NO SOFT SKILLS

Employers headache: Youths unprepared for first job — report

Survey conducted in 24 counties shows school leavers lack basic skills

In Summary

• Youths seeking jobs for the first time reported that most of the jobs they sought were dished out on the basis of 'connections' 

• Report reveals that service industry stands as Kenya's top employer with 32 per cent of youth in it

Unemployed youth hold placards advertising their skills
SURVEY: Unemployed youth hold placards advertising their skills
Image: REUTERS

School leavers are entering the workplace without basic skills such as punctuality, manners, right dress-code and the ability to hold conversations,  research by Aga Khan University has revealed.

Despite literacy levels reaching all-time highs, many employers are finding that recent graduates are unprepared and struggle to adapt to the most basic entry-level jobs because of an inability to perform simple tasks. 

The 'Survey of Employers and Employees in the Formal and Informal Sector to Determine Entry-Level Skills Among Youth (18-30) in Employment Kenya' was conducted last year. 

 

A total of 9,355 interviews were conducted in 24 counties, out of which 6,362 are employed youth and 2,300 employers in both sectors.

University vice provost Alex Awiti said basic skills, otherwise referred to as soft skills, have been used and ignored in the country's educational history to the point where employers claim they are missing in today’s job applicants. 

He notes that in closing the gap between the soft skills employers require and those students leave school with, a collaboration between business and education at the local level is necessary. 

"Luckily for us, we have the new curriculum that puts these skills at the centre of learning, with equal emphasis put on the soft skills just as much as academics," Awiti said on Wednesday.

CONNECTIONS AND CORRUPTION

Even as employees decry lack of skills, youths seeking jobs for the first time reported that most of the jobs they sought were dished out on the basis of 'connections'. 

Half of the respondents landed jobs or were recruited through referrals and social networks. 

 
 

This means that most of the job vacancies only reached those contacted by those directly or indirectly involved in the recruitment.

This complicates matters for those with lean connections and raises the flag on some employees landing to jobs they are not best fit to occupy. 

"Only 25 per cent of youth in the formal sector and eight per cent in the informal sector were recruited through advertising," the report reads.

Over 30 per cent of those interviewed cited low pay as a barrier to entry-level jobs while 47 per cent said lack of experience was a barrier.

Awiti notes a need for a better look into the experience barrier by working out a plan that will synchronise training and work experience.

"How do you ask a graduate who has just left college to have years of experience where are they going to get it from? I think we need to create interlinkage between the industry and the learning institutions to ensure." 

JOBS

If the survey findings are anything to go by, then the service industry stands as Kenya's top employment industry. 

The sector accounts for 84 per cent of jobs in the country and comprises of retail, wholesale, accommodation, transport, finance, education, security and food service.

A deeper look into the service industry reveals that merchandise of products–wholesale and retail–has 32 per cent of youth engaging in it. 

Education also stood as a big employer with at least 21 per cent of those interviewed engaged in the business. 

However, despite accounting for lots of jobs, 94 per cent of the wholesale-retail businesses employ less than 10 people. 

Another 71 per cent of businesses employ less than 10 people, 26 per cent of businesses employ 10-49 people and only three per cent employ more than 50 people. 

Edited by R.Wamochie