Leadership, News

Why We Must Retool Our Workforce To Meet The Needs Of 21st The Century

In Decem­ber 2018, a senior Gov­ern­ment offi­cial from the Min­istry of Trans­port vis­it­ed Lamu Port and revealed some dis­turb­ing infor­ma­tion. He said that out of the 1,200 youth who had already been employed as casu­al labor­ers at the Port, only 50 were from Lamu. Many Lamu youth were unwill­ing to work as casu­al labor­ers, cit­ing low pay and long work­ing hours. The Gov­ern­ment Offi­cial pro­ceed­ed to chal­lenge par­ents to ensure that their chil­dren attained skills that would make them employ­able once the Port became ful­ly operational. 

The indus­tri­al­iza­tion that we seek to achieve cou­pled with the ongo­ing green rev­o­lu­tion will cre­ate new jobs that require new skills. That’s why our cur­ricu­lum, all the way from pri­ma­ry to uni­ver­si­ty must be respon­sive to emerg­ing oppor­tu­ni­ties in the mar­ket­place. Regard­less of the dis­sent­ing voic­es and teething chal­lenges, we must laud the Kenya Insti­tute of Cur­ricu­lum Devel­op­ment (KICD) for design­ing the Com­pe­ten­cy based Cur­ricu­lum (CBC) that was launched in 2017.

CBC empha­sizes skills devel­op­ment and appli­ca­tion of these skills to real life sit­u­a­tions. In line with this, Col­leges and Uni­ver­si­ties need to revamp their cours­es and make them rel­e­vant to today’s mar­ket­place. Accord­ing to a 2018 employ­er sur­vey, 30% of employ­ers blamed a poor­ly skilled work­force for their growth struggles.

In 2021, the Kenya Youth Pol­i­cy Devel­op­ment Report vin­di­cat­ed the 2018 sur­vey find­ings. The report revealed that a glar­ing skills mis­match was keep­ing youth out of jobs. This mis­match stems from a weak link between edu­ca­tion and indus­try. To address this, I sug­gest that we build strong bridges between edu­ca­tion and indus­try. Our young peo­ple can­not walk out of High School into uni­ver­si­ty cours­es that may not secure for them jobs. 

The Kenya Uni­ver­si­ties and Col­leges Cen­tral Place­ment Ser­vice is a State organ that is charged with the respon­si­bil­i­ty of pro­vid­ing career guid­ance and select­ing stu­dents for admis­sion into insti­tu­tions of high­er learn­ing. I sug­gest that they unceas­ing­ly enhance their abil­i­ty to gath­er intel­li­gence about mar­ketable skills in today’s econ­o­my. For instance, what skills are going to pow­er Kenya’s indus­tri­al­iza­tion? What skills are par­tic­u­lar­ly rel­e­vant for the dig­i­tal age that we are liv­ing? With all the talk of Web 3.0, should blockchain tech­nol­o­gy become a cen­tral part of our ICT courses? 

The answers to such ques­tions must be unearthed from an elab­o­rate mul­ti-stake­hold­er process. 

Addi­tion­al­ly, we must also retool the skills of those who are already work­ing. This is what upskilling entails. In a jobs mar­ket­place whose needs and oppor­tu­ni­ties are chang­ing at break­neck speed, it is impor­tant to upskill our work­force so that they can work opti­mal­ly for max­i­mum benefits. 

The Eco­nom­ic Sur­vey 2021 revealed that eight out of ten teach­ers didn’t have nec­es­sary skills for teach­ing the com­pe­ten­cy-based cur­ricu­lum (CBC). This defi­cien­cy is being fixed through upskilling. Sim­i­lar­ly, we need to con­duct a skills audit in oth­er sec­tors of our econ­o­my so that we can suit­ably real­ize upskilling. That way, we will not have a work­force whose skills are lag­ging behind mar­ket­place needs. 

The Covid pan­dem­ic has turned many of these mar­ket­place needs upside down. As a case in point, many of the jobs that were lost in the hos­pi­tal­i­ty sec­tor may not be com­ing back any­time soon. Nairobi’s Pres­ti­gious hotels like Inter­con­ti­nen­tal and Radis­son Blu remain closed. Thou­sands of hos­pi­tal­i­ty work­ers in Kenya who lost their jobs should be reskilled through rel­e­vant mar­ket-ori­ent­ed train­ing.  Skills are often not exclu­sive to only one job. They can be refash­ioned and uti­lized in oth­er sec­tors. Wait­ers who lost their jobs can eas­i­ly be reskilled for careers in cus­tomer ser­vice. After all, they are high­ly expe­ri­enced in deal­ing with people.

In order to make the most of the skills in our coun­try, human resource depart­ments should ana­lyze skill sets, not just expe­ri­ence and aca­d­e­m­ic papers. At a macro lev­el, there is need for poli­cies that pri­or­i­tize a skills-based approach of build­ing our econ­o­my. Fur­ther to that, the gov­ern­ment should invest funds for rel­e­vant skills devel­op­ment. Indeed, we must vig­or­ous­ly build a skilled work­force that will mold a dynam­ic and most sus­tain­able econ­o­my. Think green, act green!

About Dr. Kalua Green

He is the Chief Stew­ard of Green Africa Group, a con­glom­er­ate that was envi­sioned in 1991 to con­nect, pro­duce and impact var­i­ous aspi­ra­tions of human­i­ty through Sus­tain­able Mobil­i­ty & Safe­ty Solu­tions, Eco­pre­neur­ship & Agribusi­ness, Ship­ping & Logis­tics, Envi­ron­men­tal Pro­tec­tion Ini­tia­tives, as well as Hos­pi­tal­i­ty & fur­nish­ings sectors

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