Giving young people the much needed skills and support

Kartik Jayaram

When over 3,900 students many of whom are already putting their new skills to use in career-launching jobs celebrated their graduation from Generation Kenya last month, it was evident that equipping young people with practical skills for the labour market is crucial. Generation Kenya, a not-for-profit organization, recruits, trains, and connects young people who are unemployed or underemployed with jobs – and mainly provides employers with the entry-level talent they need.

The ceremony held last month at the Kenyatta International Convention Centre celebrated the sixth group of students to graduate from the Generation Kenya, a programme that works closely with employers to ensure the curriculum provides students with the skills they need to be successful on the job.

Further, Generation Kenya also works with employers to confirm available jobs for graduates. With nearly 8,000 graduates to date, 90% of them have found employment with local companies that have partnered with the programme with a 75% retention rate within six months. 

Introduced in Kenya in May 2015 and supported by USAID, East Africa Trade and Investment Hub and McKinsey & Company, Generation Kenya also works closely with the Government of Kenya through Technical and Vocational Education and Training (TVETs), providing these institutions with a best-in-class curriculum and methodology for training young people for employment. 

Mr Kartik Jayaram, a senior partner at Generation Kenya, said the employment program is uniquely designed to take students through practical training focusing on different sectors such as financial services, sales, retail, hospitality, consumer goods, customer service and apparel manufacturing.

“Currently we are partnering with 6 private and 2 public TVETs. 633 of our 2017 graduates are from our TVET centers. 91% of these TVET graduates have been placed with various employer partners,” he says.

Conducting the training in 35 training centres spread across 17 towns and cities with plans to expand to all counties in the country, the majority of those who participate in the programme are secondary school leavers who have struggled to find work. They undergo a four to eight week long intensive training in a particular profession, and then are guaranteed an interview with one of the programme’s various employer partners among them Barclays Bank, Standard Chartered Bank, Bank of Africa, Old Mutual, Carrefour, Subway, Java, Airtel, Jumia and Bidco Africa. 

“There is definitely a mismatch between graduates coming from our tertiary education institutions and labour demand. The world is now a global village powered by technology and driven by information; our human resource needs to be in sync with these fast changing trends,” said Senator for Nairobi, Johnson Sakaja.

According to a recent report by United Nations Development Programme, the 2017 Human Development Index, 40% of Kenyans are unemployed, 80% of whom are below 35 years of age. This leaves employers with skills shortage especially in the entry-level positions.

Experts say that new graduates are finding life tough. The slow pace at which tens and thousands get meaningful jobs months after successfully completing their studies is partly attributed to the manner in which young people have always approached the process of seeking for jobs. A big number who miss out and end up being miserable in the long run is another story. It is such complexities that Generation Kenya aims at streamlining. Through regular alumni networking and support events and by volunteering as mentors for current students and other programme graduates people behind the program believe that there is light at the end of the tunnel.

Generation Kenya’s mentorship programme currently has 73 mentors and 257 mentees, which has helped improve its graduates’ performance at their employment and increased excitement from other alumni to join the mentorship programme as mentors. Good still, young people automatically join a growing alumni network of talented workers that is now nearly 8,000 strong. In the current volatile job market, this is just but one way to help new graduates hit the ground running.

“As an authority, we will work together with various stakeholders to equip our youth with skills that make our youth employable or self-employed. It is also the role of the Government to create an enabling environment for the youth to thrive,” said director general of Technical and Vocational Education and Training Authority Dr Kipkirui Langat.