For the millions of Kenyan graduands, graduating from TVETS, colleges and universities marks a great milestone in their life. On the flip side, only 25% of them get absorbed in the labor force and 75% miss out on job opportunities, according to the latest World Bank report.
With job opportunities growing scarce every year, most of these graduates have no option but to opt for jobs that do not align with their career goals and objectives.
As the 2022 general election campaigns entered a homestretch, the then Deputy President, now the President of the Republic of Kenya, Dr. William Ruto, pledged in his last campaign rally held at Nyayo Stadium, Nairobi, that the Kenya Kwanza Government would set aside KSh 200 billion to create employment opportunities for the unemployed youth.
“We have a Marshall Plan on youth employment. We will deploy KSh 200 billion every year so that we can raise our textile industry, our leather industry, our industry in agro-processing, in value addition, in manufacturing, and in housing, so that we can create job opportunities for millions of young people,” he promised.
Whether the president and his Kenya Kwanza government will live up to its election promises on youth employment remains a wait-and-see situation.
Linet Omondi, who graduated from the University of Nairobi in 2013, is among many graduates searching for employment opportunities, but luck has not been on her side.
“I graduated in 2013 with a Bachelor’s of Science in Meteorology. Thereafter, I underwent a six- month unpaid internship program at the Kenya Meteorological Department. Upon completion, I was fortunate to get a job at a private consultancy firm dealing with research where I worked for 2 years”, Ms. Omondi narrated.
After her contract ended with the consultancy firm, she embarked on a job-hunting mission with the hope that she would get employment soon. Despite sending job applications, none has been successful.
“I have made numerous job applications after my contract ended with the consultancy firm but employment has not been forthcoming,” she says.
After the long wait, Ms. Omondi chose to toss herself into business to make ends meet.
A different path
“I decided to venture into business after getting tired of waiting for employment opportunities,” she remarks.
Ms. Omondi now sells a variety of snacks to eke a living. “I learnt through YouTube how to make snacks and package them. I package snacks at home and distribute them to retail shops,” she explained.
Her journey in search for employment has taught her various lessons that her fellow graduates should also learn.
“Getting employment in Kenya right now has become very tricky because there are a lot of university graduates and the vacancies especially in the public sector are very limited. Those wishing to be employed by the government should try to get other skills that will help them navigate employment opportunities elsewhere because with government the space is limited and there a lot of graduates who are unemployed,” Ms. Omondi advises.
She further explains that other than having those skills, one needs to monetize them so that one can be less dependent on employment.
She also advised graduates not to seek employment with the mentality of making money but instead to use it to acquire skills, make a client base and establish networks. Despite the difficulties in the search for employment, Ms. Omondi has not given up.
On the other hand, Ian Muthomi’s story is quite different. Muthomi is the Founder and CEO of Visiondrill, a social learning platform with Artificial Intelligence-driven personalization.
AI and upskilling
The platform offers skills and creativity-focused content for anyone trying to upscale in the job market. The one-of-its-kind platform in Kenya has cutting-edge technologies such as generative AI, which makes career recommendations for users possible and simplifies complex topics for them and a video conferencing app for online meetings.
The Visiondrill website offers a vast knowledge of various disciplines through pre-recorded lessons.
The platform also has “rooms” to enable students to interact with one another in real-time, thus enhancing networking and further building long-term connections.
The invention of Visiondrill came about out of curiosity about developing an app while he was in Form 3 doing research at the library.
“I wanted to create an app and show it to my friends. I did some research on how to make an app without coding. While I was doing research, a website popped up and it had a bunch of categories to choose from. What I had in mind was developing a music app because I had a knack for music.
Birth of Visiondrill, progress
To my surprise, there was no category for music, but the education category was there. When I saw the education category, I was blown away. I asked myself why I was in the library and everything I saw in the library I could access on my smartphone. That is how Visiondrill was birthed,” Muthomi reminisces.
He was not thinking of starting a company but developing an app that would keep all the books online.
When he did a demo of the app to his mum, she told him to turn it into a company. Unbeknown to him, Visiondrill grew bigger and later morphed into a large company.
After completing his secondary education, the 24-year-old declined to join university because he felt at that time universities did not offer what he desired.
“Universities did not have programs that could enhance my abilities. No institution focused on harnessing a child’s or a teenager’s gift. That is what actually led to the next phase of Visiondrill, a skill and creativity-focused platform,” Muthomi explained.
His parents were skeptical about his decision initially, but they later accepted after he demonstrated a prototype of the education app he was working on. The young entrepreneur demystifies the notion that joining a good university is the only path to success.
“Parents need to recognize that the time we are living in is completely different from the previous decades. Universities are not the only place to acquire knowledge. If you rely on universities to acquire knowledge then you are doomed. University is good but it cannot adequately prepare you with the disruption that has come with technology,” he says.
To youths seeking employment
“Find what you can do, your absolute best with the least amount of effort. This can be enhanced by enrolling for online courses to polish your skills. Alternatively, graduates can offer themselves as volunteers for them to gain knowledge, experience and build a portfolio,” he advises.
The CEO of Visiondrill subscribes to Albert Einstein’s thoughts, “Everybody is a genius but if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing that it’s stupid.”
He urges youth to find what they are good at and do it at an extraordinary level.
According to Margaret Kimunge, a Senior Human Resource Management Officer at Kenya Urban Roads Authority (KURA), hiring potential employees requires diverse considerations.
While one should be registered under a professional body aligned with his or her profession, working experience is also key.
“The work experience is acquired by volunteering or undergoing an internship at your industry,” Ms. Kimunge elaborates.
Graduates should also equip themselves with special skills, which include technical writing, such as writing reports, CVs and cover letters and good oral skills. Other than having these vital skills, graduates should be well-versed with practical knowledge of their field and accompanied with a positive attitude.
“You need to demonstrate that you have the right attitude besides having the skills in your field,” Ms. Kimunge explains.
Youths seeking job opportunities should not only focus on white-collar jobs.
“The future of employment in Kenya is not that promising. For one to survive he or she needs to be innovative,” she warns.
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Such sentiments and experiences prove that innovation is the overarching mantra for posterity; the onus is on the youth to embrace it.