Education Must Satisfy Market Demands

Published on 31st October 2006

For sometime now, the Kenya government has adopted a stakeholder approach to the budgetary process. This is a fitting and fair way to involve those who pay taxes in saying how they would wish to see their taxes spent.

Unless human capital skills are aligned to labour market needs, productivity level will not be sufficient to realise wealth creation. Equally, unless there is adequate understanding of the labour market, human capital development will not be aligned to the development needs. It is important to have accurate current labour market information.  

Kenya’s economic growth index for the financial year 2005/2006 was reported at 5.8%. This improved performance driven by notable growth in key sectors of the economy has been questioned by the ordinary citizen who has not seen sufficient change in his lifestyle. Unemployment and underemployment have continued to manifest themselves.   

Successful implementation of any programme requires a clear framework, plans, strategies, key players understanding their role and enforcement. Human capital is important both as an engine, main beneficiary and critical success indicator of the development process. For this reason, the Government has continued to commit relatively huge resources to the nurturing of this all important asset.  The bigger portion of the budgetary allocation has been channelled to basic education with very little going into human capital development.  As a result, Kenya has a large educated labour force that lacks employable skills.   

A lot of money is being spent on Human Resource Development by both the government and households. The most conspicuous evidence of this great effort and sacrifice is the large numbers of adults who have enrolled for parallel and evening classes at various levels in tertiary institutions. As in the case of employment, the training is not done within a guiding framework.   

Most developed countries develop their human resource in a strategic manner and link their national strategies to the development plan. As a result, they are able to plan and train the human capital to meet the labour market demands.  This mitigates on the skills mismatch and gaps, facilitates creation of employment and ensures full utilization of the labour force. There is need to develop an Integrated Human Resource Development Strategy to guide the development of human capital.   

Over 60 per cent of Kenyans are people below 30 years of age, with 32 per cent of the entire population in the critical age bracket of 15 to 30 years.  Due to some of the factors highlighted above, many are unable to find gainful employment. The formal sector expands at less than 2 per cent and currently employs about 1.8 million persons, while the informal sector grows at 10 per cent and currently employs over 6 million persons.  More than half of those employed in the informal sector are youth.   

The single most important challenge for the Ministry and nation is to inculcate the right character and relevant skills into the youth and come up with strategies that will harness their energies into purposeful and productive development activities.   

One of the avenues of imparting vocational and technical training is through the rehabilitation of youth polytechnics and other training institutions.  There are over 600 youth polytechnics in the country. They have a large idle capacity due to inadequate facilities. Low funding to such has led to their inability to purchase up to date equipment, employ appropriate staff and equip the youth with relevant training and skills. The creation of the Ministry of Youth Affairs and introduction of Youth Development Fund will accelerate the rehabilitation of the youth polytechnics and provision of funds to advance the youth’s income generating enterprises.   

Employment is important in empowering a country’s population. Strategies for creating full employment and decent work include: mainstreaming employment in all social and economic policies; promoting labour intensive investments; developing micro and small enterprises; bridging of skills; maintenance of labour market information; mainstreaming of youth and gender in employment; foreign employment to absorb excess labour force and transfer of skills and technology. Last but not least, effective and efficient use of Information Communication Technology (ICT) in terms of conducting business and employment creation is vital. 

The Ministry has carried out labour market surveys which seek to read the labour market signals and interpret it for purposes of aligning the human capital to the demands of the labour market.  For example, within the past 3 years, training needs assessment have been carried out in various economics sectors, for example, Jua Kali and hospitality.  The findings of these surveys are used to gauge development policies.

The effectiveness of these surveys has been greatly hampered by shortage of funds as the Ministry remains one of the least funded, with a total budgetary allocation of about KSh 800 million per annum.  This has reduced its capacity to carry out such important surveys as the National Manpower Survey, the last one having been carried out over 20 years ago.  The Labour force Survey, an equally crucial exercise was last carried in 1998.  The two surveys would ideally be carried out at intervals of 5 and 2 years.  These surveys give a country the correct position of its labour market, the gaps that exist, and based on the findings, development plans and human resource development strategies are made. Kenya is thus “strategising” and planning its development based on data which is 20 years old.

The Government cannot go it alone. Stakeholders must join the Government.  The Government needs an enlightened private sector that knows the issues that impact on development; a private sector that understands the issues that must be handled first, so that unemployment and poverty can be effectively addressed.  The country needs a private sector that is not sucked into politics, but one that is able to raise issues that will address development, ensure that funds are allocated to the same, and also be able to make its corporate contribution. 

The country requires for its poverty alleviation a private sector that generates wealth and jobs, that does not wait on the Government for business, and understands that the world is a global village and therefore, manages/organizes itself to tap on businesses and issues that are found in other villages.

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