The highly publicised story of Kenyatta University biotechnology graduate John Kariuki is a good example of our collective failure to teach youth that academic certificates do not necessarily equate to jobs.
The young man cut a forlorn figure as he displayed his well-kept certificates that have not secured him a job, four years after the ex-Starehian earned his Bachelor’s degree.
There was little difference between John and street boys (and men) that dot the alleys of Nairobi and other urban centres.
While applauding Public Service, Youth and Gender Affairs Cabinet Secretary Cecily Kariuki and the Old Starehian Society for responding to John’s plight, thanks to media power, questions linger about this kneejerk approach to tackling a major problem.
With an estimated 800,000 young people joining the labour market each year, it is unrealistic to address joblessness on case-by-case basis.
Inasmuch as the Jubilee administration promised to create 500,000 jobs yearly, the government cannot be held accountable for unemployment — a problem that is not exclusive to Kenya.
Granted, global youth unemployment currently stands at 13.1 per cent compared to Kenya’s 35 per cent, there is need to answer some critical questions:
• How prepared are our youth for work? Career masters have a duty not just to tell students about this and that job, but to strive to attach them to institutions that give them a hands-on feel of their dream career.
Even if they end up only serving tea, they will be exposed to officers doing jobs they aspire to do.
• Are students equal to the jobs they want to do? We go through the annual ritual when results are released and top candidates have a chance to brag about their dream careers.
Pre-university career masters have the duty to disabuse students of signing up for courses, which although they sound fancy, offer no job opportunities especially for first degree holders.
John Kariuki’s Bachelor’s degree in biotechnology is a case in point.
Schools involve parents in students’ career choices and if they have no clue about their child’s chosen career, they should seek guidance from their more knowledgeable friends or relatives to assist youngsters make informed decisions.
• What is the jobseeker’s attitude to manual work? A young person who is caught up in an office-job mindset is a sure candidate for the prolonged ‘tarmacking’.
Most employers want to know what the jobseeker has been doing, and unless youth learn to keep themselves busy even in jobs they do not particularly like, they are unlikely to attract potential employers.
Most young people have self-employed parents or relatives in farming, mechanics, eateries, beauty salons, you name it.
Do they ever assist in family businesses, especially in the services sector?
They may not necessarily do those jobs for life, but chances of meeting the right employer as she or he seeks services are all-too-real.
Youth who do not want to dirty their hands, preferring to spend their time whining before TVs and iPads are not only too cloistered, but are unlikely to make the right job contacts.
Sadly, most of us parents are over-protective of our children to the extent that they lack the motivation to look for work, needlessly swelling the ranks of youth unemployment.
Ms Kweyu is a freelance writer and consulting editor. [email protected]