All universities to set up careers office by year end

Kenya’s institutions of higher learning have up to the end of the year to set up an Office of Career Services with a core mandate to improve the quality of training for students and enhance their chances of success in the workplace and in entrepreneurship activities.

For any breaches of the new directive, universities will be slapped with hefty regulatory penalties, ministry of education officials in Nairobi have warned.

The move will see the country’s colleges and universities join the ranks of their global counterparts such as Harvard University and the University of Oxford which have dedicated offices to empower students to make the right career choices in light of labour market skills demand.

Currently, only a few of Kenya’s universities and colleges run prototypes of the Office of Career Services as envisaged in the new policy which kicked off this month.

The office is, among other things, expected to partner with an array of organisations and to serve as the intersection between skills, employment, market knowledge, innovation, industry and government.

This, said Kenya’s Education Cabinet Secretary Amina Mohamed, will see institutions seeking more chances for internships, apprenticeships, training and job opportunities for students. The office will also provide an avenue to map the availability of market-relevant skills and propose changes to or reinforcement of curricula and training.

Skills mismatch

It is hoped it will help address the widening skills mismatch in the labour market and reduce youth unemployment. While there are many causes of unemployment, studies (including by the World Bank) have cited a disconnect between education and labour market needs as a key driver of high unemployment levels in Kenya, as is the case in many African countries.

“Employers have cited the lack of technical skills, experience and job readiness among graduates as a real recruitment challenge. We must take critical steps to address this situation and ensure our youth develop clear career pathways that will guarantee a decent livelihood while contributing to the overall growth of the economy,” Mohamed told journalists in Nairobi recently.

“There is the need to enhance youth employability by addressing the skills mismatch between education and labour market needs. This will involve provision of training and work experience relevant to market needs both in the formal and informal sectors. We must prepare leaners for self-employment and enhance access to the labour market information needed to guide learning institutions as well as students regarding career opportunities in the market,” she said.

In the middle of the year, Kenyan employers warned of surging business costs arising from the hiring of under-prepared university graduates despite an oversupply of university leavers.

The Office of Career Services is expected to serve as a guide to learners, including those in pre-tertiary levels of education, on emerging and relevant skills,

Branding of students

Education officials anticipate that the platform will link students with entrepreneurship training, seminars, conferences and innovative engagement models for independent thought and invention while helping to improve students’ personal and professional branding.

According to a ministry of education communique to all institutions, the office is expected to ensure a seamless transition from “learning to earning” by ensuring young graduates are equipped with the knowledge, skills and attitudes required for them to participate creatively and innovatively in local, regional and international labour markets.

Like other African countries, Kenya is witnessing a massive youth bulge with government projections showing that by 2030 Kenya’s population will reach 65 million, and up to 85 million in 2050.

At present, one million young people enter the labour market every year meaning that the country must continually generate an equal number of jobs. It is currently estimated that only one in five new entrants to the job market is likely to find a job in the formal sector.