On a typical weekday, you will not fail to notice several young people carrying envelopes laden with job applications in the busy streets of Nairobi or across major towns in the country. Such was my case until July 2019 when I landed an internship at Help A child Africa after struggling to find a job for 2 years since graduation. Throughout the “dry spell”, I had been volunteering with child-based organizations due to my passion for children. This enabled me to remain active and played a key role in equipping me with skills in the non-profit sector.

Despite having high hopes that after graduation I would find a good job, things were different on the ground. At some point, I was stuck in a limbo of depression, hopelessness and low self-esteem especially because most of my job applications were rejected and for others, I never got responses. I finally realized why other youths in a similar situation give up to the point of plunging into decoys such as drug/substance abuse, crime and in the worst-case scenarios, suicide. According to the 2018 Kenya National Bureau of Statistics (KNBS) economic survey, 70% of youths out of the seven million unemployed Kenyans, are jobless. Regardless of the government creating over 840,000 in 2018, alarmingly, this has not catered for the large number of current unemployed graduates and those who will be joining the bracket soon.

Sadly, I realize that most of the various measures and structures that government has deployed to support the youth have not borne fruit and if they have, they move at a snail’s pace. Surprisingly, 90% of graduates in Kenya lack the necessary skills for the job market. I cannot help but wonder whether the problem lies with our education curriculum, choice of careers or youths are not ready to tap into current available opportunities especially in the informal sector that could help improve their skills because they focus more on getting formal jobs.

According to Dorcas Wangari, a Youth Engagement Society-Kenya intern, she has been having a challenge securing a long-term job since she graduated in 2014. The challenge she says is having to transition from one job to another over a short period and getting a job that is relevant to her academic background. She believes that, “Youth unemployment can only be effectively addressed through increased cooperation between stakeholders in government, academia and private sectors at both local and international levels, which will foster creation of opportunities for youths such as on-the-job graduate traineeships, internships, leadership mentoring and skills development training so as enable youths acquire the necessary skills for the job market.”

This is not far from the truth. I also believe that we need observe best practices and information sharing to create impact and achieve sustainability in the employment sector. Furthermore, we need to strategically position our youth for the future and not train them on how to fit in the present. This means that we should devote our resources to exploring prospects so that we do not have graduates who find zero space for them in the job market. In addition, we should practice zero exclusion for youths in rural areas as we tackle unemployment in urban centers. This is because rural youth play a major role in the informal sector, which has currently employed over 86.3% Kenyans. The government should also offer support for youths with talent and innovative social ventures to promote self-employment and ensure that all youths who are work eligible receive help regardless of whether or not they have previous work training or experience, have a criminal history or have low capacity in applying for jobs.

Written by: Naomi Mogire - Intern at Help A Child Africa

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