Africa faces the greatest challenge and contradiction of the century. On the one hand, it has an exploding youth population that can yield a demographic dividend.
As Jack Ma said in his public lecture at University of Nairobi in July last year, this is a wonderful thing for the continent.
However, a high level of youth unemployment, which is caused by skills deficiency among them, can engender a demographic disaster. The penny drops.
The World Economic Forum has estimated that, out of 600 million youth, 90 per cent are skills-deficient. The African Union Commission Agenda 2063, has put skills development as a top priority for the continent to achieve integrated, inclusive, innovative and sustainable development in the 21st Century. How?
The Presidency and the Ministry of Education consider youth- and skills-focused training as a primary focus of the government. More than 10 million youth are unemployed due to skills shortage.
Skills are the currency for the job market. Appreciating this, Education Cabinet Secretary Amina Mohamed, the principal secretary for Technical and Vocational Training, Dr Kevit Desai, and his erstwhile Post-Training and Skills Development colleague, Ms Zeinab Hussein (now at Correctional Services) realised the magnitude of this problem and initiated the Office of Career Services (OCS) at all universities.
The guideline for the establishment and operationalisation of the OCS was launched by the CS on June 21 at the UoN.
The OCS is a government national strategy for developing essential competencies that will produce the appropriate human capital for the ongoing fourth Industrial Revolution.
CHANCELLOR'S CAREER FAIR
Among the initiatives to realise the OCS goals is the biannual Chancellor’s Career Fair that brings together the government, private sector and academia to discuss and offer solutions to the twin challenges.
On August 13 and 14, the UoN hosted a CEOs Roundtable, career exhibitions by key industry partners and parallel skills development programmes for students.
Several companies have committed to offer jobs and continuous pre-graduation training to its graduates.
The university and the Ministry of Information, Communication and Technology (ICT) will launch the Ajira Digital Programme to train over 10,000 students and graduates to access digitally enabled jobs.
The African Development Bank (AfDB) has also chosen the UoN among four other Kenyan universities to set up a Digital Youth Centre for Employment Coding and targets to train a similar number in three years.
SKILLS FOR THE FUTURE
Several technology companies have signed memorandums of understanding to train students on “Skills for the Future”, which will make the graduates locally and globally competitive.
In contribution to the President’s ‘Big Four’ agenda, the UoN and five other universities and training institutions, through partnerships between the Kenya and Israeli governments, flagged off 118 students to go to Israel for 11 months for advanced agriculture training — in line with the Big Four pillar of food security and nutrition.
On the same pillar, the College of Agriculture and Veterinary Sciences is hosting the greatest and largest gathering of government policy makers and university vice-chancellors, principals, deans of agriculture, post-graduate students in agricultural research, development partners and agricultural practitioners from across Africa through Regional Universities Forum for Capacity Building in Agriculture (Ruforum).
The College of Architecture and Engineering and industry partners will come up with technological solutions to low-cost housing — as per the affordable housing pillar.
To produce the next generation of healthcare professionals in line with universal health coverage (UHC) pillar, the university is in negotiation with the government to help in putting up a world-class teaching and research hospital at its College of Health Sciences.
On manufacturing, the School of Engineering is setting up an R&D Centre to help to develop prototypes of Jua Kali mass production of their goods.
Once again, the solutions and the value are in providing the skills needed.
Enhancing workforce competencies will increase the country’s productivity and gross domestic product (GDP). The Asian Tigers have developed because of skills development and aligning human resource development to their priorities.
There must be a commitment to match skills to industry needs and the future needs of the nation and its population.
Ms Mutoko is the general manager, Radio Africa Group. [email protected]