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Tackle youth jobs woes by firming up skills acquisition

youth pic

A mechanical engineering student operates a lathe machine during a practical session at Kisumu National Polytechnic. FILE PHOTO | NMG

Summary

  • Youth unemployment and underemployment has been a major issue in Kenya for years.
  • Providing technical skills training alone is not enough to empower young people to find and create jobs.
  • TVET programmes can incorporate Whole Youth Development skills such as entrepreneurship, communication skills, problem solving, relational skills and time management.

In Kenya, about one in every three people under 35 is unable to find a job, despite actively seeking work.

Youth unemployment and underemployment has been a major issue in Kenya for years. Policy makers and stakeholders have invested in Technical and Vocational Education and Training (TVET) institutions, anticipating that the increase in skill acquisition will result in access to gainful employment.

Unfortunately, a recent literature review found that only three out of nine rigorous evaluations of TVET programmes show some positive effect on employment outcomes.

This research shows that on average, skills training programmes increase employment by only 2.6 percent.

So how can we tackle youth unemployment? Evidence shows that providing technical skills training alone is not enough to empower young people to find and create jobs.

More can be done to prepare young people to enter and excel in the labour market such as equipping them with wholesome skills, basing policies on available evidence and conducting robust communications activities to change attitudes towards TVET careers.

Increased funding, enhanced regulations and robust communication campaigns by the government have resulted in TVET enrolment growing by nearly 300 percent since 2013.

There are a few opportunities that policymakers and other stakeholders might consider to fully prepare young people for the labour market, including the following.

A holistic approach to training: Often purely academic training isn’t sufficient for finding and sustaining a job.

TVET programmes can incorporate Whole Youth Development skills such as entrepreneurship, communication skills, problem solving, relational skills and time management.

Without this, some evidence shows that these factors can impede the development of essential soft skills among Kenyan youth, inhibiting their success in the job market.

Evidence uptake: Policy makers and other TVET stakeholders need to use evidence to inform decision making around TVET reform and improvement.

Moreover, more research is necessary so that policy makers can put appropriate strategies in place.

Attitudes within the community: A report by the UNESCO-UNEVOC International Centre for Technical and Vocational Training reported evidence of negative attitudes towards careers in technical and vocational fields across many communities in Kenya.

THE POTENTIAL

A communication strategy led by TVETA and county governments targeting the public and addressing the misconceptions around TVETs can reduce the information gap that exists and increase TVET enrolment and employment outcomes thereafter.

TVETs have the potential to make a real difference in youth unemployment in Kenya and stakeholders and policy makers should continue to invest in creating enabling policies and institutionalising support for these programmes and institutions.