Uninformed selection, parental pressure leads to poor career choice - Daily Nation

Uninformed selection, parental pressure causes poor career choice

Sunday April 24 2016

Nation journalists give career advice at Kenyatta University during career week on February 6, 2016. In 2014, another research by the same ministry said 70 pc of Kenyans felt they were in the wrong career. PHOTO | ANTHONY OMUYA | NATION MEDIA GROUP

Nation journalists give career advice at Kenyatta University during career week on February 6, 2016. In 2014, another research by the same ministry said 70 pc of Kenyans felt they were in the wrong career. PHOTO | ANTHONY OMUYA | NATION MEDIA GROUP 

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His father is a magistrate and his sister an advocate, so Brian Chweya was naturally motivated to study law.

He was admitted to the bar in 2014 but, instead of being in the court room, Elani prefers making music and performing.

“My parents were sceptical at first but once they saw music was bringing in good money they got on board. I make more money from music than from being an advocate but I still use my knowledge of law to draft contracts for Elani, besides other legal stuff,” he says.

With just six days left for candidates who sat the Form Four national examinations last year to review their preferred college and university courses, the government, economists and employers say quite a number like Mr Chweya will end up graduating with degrees they will not use.

Many more will study courses that will not guarantee them employment because of a surplus of graduates competing for the same jobs or because the economy does not need them, thus contributing to the unemployment crisis.

Some sectors in the economy continue witnessing a skills deficit, forcing companies to outsource employees or send prospective recruits abroad before they are hired, says the Public Service Commission.

“Sometimes institutions tend to offer curriculum that does not support the industry. That gap has always been noted when people leave the university but require a lot of training in order to be employable,” the commission’s chair, Prof Margaret Kobia, told the Sunday Nation.

Prof Kobia says the Commission still has a problem filling professionals in the engineering and medical fields while there is always a surplus of applications in foreign affairs, public administration and social science based jobs.

Employers, on the other hand, say information technology, mining, energy, manufacturing, structural engineering, oil and gas are some of the emerging sectors that those wishing to pursue higher education should consider if they want to be guaranteed employment once they graduate.


These sectors are continuously registering growth and have been projected to be the main contributors to the country’s economy in a matter of years and the Federation of Kenya Employers (FKE) advises those pursuing higher education to strongly consider them.

By the end of last year, 66 minerals had been discovered in Kenya and the government recently announced it intends to grow the sector so that it contributes 10 per cent of the GDP by 2020. 

The contribution of geothermal electricity and renewable energy sources to the national grid has grown significantly while the country is soon expected to produce oil and the construction sector has been on a surge. 

However, there is just one problem. Kenya hardly has geological, construction, petroleum or mining engineers and the foreign companies spearheading development in these sectors either import manpower or send Kenyans abroad for training, which FKE sees as a skills gap.

“Currently all these sectors import most of their workforce as Kenyans lack the technical expertise. The indications are this is where the economy is moving to,” the federation’s CEO Jacqueline Mugo says.

“Parents are pushing their children to do courses in universities because they think getting a degree will guarantee them a job without considering whether there are jobs in that sector,” she says.

University enrolment has doubled from 218,000 students in 2011 to 443,000 last year, according to the 2015 Economic survey.

The number of courses being offered too has tripled over the same period from 109 to 333.

However, quite a number of these courses, especially the technical ones, are unaccredited by professional bodies and several students have found themselves out of school for long periods or with worthless degrees after graduation.

Last year, the Engineers Board of Kenya outlawed Kenyatta University, Masinde Muliro University of Science and Technology, Technical University of Mombasa and the Technical University of Kenya from offering some engineering courses.

Some of the courses in these institutions have, however, been accredited.

The Council for Legal Education (CLE) also ordered Moi University and Mount Kenya University to shut down their law courses, saying they had not been accredited.

Justice George Odunga early this month ruled that CLE had no jurisdiction to accredit or withdraw law courses offered in local universities.

This year, 74,389 places are up for grabs in public universities come September for students who scored a B of 60 points for male candidates and B- of 58 points for female candidates who sat the Kenya Certificate of Secondary Education examination (KCSE) last year. 

A further 50,338 will have an opportunity to access government sponsorship in diploma colleges (Technical Vocational Education Institutions).

However, the Kenya Universities and Colleges Placement Service (KUCCPS) says that very few students choose to join the vocational institutions despite the potential the courses have.

“Instead, many students opt to study courses that attract mass enrolment in the universities largely due to the cheaper tuition fees charged and prestige associated with university degrees,” says John Muraguri, the placement service’s CEO.

“Technical jobs including carpentry, electrician, plumbing and agriculture can guarantee self-employment as more companies resort to use of sub-contracted workforces ostensibly to reduce labour costs,” he says.

Research conducted by the Ministry of Education in 2007 revealed that only seven per cent of Kenya’s employed workforce felt they were in the right careers, 66 pc had chosen the wrong career while 27 pc had no idea which career they wanted to pursue.

In 2014, another research by the same ministry said 70 pc of Kenyans felt they were in the wrong career.

Prof Kobia says the reason for this career mismatch is because students select courses blindly or due to pressure from their parents.

“Students making a career choice should be motivated by the skills they think they are good at. Some students take a course because that is what is available,” she says.

“They should evaluate themselves. What are they happy doing?” she says.