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YOUTH EMPLOYMENT: Why you should consider a diploma instead of a degree

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STANDARD MEDIA – University graduates are twice as likely to be jobless as diploma holders in fresh findings that could inform career choices for parents and their children.

Only 13 per cent of graduates from middle-level colleges were without a job compared to 26 per cent of university graduates, a pointer that technical skills were more marketable, according to a Government report.

Adults who dropped out of formal education after primary school are also reported to be more active in the labour market, confirming that a university degree does not necessarily put you ahead in life.

Unsurprisingly, nearly all adults with no formal education were the least productive, reinforcing the view that going to school is a critical pillar of success.

The Labour Force report, compiled by the Kenya National Bureau of Statistics, does not capture the pay for workers with various educational qualifications, although a university graduate would generally earn more than a certificate holder.

But it is clear from the findings that there are more university graduates than the market requires, explaining in part why many have turned job-hunting into full-time work.

Overall, more than 44 per cent of the population above five years of age is not engaged in gainful employment. The number also includes schoolchildren and retirees.

Unemployment numbers

There are varying unemployment numbers for adults, with different data-crunching entities quoting between 10 per cent and 39 per cent in latest indications.


Policy-makers could learn from the findings about the skills gap in the job market as the country has resorted to importing artisans with basic skills such as welding from China.

The most sought-after workers are plumbers and masons.

Labour Cabinet Secretary Ukur Yattani last Friday expressed concern about the shortage of technical skills in the country, highlighting the paradox of high demand for workers in the midst of soaring unemployment.

“We are saddened to hear that in some areas, we are not able to raise these kinds of skills and we have to look beyond by importing labour from India and China. That should not happen,” Mr Yattani said during a tour of the Mombasa office of the National Industrial Training Authority – a Government agency tasked with ensuring adequate supply of technically trained manpower.

Yattani’s concerns about a shortage of skilled technical workers echoed those expressed by Interior Cabinet Secretary Fred Matiang’i who, when he was the Education CS, criticised Kenyans’ obsession with university degrees over middle-level college training.

However, there are indications that households are taking a cue from the CS, and possibly from the realities in the job market.

University enrollment has tanked after hitting historic numbers of 564,507 in 2016.

Last year, the total number of students pursing different graduate courses fell to below 521,000 – the first time there was a dip in recent years.

The lower enrollment is also linked to the tightened qualification regime after tough controls were put in place to beat cheating in secondary school national examinations.

A candidate must score a C+ grade to automatically qualify to join university, but they can also go through the longer route – starting from certificate and diploma courses.

The difficulty university graduates are facing in finding employment has informed recent interventions by Education Cabinet Secretary Amina Mohamed, who has encouraged enrollment in technical colleges.

More youths

In the wider scheme, the Government hopes to recruit more youths into middle-level colleges and prepare them to get jobs within six months of graduation, effectively making university education less attractive.

Reforms have also been put in place to make it easier for college students to access education loans just like their university counterparts. A targeted revolving fund will also be established, the Education CS said in a recent conference in Rwanda.

The State’s master plan aims to raise training opportunities in Technical and Vocational Education and Training institutions to 3.1 million, up from the current 180,000.

Education Principal Secretary Kevit Desai said there was a huge skills gap in the market that should be addressed through pushing students to middle-level colleges.

“We must appreciate that vocational skills are the most important enablers to development, and not the liberal training that university provides,” said Mr Desai, who is in charge of Technical and Vocational Training.

Lack of technical skills, he added, was the reason productivity was “extremely low when compared to other countries like China”.

Economist XN Iraki said employers were looking for skills rather than simply employing “human beings”, explaining why middle-level college graduates were more marketable.

“The solution is to make degree courses more market-oriented, read skill-oriented, not prestige-oriented. We can borrow a leaf from America’s community colleges,” Dr Iraki said.

—— AUTO – GENERATED; Published (Halifax Canada Time AST) on: May 13, 2018 at 07:58PM

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