and development and product development at both the precompetitive and competitive stages.
Government agencies such as KIRDI should coordinate these efforts and also provide innovative technology applications and platforms.
Finally, by using norms and regulations, the State can act as barriers and incentives for innovation. It will be, therefore, crucial for presidential candidates to be clear on the standards and policies that will encourage innovations.
A case in point would be coming up with electric vehicle technology and automobile engine technology standards and policies which will lead to dual benefits of environmental enhancement and economic development
The role of the private sector in achieving development goals should be recognised and given the support it deserves. But how can we ensure that our youth workforce development initiatives keep up with the ever-changing labor market demands and the unpredictable employment curve?
The focus should be turned to the private sector, which offers a ray of hope in this never-ending threat. The private sector should be considered a source of youth employment.
Every politician eyeing power needs a firm blueprint for the private sector that lays out the steps the sector will take to expand youth job prospects and end the problem once and for all.