• Any university academic programme must be as practical-oriented as possible.
• Will ensure students are not trained in what the university thinks the job market wants but in actually what the job market wants.
The awarding of 118 PhDs by Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture and Technology caused a lot of fuss. This came in the wake of ongoing reforms in the education sector.
This is right from the introduction of the new competency-based curriculum to the directive that university lecturers must be PhD holders. Therefore, this is the opportune time to have a conversation about how to make our university graduates better equipped for employment.
The Federation of Kenya Employers has often complained about university graduates not being properly groomed for the job market. Any university academic programme must be as practical-oriented as possible. This is as stipulated in the Universities Standards and Guidelines 2014.
It is time we got a lasting and practical solution. This is an ongoing conversation in most parts of the world, not just Kenya. England, for example, has seen a need for university education to have a labour market focus. Universities have responded by introducing employability training. They have also greatly emphasised on apprenticeships, commonly referred to as internships in Kenya.
Kenya can pick up some lessons from England’s approach. In Kenya, the retirement age is 60 years. However, it may vary as stipulated in the Public Service Commission Act 2017.
The recruitment of volunteers with high-level work experience does not have to be limited to retirees alone. We can also have those currently in employment come on board to give insights to university students about the job market.
Individuals retiring from both the private and public sectors have accumulated a lot of work experience. Many would be willing to volunteer to teach at the university, for intellectual fulfilment among other reasons. Universities in Kenya can introduce employability training within academic courses and rope in these experienced retirees to lecture.
The method of recruiting the retirees should primarily be based on work experience. Universities must also take care to recruit from both the public and private sector to harness the best of both worlds.
In Germany, it is not mandatory for teachers in practice-oriented areas to possess university degrees. In Norway, there are no national qualifications for vocation college teachers. Technical skills are emphasised more than academic qualifications. This is according to a research paper titled ‘The changing nature and role of vocational education and training in Europe’. Kenya can learn from this approach.
The recruitment of volunteers with high-level work experience does not have to be limited to retirees alone. We can also have those currently in employment come on board to give insights to university students about the job market. There can also be special arrangements where they can give their input into the university curriculum. It is essential for employers to give their input into the curriculum. This is because they are the ones with the best knowledge about what the market wants.
This is the only way to ensure that students are not trained in what the university thinks the job market wants but in what the job market actually wants. This will also ensure that the research projects that university students do are relevant to the market.
This will be fundamental in tapping the creativity in the students into a new energy that can be the beginning of a major industrial revolution in our country. It will also make attending university stop being a certificate-seeking mission, changing it into a problem-solving expedition. Thus, the relevance of university to the community and country at large will be enhanced.
There is a lot to be gained by opening up our universities to people with relevant work experience to volunteer to lecture. It will ensure that university students gain vocational education, which will make them better prepared for the job market. Concurrently, it will also ensure that the research projects undertaken by university students are practical and relevant enough to be absorbed by the industry.
Economist and founder of The Bizconomist Journal. [email protected]