Report: poor training leads to joblessness

By Semaj Itosno,Nairobi, Kenya

African countries face massive unemployment among youth if they do not urgently change their training in line with market trends. Results for Development Institute (R4D), a Washington-based anti-poverty organisation, says 75 million youth are currently unemployed globally, majority of them in Africa, due to a mismatch in the skills they possess and the demands of the job market.

“It’s a huge challenge to absorb these people,” said Nick Burnett, the R4D Managing Director. “Unfortunately, most of these people are in Africa.” In Kenya, for instance, unemployment among the youth is growing, he noted, with 30 per cent of those aged between 20 and 24 years unable to get jobs.

Burnett said even with such high unemployment rates, employers still have unfilled vacancies because they can’t get the right people to fill them. “Those entering the workforce are not well-equipped with the necessary skills,” he said.

According to the report R4D launched at the opening of its skills conference in Nairobi this week, the majority of people enter the market with secondary level education which often – especially in Africa and Asia – does not provide the necessary skills required to participate in the workforce.

It says soft skills such as communication and team work, which are critical in today’s workplace, are either lacking or poorly taught at the secondary level in these regions. The research shows employers look for three key skills: analytical, technical and no-cognitive capabilities. In the informal sector, soft skills are even more crucial, as such workers need to be able to work along the entire length of the value chain

According to the Innovative Secondary Education for Skills Enhancement (ISESE) report, which has been supported by Rockefeller Foundation, 3.5 billion people will be in the global workforce by 2030, one billion of whom will lack the relevant skills to secure employment. Between now and 2030, 600 million new workers join the global workforce.

The two-day conference for key educators, policymakers, employers and trainers will make policy recommendations to strengthen the link between education and employment, as part of the ISESE project. ISESE seeks to identify the skills required for work in the 21st century economies of Africa and Asia, and to explore innovative models of delivering these skills to youth of secondary school age.

Owate Wambayi, the Director of Vocational Education and Training at the Ministry of Education said in his keynote address, that the government is reforming how it delivers skills training to make learners suitable for the market. “We have discovered gaps at different levels and we are addressing them to prepare people for professional careers even at the grassroots,” he said. “If we do not get the relevant skills to make us competitive Vision 2030 will turn into a pipe dream.”

He said curriculum reforms should focus on practical aspects of training that improve competencies among the youth.

Safaricom, one of the biggest employers in Kenya, said it is working with training institutions to hone the skills of students before they join the job market.

Peter Njioka, the learning & development manager at Safaricom said the mobile phone company has partnered with Moi University and JKUAT to tailor courses to the telecommunications market.  “We need ready-now graduates,” he said. “People who can challenge the norms and have creative minds apart from the technical schools.”

Africa Regional Office Managing Director for Rockefeller Foundation Mamadou Biteye said globalisation, urbanisation and digitisation presents both opportunities and challenges for youth. “The current pace of job creation is not sufficient given that Africa has the youngest population globally. We should look into ICT opportunities to create sustainable jobs for the youth,” he said.

Burnett said Kenya is on an encouraging path when it comes to secondary education, as enrollment figures are on the rise, and more students are making the transition from primary school to secondary school. “However, the number of students in secondary school only tells part of the story,” he said. “We must pay closer attention to what students are learning and how they are learning, so we can determine how to prepare them for employment in an increasingly interconnected global economy.”



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