According to a 2018 report by the Kenya National Bureau of Statistics (KNBS), 90 percent of unemployed Kenyans are below 35 years. This, yet, the number of youth graduating from universities, colleges and TVET institutions is increasing with every passing year.
Ironically, Kenyan companies complain that the graduates our learning institutions churn out lack skills that match their needs. Youth unemployment is therefore a two-sided problem.
Generation Kenya, a public-private programme supported by the US government through its development agency, USAID, is one of the organisations in the country keen on changing this situation.
The programme equips young people with technical skills that makes them employable. Since 2015, 84 percent of graduates have been placed into meaningful employment through a network of more than 350 employer partners in Kenya. Majority of the graduates consist of learners who scored Grade C and below in the Kenya Certificate of Secondary Education (KCSE), a population whose transition rate to tertiary institutions is low. During this year’s graduation ceremony, more than 4,000 Kenyan youth graduated.
Those who enrol for the programme, offered in 33 centres in 20 counties, attend four to eight weeks of boot camp training in areas such as banking, financial sales, sewing machine operation, restaurant services, retail and consumer goods distribution.
To enrol, one is required to be at least 18 years and pay a commitment fee of Sh3,000 payable in instalments.
myNetwork had a chat with four individuals who have gone through the programme.
Shadrack Onduru, 29
Towards the conclusion of his studies at the University of Eldoret in 2015, Shadrack, an environmental studies graduate, began sending his resume to potential employers. He was determined to get a job immediately after graduation. But it was not to be.
“A few months before my graduation, I decided to volunteer with NEMA, Uasin Gishu County. I was keen on acquiring skills required in the field and gaining experience in my area of study. I also sent out my resume to several organisations.”
By the time he graduated, not a single organisation had gotten back to him. Rather than stay home idle, he stayed on in his volunteer position, hopeful that a job would come soon rather than later. Almost two years later, a job was still not forthcoming. Shadrack enrolled for Greatness United (G-united) programme, a one-year volunteer programme run by the Kenyan Government that was posted to Kajiado County, earning a stipend of Sh7,000 every month.
“It was while undertaking the programme that a friend told me about Generation Kenya. She had got a job after completing the programme offered by the organisation. I was in the last month of the government programme. It is this friend that paid for me the Sh3,000 commitment fee because I couldn’t raise the amount,” he says.
Shadrack chose a course on retail and restaurant services.
“I was more interested in selling products rather than services. Then, we only had two areas to choose from – financial sales, and retail and restaurant services.”
He adds, “After completing the five weeks training in July 2017, I was awarded a certificate. Two months later, I was called for an interview for a managerial position with one of the leading supermarket chains. Although Generation Kenya trains for entry level jobs, I felt that I had acquired skills that would enable me handle such a position. I got the job,” he says.
Besides learning about retail and restaurant services, Shadrack was also taught how to prepare for an interview.
“Through the programme, I got to learn how to carry myself during interviews – we were even offered mock interviews, and later, recap sessions,” he explains, and adds,
“Once there was a client who was particular about having employees who are trained in distributed sales. To match their requirements, a number of us were recalled for an in-depth one-week training on distributed sales. That’s why, although having studied for a different course at the university and without prior experience in a supervisory position, I was confident with what I had gained from the program. Presently, whenever the manager is not around, I stand in."
Peter Ogallo, 30
“I had worked as an accountant for about four years when my position was declared redundant early last year. I started job hunting but there was no job forthcoming,” Peter says.
Around this time, someone shared about Generation Kenya in one of the WhatsApp groups he is in in January this year. While still looking for another job, he was horning skills in emceeing and composing gospel music. He would cater for his needs using what he earned from emceeing party events such as weddings, which were also hard to come by.
He went for the pre-interview in January this year and the following month, he commenced training in financial sales, a course which took five weeks.
After the training, Peter got an opportunity to interview with one of the partnering insurance firms for a financial advisor position. He got the job.
“Before I trained with Generation Kenya, I was an introverted person and found it difficult to engage in meaningful conversation. There, I learnt people skills, competence that has enabled me perform outstandingly at work,” he says.
In June last year, Peter got a new job with another insurance company, where he been the leading sales agent since January, this year.
“As a sales person, I like the fact that I get to determine how much I take home at the end of the month.”
The skills he gained at the programme, he says, have given him the confidence to venture into other avenues and change his perspective towards life and employability.
“For so long, I was keen on getting a job as an accountant or a position related to the field of accounting. Through Generation Kenya, I discovered that I could actually put my mind on something else and succeed. I am happy working with an insurance firm. I have side hustles too - I emcee in events such as weddings and I am also an upcoming gospel artist.”
