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Skills and labour market mismatches

The Kenya Institute of Management (KIM) Tracer Survey of 2019 established that alumni treasure quality in skills development and exposure to the business world as key launching pads towards success in the job market.

By TABITHA AREBA

Kenya has myriad checks to establish, maintain and improve education standards in all basic and higher learning institutions. The ministry of education has the directorate of quality assurance and standards and when it comes to individual learning institutions, quality assurance is catered for in the monitoring and supervision of curriculum delivery and evaluation.

However, what constitutes quality in Kenya, and in individual learning institutions is a question that keeps cropping up every time graduates complete the learning process and get into the job market. 

A big percentage of the over 500,000 fresh graduates that enter the job market every year are unable to deliver on work expectations. Initiatives such as mentorship programmes and career fairs have been unveiled to link students to industry players with the aim of sealing the gap between fresh graduates` skills and job market demands. Unfortunately, employers keep complaining about half-baked graduates who cannot comprehend basic on the job procedures. The elephant in the room is: who is to blame? Is it the government, institutions of higher learning or the students?

The Kenya Institute of Management (KIM) Tracer Survey of 2019 established that alumni treasure quality in skills development and exposure to the business world as key launching pads towards success in the job market. “The skills learnt at KIM prepare one for challenges in the formal employment and also entrepreneurship,” narrated a KIM alumnus.

More than 87 per cent of the alumni who participated in the survey attested to the fact that they acquired skills that came in handy while executing work-related activities.

Quality skills development

While the government plays an oversight role, organisations that deliver higher education are responsible for the academic standards and the quality of the learning opportunities. 

In Egypt, just like other developing nations, the unemployment rate keeps rising because the supply of graduates exceeds demand in the job market.

However, negatively affected quality of higher education is another contributing factor and public learning institutions are to blame. The ripple effect negates the gains made by private sector institutions who produce stronger graduates. “Many who graduate from a stronger private system encounter difficulties in either being classified as overqualified, and hence get refused and are unemployed, or are placed in a position that under evaluates their capabilities, and hence with time lose enthusiasm or escape (brain drain).” This is according to an article published in Emerald Insight titled The Quality of Higher Education in the Arab Region: Which Tools of Assessment to Use.  Overall, this hugely contributes to weakening the country`s economy. The Emerald Article highlights successful initiatives undertaken by the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) to seal this gap, and they include partnerships with foreign universities in developed countries and focusing on establishing knowledge economies in line with globalization. 

Exposure to the business world

The case of higher learning in Romania mirrors the quality of Kenya`s higher learning and the skills market. 

In a study of Romanian business students, respondents expressed a need for improved pedagogies with an emphasis on practical exercises. The result of this is making theory more relevant to real life and superior skills development in preparation for future work. Ideally, this is what ought to be happening on the ground in all colleges and universities. However, according to an article published in Emerald titled Development of professional identity in Romanian business students, hours designed for developing practical skills have been used to strengthen theoretical concepts. Contrary to this, the article notes that many students recognise the need to develop business professional identity. According to the KIM Tracer Survey, alumni were happy that KIM School of Management (KIMSOM) gave them adequate exposure to the business world where they were able to apply acquired skills. This is a great strategy that leads to maximum results even in other markets. A good example is Romania where a study by a major online job search firm established that close to 70 per cent of Romanian students said they worked during their university studies to expand their skills and to make sure they would have a job when they graduated.

Feedback received during the KIM Tracer survey showed that students who graduate with marketable skills are happy and satisfied. Seventy six per cent of the alumni agreed that there is a positive relationship between the KIMSOM courses pursued and their present career paths. 

“Most KIMSOM alumni were absorbed into the job market either as full-time employees (62 per cent) or part-time employees (seven per cent), with 42 per cent getting jobs in the private sector and 22 per cent in the public sector,” notes the report in part. 

Essentially, rigorous and thorough training in relation to the labor market and emerging trends should be incorporated in the curriculum of each college and institutions of higher earning. This is a sure path to narrowing the skills gap in Kenya`s job market.

Tabitha Areba is the Manager, Publications Branding and Research at the Kenya Institute of Management. Email: tareba@kim.ac.ke 

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