The shortage of skilled workers in the informal sector is a growing concern for a country such as ours, with 77 percent of Kenya’s workforce employed in the informal sector.
A study by the Kenya National Bureau of Statistics found that over 86 percent of Kenyan youth aged between 15 and 24 years believe that education is the ultimate path to a successful life but only 21 percent of the respondents professed to have college or university education. With such a huge divide, the question remains: How can we leverage resources to fill existing gaps in the market?
Kenyan youth play an integral role in our economy’s growth and can do even more. Yet, in practice, many youth face an uphill task to participate meaningfully in a way that not only changes their lives but also has an impact on the economy.
In response, several workforce initiatives have been introduced, Generation being one of them. The programme, funded by McKinsey & Company, USAID, SIDA and the Safaricom Foundation, gives opportunity to any youth in Kenya with as low as a KCPE certificate to gain the requisite skills that will enable them to build meaningful careers in various fields, including finance and manufacturing. After an evaluation of the local labour market to identify entry-level jobs that feature either high scarcity or high turnover, Generation creates four to eight-week programmes that offer specific technical and behavioural skills and support services.
The programme has graduated more than 13,000 youth and placed 84 percent of these into meaningful employment. Some 70 percent of these youth have a KCSE grade C and below, and 57 percent of them are women. A number of these graduates have been trained in Technical and Vocational Education and Trainings (TVET) institutions, in partnership with the Nairobi County government and several institutions in the government of Kenya.
The efforts of the Generation programme complement those of the government, whose focus on skills training in line with the Big Four agenda towards a sustainable economy has ensured our TVET institutions are supported. Beyond channelling resources to these TVET institutions, the government has been running campaigns in a bid to influence the public’s perception of vocational training and encourage youth to enrol in these institutions.
Public, private and civil society partnerships can create more sustained and effective results. When employers collaborate with training institutions to provide practical training that focuses on demand-driven skills, this increases our pool of skilled workers and creates opportunities for improved productivity and economic growth. This also benefits employers, as Generation has proven — through a reduction in required interview hours, better trained professionals and employees who stay on the job longer. This mutually beneficial engagement allows both employers and training institutions to play a role in solving the youth unemployment problem.
The writer is the chief executive of Generation Kenya.