By Amber McMunn
Students attending post-secondary school do so with the hope of gaining the skills they need to pursue a fulfilling career. They are dedicating their time, finances, and talent to an institution they believe will help them. However, it takes an average of 5 years for a Kenyan graduate to find a job. Youth finish school lacking the skills and competencies they need to be successful in the 21st century. The 2018 Skills Mismatch Report by the Federation of Kenya Employers (FKE), details how individuals with degrees have taken up positions meant for diploma and certificate holders such as clerical and receptionist positions. Those with diplomas and certificates are then edged out of jobs and unable to find work. Unemployment rates have been reported as the highest for those with secondary levels of education, who also make up a majority of the labor force. This suggests significant skills mismatches in the labor market. The FKE report further explains that employers are now spending an average of Sh20,000 up to Sh100,000 to train new employees. This training is to address the skills gaps employers are finding with their new hires. As post-secondary graduates are unable to find work and employers are paying to train them, this demonstrates a gap in the system. There needs to be a change and there are a number of organizations doing the work to make this change happen.
Organizations aiming to address these skills gaps are growing throughout Nairobi and across the continent. Some, like Moringa, CAP-YEI, ALX, Tustawi, and Tunapanda develop technical and soft skills. Others, such as Shortlist, Fuzu, and Kipawa support with placement. Sunflower and Lumen Labs are examples that develop life skills in younger kids and some, including GMin, Educate!, and Junior Achievement develop entrepreneurship.
We can grow the efficacy of these organizations, and close the skills gap, through more intentional collective learning and collaborative action.
On Wednesday, September 18th, we saw the potential of this at an event Metis co-hosted with Nairobi EdTech--Innovating for CBC: Building competencies for leadership and life.
Representatives from some of the above organizations shared a dilemma they are facing in their work. Collaboratively, attendees brainstormed and discussed solutions. This event allowed everyone present to share successes and failures from their own work and to leverage synergies. If we are going to address a challenge of this scale, it is going to take the collective efforts of a myriad of organizations. Wednesday night was a small testament to the potential of a more coherent ecosystem in closing the skills gap. To advance our collective mission, we need diverse leaders and institutions who are willing to support each other and understand how their work fits into a broader picture.