The World Bank’s global employment statistics for 2020 put Kenya’s unemployment rate at 3%. This is a conservative figure depending on the indicators used. We all know the real numbers are much higher, the situation more serious.
Like Christmas, another graduation season is fast approaching and crowds of college graduates will line up to enter the workforce. We will, once again, revel in stories of graduates who cannot find jobs. We will blame the government for not creating jobs for our young people. But where is the real problem?
Last week, a viral video showed a seemingly frustrated man saying that when it comes to employment, the problem isn’t really a lack of opportunities, but a lack of employable young people. The short video elicited mixed feelings and rather strong reactions. But how accurate is this statement?
The fundamental question is whether opportunities are in fact scarce, or are the graduates of our higher education institutions simply inept and lacking certain key qualities, know-how, skills and competences required in the labor market. Indeed, while young people deplore the lack of employment opportunities, employers, for their part, express concerns that the majority of graduates do not have the required qualities such as honesty, diligence, consistency, initiative, a spirit of learning, etc. that would make them attractive. to employ. In short, employers argue that our young people are not employable.
Understanding the gap
Employers cited understanding the role and expectations in the workplace as the biggest readiness gap. Another major gap is the acceptance of criticism and management in the workplace. Employers have also made known various core skills and qualities that graduates lack. Skills include constructive conflict management, professional relationship building, career and self development, leadership, technological skills, humility, communication, critical thinking, work ethics, judgment personal, problem solving, time management, collaboration, self-confidence, teamwork, creativity, positive attitude and flexibility in the workplace.
A survey of 1,012 graduates and 531 senior human resources professionals was carried out by Survation, an England-based survey and market research agency in November of last year. The survey showed that one-fifth of graduates are unprepared for the world of work when they leave university, HR managers believe, and many lack essential skills, including leadership, negotiation and planning. Just 13% of graduates were considered by HR to be “ready to go to work” when they entered the workforce, while two-thirds were considered “somewhat ready” to work.
Key skills that HR professionals believed the graduate workforce lacked included leadership (cited by 48 percent of HR managers), negotiation (44 percent), and strategy and planning (38 percent ). However, they were seen as well equipped with skills in teamwork (cited by 76 percent of HR professionals), problem-solving (76 percent), communication (75 percent), and research skills. (75 percent).
Graduates also believed their time in college did not prepare them for work (18 percent). More than a third felt they lacked leadership skills, 25 percent lacked negotiation skills, and 23 percent lacked the necessary technical skills. The results showed that higher education institutions need to work with businesses to ensure that graduates have the skills that will maximize their employability.
It doesn’t matter where a graduate may go; a different city or continent. These are the same skills that employees are looking for. These results show that employers are increasingly looking for candidates who have developed employability skills and gained experience while continuing their education. There has been great progress in recent years in integrating higher education with industry, but it is clear that much remains to be done.
In a competitive market for graduates, companies are increasingly looking for candidates with real work experience. Higher education institutions must do more to give students the chance to gain the work experience that is vital in today’s job market by building strong connections with local businesses and industry leaders. ‘industry.
The survey also found that new graduates felt unprepared for the hiring process once they left college. Only a quarter had a mock interview while in school, while only 37% had spoken to a guidance counselor.
Sixty-one percent of human resources managers said relevant work experience was more important than graduation marks. Three-quarters of them had undertaken work experience during their university studies.
The Association of American Colleges and Universities (AAC&U) released a report in August this year on how colleges contribute to workforce success, and employer views on the fundamentals are somewhat mixed for higher education.
The AAC&U surveyed nearly 500 executives and hiring managers from companies of different sizes. Technology was the most represented sector, with 27 percent of respondents, followed by banking / financial services (12 percent), manufacturing (nine percent), professional services (nine percent), healthcare and medicine (nine percent), construction (nine percent), among others.
The AAC&U asked employers what and how mindsets and skills are important to hiring and the workplace. Employers said they also appreciate the breadth and depth of learning, as evidenced by their desire for students to learn to think for themselves, to be adaptable and versatile, to be technically capable and complete.
Ninety-two percent of employers said it was very important or somewhat important that students were exposed to a wide variety of academic subjects and disciplines. At least half of employers believe that it is “very important” for college graduates to have a range of mindsets and skills in order to be successful.
When it comes to high-impact practices, the AAC&U found that more than four in five employers would be either “a little more likely” or “a lot more likely” to consider hiring recent college graduates if they had. completed active or applied college experience. Internships and apprenticeships top the experience list, followed by community work with various community partners. Employers value work-study experiences and portfolios, as well as holistic learning and supervised experiences. Comprehensive research and writing experiences also stood out.
Education institutions across the country lack essential facilities and technologies to prepare students for the tough demands of the market. Our higher education institutions must share the responsibility of failing to meet the workforce needs of the labor market. Skills shortages, both in number and in quality, have reached a level of major concern and institutions have clearly failed in this area. Declining staff skills, scarce money for educational inputs, dilapidated and overloaded physical facilities, and limited incentives for research make it difficult to produce highly qualified personnel. Most students are also enrolled in “soft” disciplines, and research funds have been “siphoned off” to cover the costs of more students.
To address these skills gaps, our colleges should review the skills they impart to students and focus more on instilling the knowledge, skills and competencies desired by employees and the labor market in general. Higher education institutions should prioritize the teaching and development of skills such as perseverance; help students understand that failure is an opportunity to grow. Change, by teaching students to accept this is the norm and by teaching them to adapt. Ambiguity, teaching students that it is a part of life and that they find direction by listening, asking questions and thinking creatively.
Speakers should also play their part. They should involve students, encourage independent thinking and make themselves as available to students as possible. Teachers must also be able to relate the knowledge they offer to practical experiences in the labor market and give students practical skills to enable them to adapt easily to the world of work.
The ways in which the complex challenges we will face in the future, as individuals, as a nation and as members of a global community, will require the integration of advanced skills and competencies across disciplines and looking at issues from different angles. .
Above all, students should and must do their part as well. Focus on self-improvement. Throw away the misplaced feeling of entitlement that prevails today. Cultivate a positive attitude, be teachable, fully understand their trade, be honest and trustworthy.