Christine Kaluki, 29
“I graduated from Kenyatta University in 2014 with a bachelor’s degree in economics and finance. After completing my studies, I didn’t get a job as expected. In 2017, after three years of unsuccessfully searching for a job, I decided to start a business of selling second-hand clothes,” says Christine.
Even as she worked hard to get her business off the ground, she still hoped to get a white collar job.
“I was looking for job opportunities when I came across a Generation Kenya programme advert on one of the local job websites. I applied in August 2017 and I was called after a week for the pre-interview which is carried out to determine one’s abilities especially in math and English. Having sold second-hand clothes, I felt that I would perform bestselling insurance policies so I went for financial sales. After the training, I was immediately placed with an insurance firm. A week ago, having worked for one year and seven months, I got a better offer with another insurance firm and moved jobs.”
She says that through the knowledge she got from the programme, coupled with the experience she gained from running her business, she has been able to perform well as a financial advisor.
“In October last year, I was the best performing agent in my department - on some months, I have earned more than Sh100,000.”
Christine serves in the Generation Kenya Western region steering committee and is the assistant treasurer, Alumni chapter.
Mercy Otieno, 26
“In 2017, a month after losing my teaching job, a friend told me about Generation Kenya programme. She had gone through it, got a job a few weeks after graduation and was doing well in the retail field,” She says.
Before she was admitted in the financial sales programme, she underwent a pre-interview test that included English and Math tests to evaluate her skills and abilities in the field.
“I didn’t know much about the sector since my background was in education. It greatly helped that we were taken through a couple of role plays and practical sales involving selling insurance policies for some of the partner insurance companies. Also, there was lots of team work, which has enabled me to fit in at work and efficiently engage with our customers. The curriculum was practical, and has therefore been very instrumental as I do my job. Owing to my good people skills, I was recently promoted to a team leadership position,” she says.
The trained teacher is contented in her new career, so much so, she does not intend to go back to teaching. She urges individuals interested in the programme to be open-minded and willing to take up entry level jobs.
“I have seen people go through the programme and rise ranks in various organisations. I have also encouraged many of my friends to enrol and they are at a position where they are able to meet their various expenses and save,” she says.
Who qualifies for this programme?
1. Who does Generation Kenya target?
We target disadvantaged youth. We give priority to needy and unemployed youth who have completed school but for some reason cannot either further their education or get employment.
2. What does one need to qualify and what constitutes the pre-interview?
Our students are required to be 18 to 35 years, and, depending on the programme, either a KCPE certificate for one of our programmes - sewing machine operator or a KCSE certificate for three of other programmes. For financial sales and customer care services, a KCSE certificate with a minimum grade of D+ (plus) is required. Only students who scored a minimum grade of C- (minus) are allowed to enrol for retail and restaurant services. The pre-interview involves screening to ascertain the youth meet the basic requirements and are passionate about the programmes they are applying for.
3. Can employed youth who wish to get new skills apply for the programme?
While we don’t target these as they already have employment, we have had a few such individuals enrol with us to improve their employability skills and help them build careers. But our first priority is the unemployed youth.
4. There are five areas to pursue. Who determines which area to pursue?
The students decide which programme to join based on their qualification, interest and proximity to the centre the programme is being offered. We have information sessions and talks with the youth before they join each programme to ensure they fully understand what the training will entail and what they are to expect post-training.
5. Is there a fee that students are expected to pay?
We charge a commitment fee of Sh3,000.
6. How long do the training take?
Four – eight weeks, depending on the programme. For instance, sewing machine operation takes eight weeks as it is quite technical while a course like retail and restaurant services is completed in four weeks.
7. Is there a guarantee of getting a job after the training?
We don’t guarantee a job as this depends on some factors that are beyond us, such as the student adhering to our class/training rules such as punctuality, dress code among other factors, as well as the graduate showing up for the interviews and putting to practice what we taught them hence performing well in the interview. What we do guarantee the graduates is at least one interview opportunity with one of our employer partners.
8. Is the programme open for young people who are awaiting to join institutions of higher learning and are, say, 17?
No, it isn’t. Our programme requires fulltime commitment. The graduates are also supposed to be available for employment upon training completion. Retention is one of the value propositions we offer our employers, so we refrain from taking up youth who will leave employment after a few months of working to go back to school.
If you are looking for a job or seeking to acquire skills that will make you employable here are other organisations to consider.
1. Yusudi Africa
Yusudi trains individuals in critical skills such as negotiation and emotional intelligence, as well as business skills. The training takes six months.
2. Dream Achievers Youth Organisation
This is a non-profit community based organisation that empowers youths and communities in Kenya through education and vocational training.
3. International Youth Foundation
Works with partners around the world to impart leadership, technical, and life skills that can help youth earn a livelihood.