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Why so many fresh Kenyan graduates are not employed

Steve Umidha @steveumidha

Thousands of graduates across the country remain unemployed due to a disconnect between their skills and those in demand in the labour market

A new study by Federation of Kenya Employers (FKE) on skills mismatch in the market confirms these fears and now says there is sufficient evidence that shows graduates are studying the “wrong” subjects at the universities.

Titled “Skills Mismatch Survey Report”, the study says most courses being offered are not only subject-knowledge but also leaves out employability skills – a precarious missing knob being asked by many employers.

“There has been an increased trend in skill mismatch among employees in the labour market. This anomaly, described as a skills mismatch by labour economists, leads to wastage and impedes Kenya’s global competitiveness,” the survey reads in part.

Drafters of the survey say it was necessitated by the need to understand educational mismatch between the knowledge graduates possess and market demands.

The new findings show that the mismatched graduates face poorer job prospects and lower earnings than their peers who are on careers aligned to the knowledge acquired after four years of study and skills obtained in three months of internship programme.

“It is a serious concern for most employers since most graduates do not have the right technical skills to perform on their jobs without experience and most of them do not even have the right and soft skills to perform on their jobs without proper training,” Jacqueline Mugo, FKE chief executive officer says.

The research is recommending a host of changes including a complete overhaul of the current curriculum being taught at the universities and a possibility to provide paid internships by some employers in order to match the labour market demands.

It further wants industry stakeholders to consult with tertiary institutions when preparing curriculum, have more internships, industrial attachment for training and follow up on them as well as to expose and educate learners on real job market.

“There is need to review curriculum to meet labour needs-putting more practical oriented units, ensuring all the students who graduate are exposed to more contact hours in terms or practical training and ensure effective implementation of the curriculum by tertiary institutions,” reads the report.

But some recommendations such as having a mandatory paid internships would come at a cost, according to the acting director general of Kenya National Employment Authority, Edith Okoki, who feels that a lot of deliberations and persuasions would come in handy if some of them are to be realised.

Tax rebates

“This (paid internship) is a delicate matter because it then means the government will have to offer tax rebates in order for the companies to take in more students under their internship programmes, but conversations regarding this matter is underway,” she said.

Policies on internship programmes are said to be on course for a review by the government, Okoki disclosed, adding that it could be ready at the end of the first quarter of next year.

“It is at the Cabinet stage and when ready could compel companies admitting graduates for internships to offer negotiated monthly stipend to their interns,” she said.

“On average, the survey estimates that 68 per cent of entry level recruits take up to three months to settle and perform on their job.

This is attributed to the time taken in the training and induction of the recruit,” the report says. Further recommendations from the survey include, adopting new policy guidelines which will lead the sector in the right direction, engage the training institution and share their labour requirements of graduates, as well for learning institutions to offer more technical skills to their learners.

Job hunting

According to a survey by Kenya National Bureau of Statistics released early this year, seven million Kenyans are unemployed.

Out of these, 1.4 million have been desperately looking for jobs. The rest have given up on job hunting, with some opting to go back to college for further studies.

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