Young people between the ages of 15 and 34 make up the highest percentage of people who are neither in employment nor in school or vocational training.
A government report found that these youths were being held out of work due to skill mismatches.
She suggests proactive measures that include anticipating future skills and highlighting key sectors for future jobs.
Post-Training and Skills Development PS Alfred Cheruiyot said Kenya is fighting unemployment and under-utilization of the youth workforce.
Citing the Kenyan Youth Policy Development Report, Cheruiyot said the current unemployment rate is 10.4 percent, while the workforce underutilization is 17.2 percent.
“The highest proportion of unemployed was in the 20-24 and 25-29 age cohorts at 22.8 percent and 21.7 percent, respectively,” said Cheruiyot.
However, the PS said the highest rate of labor underutilization was in the 20- to 24-year-old age group at 32.7 percent.
âYoung people between the ages of 15 and 34 recorded the highest percentage of people who are neither in work nor in training or education, at 18.2 percent,â said Cheruiyot.
A decent job
The details were revealed during a three-day conference at the Center for Mathematics, Science and Technology in Africa (CEMASTEA) under the theme “Enhancing Graduate Employability with a Focus on Adapting Curriculum to Labor Market Demands”.
Education Cabinet Secretary George Magoha said the government is committed to ensuring that young people find decent jobs after completing education and training.
Magoha added that removing barriers that prevent college graduates from accessing employment is a must.
“For this reason, it is essential for young people to have the appropriate skills in order to have easy access to the labor market and to stay in good quality and stable jobs,” said Magoha.
Youth Affairs PS Charles Sunkuli said there was a conscious need for the various actors and actors to make a concerted effort to inform youth about the options available and the dynamics in the labor market.
“Providing competency-based education and training (CBET) as well as teaching life and communication skills can help achieve this,” said PS Sunkuli.
In his in-depth presentation, Cheruiyot said the skill mismatch was due to a weak link between education and industry, leading to unemployment that disproportionately affects youth, who make up 75 percent of the current population of around 50 million people.
According to the PS, the competence mismatch takes place on two levels: micro and macro level.
At the micro level, Cheruiyot said that this includes over- or under-qualification. Also outdated qualifications and geographic gaps when opportunities exist in one area but qualifications are in a different location.
And at the macro level, he said, the discrepancy is about the supply and demand for skills.
Cheruiyot identified the skills mismatch as one of the main challenges facing young people leaving education and training after school, adding that there is a mismatch between what is offered in higher education and what is needed in the labor market.
âUniversities still offer courses that may not be relevant to the current job market. Even those who offer courses that are in line with the current dynamics do not guide the young people properly in choosing a career and that is why they remain unemployed for years after completing their training, âhe added.
He said part of the solution included improving volunteering, which prepares youth for the world of work by reviewing the national volunteering policy and curriculum.
The PS said there was a need to build and integrate soft skills such as communication, respect, public relations and financial literacy into the school and post-school curriculum.
He also said that there should also be mentoring and coaching programs in workplaces that put new hires under experienced officers to help them understand.
“There is also a need for a strategy paper and curriculum on mentoring and coaching in the public and private sectors that emphasizes apprenticeship training for young people who have left school and those who have completed education and training,” said the PS.
Experts are now calling for the anticipation of skills for future jobs.
“This will help strategically assess the future skills needed in the labor market, using consistent and systematic methodology,” said Alice Vozza, Skills and Lifelong Learning Specialist at the International Labor Organization in South Africa.
“The aim is not to provide the exact number of workers, but rather to inform all labor market actors of potential future skill needs and imbalances so they can make informed decisions or develop or take action,” said Vozza.
Agriculture, industry and the service sectors have been assigned the greatest roles in job creation. This is supported by a recent survey by the Kenya Institute for Public Policy Research and Analysis (KIPPRA) entitled Industries Without Smokestacks in Africa: A Case of Kenya (2021). According to the report, the share of agriculture in total employment in general increased from 1991 (47 percent) to 60 percent in 2010 and then to 57 percent in 2018.
Dr. Eldah Onsomu, principal policy analyst at KIPPRA, said some recent studies suggest that chimneyless industries (IWOSS) have the potential to create mass jobs for the youth.
IWOSS refers to a number of non-manufacturing sectors that are comparable to manufacturing industries. That is, sectors that are tradable, can create mass employment, have high added value per worker and can agglomerate. They also have high productivity and employment potential like manufacturing.
The meeting also identified that the most promising sectors are tourism, horticulture and ICT which is a high growth sector in Kenya and worldwide.
According to Onsomu, employment projections through 2030 suggest that in addition to IWOSS; Manufacturing and non-IWOSS sectors will be important for wage job creation.
“The sectors with the highest percentage of paid jobs are trade and repairs, horticulture and manufacturing, but they need support,” said Onsomu.
The predicted skill needs will be in technical, analytical thinking and innovation, active learning and learning strategies, creativity, originality and initiative. Others include critical thinking and analysis, high technology, design and programming, complex problem solving, leadership and social influence, emotional intelligence, reasoning, problem solving and brainstorming, and systems analysis and evaluation.
Labor market data
And there are also skills deficits in the districts. The district of Vihiga (70.4 percent) has the highest proportion of young people who have stayed the longest, young people without employment, education or training (NEET) and Mandera with 3.3 percent the lowest.
Dr. Onsomu said that due to the lack of access to real-time labor market data, appropriate labor market information systems need to be developed. In addition, he said, a skills inventory is being carried out to inform skills training areas and tracking studies to track VET graduates in the job market.
This will provide feedback on reviewing and improving vocational training programs and improving employability.
“In order to strengthen the links between education and training through collaboration between educational institutions and the labor market, the private sector must be vigorously involved in shaping the future of industry by playing a key role in the planning and design of vocational training programs,” said Onsomu.