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October 24, 2018

We are not preparing fresh graduates for job market

Washington Mburu was all smiles when he graduated last year with a bachelor’s degree in economics. He estimates that it cost his family some Sh50,000 to hire a bus and attend his graduation ceremony in one city-based university. Later, a thanksgiving ceremony was held at his rural home in Nyeri at a cost of Sh20,000. Mburu rues all this waste of resources and would rather he was given this money to start his inevitable job search.

It’s our national character to spend so much on side issues at the expense of real concerns. Witness the pomp and dance and revelry whenever a KCPE graduate scores 400 plus marks. Weeks later, the same revellers host harambees to raise funds for taking the pupils to high schools. It’s the same with university graduations. We spend inordinate sums of money just to take whole village to campus and parade our graduands, like trophies, but are never there when the real work of a job search starts.

But from the requirements of a typical job application, we need a paradigm shift and start saving for our campus graduates if we are to assist them in their job search. Among the requirements for a job application nowadays are compliance certificates from the Higher Education Loans Board and the Kenya Revenue Authority. Others are the Criminal Investigations Department and the Ethics and Anti-corruption Commission’s certificates of good conduct and a letter from a Credit Reference Bureau indicating that one does not owe any financial institution a bad loan.

Getting these certificates involves travel, and, often to Nairobi, though the Huduma centres in our major towns are greatly reducing this distance. When a graduate travels to Nairobi, or the nearest major town, it is unlikely that he or she will obtain all these certificates at a go. Our youth must anticipate long queues at some of the offices. Notable is the long queues at the CID headquarters along Kiambu road where people often line up by 5am! And with the ban on night travel in force, it is not possible to travel from some corners of Kenya to Nairobi in one day.

Fresh graduates seeking these papers also need to factor in putting up in town for a few days. There is also a fee of Sh1,000 fee that the CID headquarters require and even then one has to get back there in a week’s time to get a certificate of good conduct. Visits to the EACC have a hidden charge of Sh500 that job seekers have to pay to a commissioner of oaths to swear them to the contents of the ethics form that they fill.

The CRBs charge about Sh2,200 to search applicants’ names in their data and give them a clearance certificate. But a visit to the KRA can be most shocking. Often people changing jobs are jolted to hear that they owe government money in tax arrears that arise from their current employers’ late submission of taxes. And since such people need clearance fast, often they pay the penalties.

At a conservative estimate, the search for all these papers needs at least Sh20,000. We have not factored in the wardrobe upgrade to get the right clothes that go with the jobs applied for. It is advisable for parents to help their graduating children by saving for a job search 'war chest fund' instead of lavishing them with parties. The need for a job search doesn’t come overnight and therefore a master plan can be worked out long before the children have graduated.

With due planning, a job search by fresh graduates need not impoverish families as it often does. Going flat out in search of a job and working smart at getting one are two different things. It’s good for young people to realise this and narrow down their job search to a few areas that match their skills and intensify their efforts there instead of casting their nets in wide fields that are out of synch with their skills. The result of this is the eyesore of young people with brown envelopes walking all over. Certainly, it is the height of folly to spend money on sending job applications and testimonials to every firm that advertises a vacancy, as many young people do. This is a form of impulse spending.

Many youths don’t keep their papers in order until they are demanded and which is often on short notice. Such papers include birth and school leaving certificates, academic transcripts and clearances from government agencies. This is the biggest cost in a job search and young people can help cut it by getting proactive long before graduation day. Instead of physically visiting every firm to search of an opening, our youth can cut cost by using the social media to hunt for leads. Nowadays many firms accept online job applications and this can save one the cost of actual travel and documents postage.

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