Equip youth for post-pandemic commerce

Wednesday July 15 2020

Kitui Youth Skills Enterprises Centre which trains the youth in making various concrete products. PHOTO | FILE


This year’s World Youth Skills Day was marked yesterday in a challenging environment, as the Covid-19 pandemic preventive measures have led to the closure of technical and vocational education and training (TVET) institutions, threatening the continuity of skills development.

A joint survey of TVET institutions by Unesco, ILO and the World Bank cite virtual training as the most common way of imparting skills.

The approach poses considerable difficulties regarding curricula adaptation, trainee and trainer preparedness, connectivity or assessment and certification processes, among others.

The narrative is similar in Kenya, where 75 per cent of the population are under 35. Even with high levels of education, and a literacy rate of 88 per cent as reported by World Bank in 2018, Kenya continues to record high rates of unemployment.


The most recent data from the Kenya National Bureau of Statistics shows about 35 per cent of youth are unemployed. This is because the skills they possess do not match the labour market demands, says the “2019 Youth Skills Survey” report by the Aga Khan University (AKU) on youth entry-level skills.


Those that acquire employment — about 40 per cent of TVET graduates — face challenges including low-quality jobs, low pay and greater labour market inequalities.

The pandemic has greatly affected the wholesale and retail sector with many businesses closing down. Others boost sales through e-commerce and online platforms, which require ICT, digital marketing, sales and marketing and entrepreneurship and soft skills. There is, thus, a need to have these skills taught in TVETs for adaptability and sustainability of businesses in the changing world of work.


The uptake of technology has been very slow with a Fitch Solutions survey showing this has decreased revenues with Covid-19 lowering consumer spending growth outlook to 4.8 per cent in 2020 from a pre-Covid forecast of 6.1 per cent.

The AKU survey says the wholesale and retail sector accounts for the highest number of entry-level jobs, employing 32 per cent of youth compared to sectors like agriculture, which contribute the highest percentage to GDP.

This presents a shift from the traditional ways and thoughts of acquiring jobs to a dynamic and diversified economy that gives TVETs training opportunities.

There is a need for TVETs to adopt a skills framework fit for the wholesale and retail sector through engagement with industry to ensure employers’ needs are integrated into the curriculum and pursue platforms to connect graduates with internships and jobs.

The post-Covid-19 era will demand for new skills in all sectors. Youth will need to be equipped with the requisite skills to manage evolving challenges and build resilience to adapt to future disruptions.

Ms Mbuvi is a research fellow at the Aga Khan University’s East Africa Institute. [email protected].