Career Choices: SKILLS REQUIRED IN THE KENYAN JOB MARKET

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Career Choices: SKILLS REQUIRED IN THE KENYAN JOB MARKET
Kenya Polytechnic now Technical University of Kenya Photo/Courtesy

Rowallan Atkinson is an English actor, comedian and screen writer best known for his work on the sitcoms Mr. Bean and Blackadder. He listed as one of the funniest actors in British comedy. About his schooling and qualifications, Mr. Atkinson (Mr. Bean) is a graduate of Newcastle University where he received a degree in Civil Engineering and Masters in Electrical Engineering.

I pose question: Why does anybody take their children to school? Why say does somebody take more than 2 decades studying from primary, secondary, university undergraduate including postgraduate which is now trending. I espouse that the reason why we do this is to make ourselves marketable in the job market so that we can get well-paying jobs to sustain us. Simply put, we study to be employable and earn a salary for our economic well-being. The expectation is that the higher the level of education, the higher the earnings. The question is, in Kenya, is the time, money and other resources spent in school at varying levels translate to our dream jobs and or expected earnings. The courses offered at our Universities and technical level colleges, are they appropriate for the labour market. Are we employable at the end of our education? Are university graduates getting commensurate jobs or they are ending up doing non graduate jobs. Is there anybody responsible for educating young people and parents in the right college education to take? Is there someone in policy levels monitoring trends of skill gaps in the job market and influencing and communicating to all who need to know for right decisions to be made?

In the last 10-15 years, there has been a craze for university degree education- both undergraduate and post graduate. Currently, Kenya has about 49 Universities – 19 public and 30 private. Any diploma level technical college worth its salt has been upgraded. Many satellite campuses have been set up Churninng out graduates each year into the labour market. In fact, some counties have more than one University. Examples of the technical colleges caught in the upgrading spree includes but not limited to the following:

– Kenya Polytechnic now Technical University of Kenya (from 2013)
– Mombasa Polytechnic now Technical University of Mombasa (2013)
– Machakos technical college – now Machakos University college
– Meru college of Technology (now Meru University of Science & Technology
– Kimathi Institute of Technology – now Dedan Kimathi University of Technology (2012)
– Kenya college of communications- now Multi Media University
– Siriba Teachers College- now Maseno University

So what is the case about university education and what approach might young people choosing careers take when making career choices. Before we delve deeper into our exposition, we put forward a few insights:

In the Kenya standard newspaper of 4th May 2018, a report was published about the state of health facilities in Nakuru County. The report indicated that most the health facilities lacknpharmacists and that drugs are administered by Nurses – who are not qualified to do this specialized job. In addition, a survey conducted by the Kenya National Bureau of statistics (KNBS) 2015/2016 – Labour Force Basic Report(part of the Integrated Household Budget Survey), found out as follows:

– Technical College trainees: For every 100 Kenyans with middle level college qualifications, 87% of them are economically active in the labour market- only 13 of such middle level college graduates are left out of the labour market;
– University Graduates; For every 100 university graduates 26 of them are left out of the labour market, that is, Only 73% are active or employed in the labour market. This means that about 26% of them are unemployed.

According to industry reports, the economy is in dire need of technical skills. The 2010/2011 National manpower survey basic report of the Ministry of labour, it was established that there were glaring gaps between what institutions of higher learning are supplying and what the industry needs especially in the immediate term: The survey found shortages both in the private and public sector in all major occupational groups as shown below:

a) Public sector labour shortages:- shortages were reported in all professional, Technical, associate professionals, secretarial, clerical and related services;
b) Private sector shortages:- shortages were reported in managerial skills, Finance and Insurance, Human Health and social work among others.

A case in point is the one involving importation of 100 Doctors from Cuba when the president visited the country. The majority are referred to as Family 53 family physicians, 9 ICU physicians, 5 general surgeons, Orthopaedic surgeons, 8 Nephrologists (Kidneys), 3 Radiologists, 3 Cardiologists, 3 Plastic Surgeons and other small number of other specializations. The question to ponder is this: Kenya is a large economy in Eastern Africa. It exports a large proportion of its human resource to other countries. In the recent past, the Government increased to supplement the University of Nairobi which for a long time was the only university in Kenya offering the Degree in Medicine. The additional universities offering Bachelor of Science in Medicine are: Moi University and the Kenyatta University. How is it possible that the gaps of 100 doctors cannot be met by local training? Could it be the case that the gaps in these specializations could not be foreseen and appropriate actions between the Ministry of Health and the Universities taken to meet the needs? Does a mechanism exist between the Universities and industry to forecast skill needs and provision of the same? Is there a mechanism that students choosing careers could draw on as they choose university or middle level college courses. With these gaps and many more, why are there more university graduates more likely to be unemployed? Could it be that they took courses that industry does not need.

For us to understand this we may need to take the experience of three young people who have been in the job market in the last five years who have had different outcomes.Some innovative job seekers have improvised and their stories can highlight the phenomenon:

Philemon Mogoncho
Philemon was educated by the community of his rural home using the harambee spirit of Kenyans. He passed his O level and joined the University of Nairobi, pursuing degree in Civil Engineering Where he spent four years studying. After this, he needed a job that could allow him do internship for a minimum of eighteen months before being admitted to the register as an engineer. While still at the University, Mr. Mogoncho was exposed to the business of supplying materials to construction sites after having been introduced by one of his benefactors. Upon completion of his university study, Mr. Mogoncho did not follow through the internship for registration as a professional engineer but became an entrepreneur in the supply chain in the construction industry and earns a decent living.

Photo/Courtesy

Graca Birechi
Ms. Birechi completed her O level in 2012. She proceeded to Machakos technical college then fondly known as Machakos technish. She studied a certificate course teaching cookery skills and hotel management skills. The course offered practical cookery classes, how to use home made equipment like ovens made of local material in Jua Kali, and create value in local settings and earn money for ones up keep.Ms. Birechi completed her course and using money borrowed from siblings and parents, she is now making the best African dishes- Mandazis, Mahamri, chapatis and cakes. She has added outside catering to her servings assuring herself of all local business for weddings, school functions and normal hotel/kiosk walk in Customers.She intends to reinvest her profits to expand her business with a vision of developing her own premises for her business.

George Ntabaiye
Mr Ntabaiye went to the Jomo Kenyatta University and did a Bsc course in Mathematics and Chemistry. Mr. Ntabaiye looked for a job for over three years. While consulting about his friend, Mr. Ntabaiye was advised to do a Diploma course in Education. The diploma in education enabled him to get job as a high school teacher and allowed him to earn a living to support himself and his family.

For the country to achieve its development goals for the well-being of its people, it must do a better job in policy development for better coordination between industry and institutions of higher learning in provision of skills that add value to the students and the organizations that need the skills. When one considers the role of both University Education and the mid level/technical colleges, policy makers should encourage a balance between top level educational training and the practical technical skills needed to actually do the job. Our economy will get stunted if the practical skills are not availed at the work place. The skills for management and policy growth must be tampered with the larger skills in all occupations. what may happen if it is not happening already is that job opportunities will open but investors will bring in workers from outside. One such case might be that the SGR. If we are not prepared, then the world which is ready will snap up our jobs and we will slowly be pushed out of the labour market.

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