July 15 was declared by the UN General Assembly as World Youth Skills Day. It is for celebrating the strategic importance of equipping young people with skills for employment, decent work and entrepreneurship. This year’s theme is “Transforming Youth Skills for the Future”.
The event comes amid Kenya’s efforts to invest in the TVET remarkably being the establishment of the Competency-Based Education and Training (CBET), an increase in the number of TVETs, funding and dedicated efforts in the harmonisation of training standards. One great feat is the growth of TVET’s image: 5,278 students who scored university entry grades opted for TVET courses this year.
But inasmuch as we have made baby steps, the country grapples with a high unemployment rate. Data from the International Labour Organisation (ILO) show Kenya’s unemployment rate rose to 6.6 per cent last year. This was exacerbated by the Covid-19 pandemic, whereby the World Economic Forum projects that nearly a billion people are still missing education as training for more than 80 per cent of the apprentices was interrupted.
Inhumane working conditions
Many youth face challenges. The Foreign Affairs ministry says in the past two years, 89 Kenyans, over half of them female domestic workers, have died in the Gulf; many have narrated inhumane working conditions. If the election is not managed well, it could affect the labour market drastically.
But Kenyans have remained resilient, training and learning have continued and youth continue to acquire skills even through online learning platforms, which has enabled them to excel in even new remote working environments.
Enhance job prospects
Immersion of soft skills into different curricula to ensure learners graduate with both technical and employability skills is not new. But do they have enough space to practise and apply the soft skills?
Research shows interventions that aim to teach soft skills may enhance job prospects for youth by giving them better skills and confidence for looking for jobs and being them more productive at work.
A Youth Employment Funder Group report says employers are increasingly looking for flexible, adaptable, proactive, creative and collaborative youth. The youth need soft skills to enable them to effectively navigate their environment, work with others and perform well and achieve their goals.
Use of soft skills
Training institutions, especially TVETs, should create more time for learners to use soft skills. Learners working in groups and engaging in innovation challenges is a way of instilling these skills. Soft skills should not be treated as just an additional element but a core element of the curricula with effective assessment practices put in place.
Many people forget the value of soft skills because they were not taught how to find opportunities to use them. For example, when meeting a new client, investor or even employer, endeavour to put effective communications skills in place.
Both technical and soft skills are essential and should complement each other so that we can transform youth skills for the future.
Mr Komba is alumni and communications coordinator, Generation Programme Kenya. [email protected].