Federation of Kenya Employers

From Left: Partnership manager at Africa Digital Media Institute Mukui Mbindyo,  Federation of Kenya Employers boss Jacqueline Mugo and the founder and CEO of Nexford University Fadl Al Tarzi during the FKE skills needs survey report launch in Nairobi on November 21, 2023. 

| Billy Ogada | Nation Media Group

Employers: Here are the skills you need to get a job

What you need to know:

  • Most hard to fill vacancies that require TVET skill level are in architecture, building and construction, engineering and transportation, distribution and logistics.

  • Most hard to fill vacancies requiring a master’s degree qualification are in media, communication and public relations.

A mismatch between employers’ expectations and jobseekers’ qualifications is the major cause of unemployment in a country that has hundreds of thousands of trained but jobless youth, a study launched yesterday shows.

The study conducted by the Federation of Kenya Employers (FKE) showed a high demand for jobseekers with a bachelor’s degree and technical and vocational education qualifications in most of the career fields sampled.

Nexford University and Africa Digital Media Institute (ADMI) also collaborated in the survey.

Can you communicate? Written and oral communication skills are in hign demand. GRAPHIC | FKE

Apart from academic qualifications, employers identified lack of essential social skills as a hindrance to securing jobs for many.

Half of the employers (49.5 per cent) who responded to the survey identified effective communication (written and oral) as the most lacking social skill in job applicants.

This was followed by critical thinking at 41.7 per cent, teamwork at 25.7 per cent and time management skills at 23.4 per cent.

They called for relevant academic curricula to address the shortcomings.

“As a country, we are lovers of academic papers. We are very good at acquiring degrees but this does not translate to performance at work. Employers do not pay for qualifications, they pay for performance, output, delivery and one’s contribution to the bottomline of the enterprise,” said FKE CEO Jacqueline Mugo.

The findings raise also concerns over Kenyans’ suitability to compete in the global job market.

Government statistics show that 2.49 million people of working age between the ages of 15 and 64 are unemployed.

Half of these jobless Kenyans (1.23 million) have given up looking for work, demoralised by reduced opportunities in a difficult economy, government data as at March 2021 showed.

The majority of those who have given up on job searching are aged between 20 and 24 at 363,018, followed by 25 to 29-year-olds at 232,146.

An estimated 83 per cent of Kenyans are in the informal sector, with no job security.

In addition to hard skills, employers are looking for soft skills among job seekers. GRAPHIC | FKE

President William Ruto has recently defended his overseas trips, saying that they will secure jobs for Kenyans. However, the nature of the jobs has not been disclosed.

“Training providers need to adopt a more agile and flexible approach to planning, implementing and evaluating courses and programmes in line with the rapidly changing needs of the job market and emerging industries. Training programmes must fill skills gaps and address imbalances between supply and demand to meet the dynamics of the labour market,” Ms Mugo added.

The surveyed enterprises were reported to have a higher demand for workers with undergraduate degree at 43.8 per cent, and TVET at 34.9 per cent.

Demand for workers with secondary education was at 23.4 per cent.

The most in-demand TVET skills are in transport and logistics (21.3 per cent), electrical (21.1 per cent) and building and construction (18.2 per cent).

According to the survey, most of the hard to fill vacancies are in the manufacturing sector where the education level most sought by employers on the vacancies was mostly a first university degree followed by TVET qualifications. Advancements in technology have had an effect on traditional careers in other sectors.

“With all these technological changes, labour market dynamics are evolving faster than ever and the mismatch between workers’ skills and those required by available jobs has become a top priority policy concern,” said Ms Mugo.

As a result, organisations have resorted to hiring workers with lower or higher qualifications than what they were looking for, while others do not employ anyone at all.

The most sought-after competencies in ICT are the ability to communicate and collaborate on digital platforms (37.6 per cent) followed by use of electronics, machineware, smart components, and communication technology (34.5 per cent) and digital security (33 per cent).

Ms Mukui Mbindyo, the Partnerships Manager for ADMI, said the survey is a visionary roadmap for educational institutions on the skills needed by employers and shed light on skill gaps that need to be addressed in the curricula.

Technical and vocational skills in demand. GRAPHIC | FKE

“The future of work is not a concept but a reality that must be addressed now with actionable plans. The skills needed in the current work environment of digital-first space are not just technical, but also soft skills which employees must be trained on,” she said.

Most hard to fill vacancies that require TVET skill level are in architecture, building and construction, engineering and transportation, distribution and logistics.

Those that mostly require first level university education are in information and technology and finance and business management.

Most hard to fill vacancies requiring a master’s degree qualification are in media, communication and public relations while those that mostly require doctorate degree qualifications are in science and mathematics.

The founder and CEO of Nexford University, Fadi Al Tarzi, said employers have to put systematic plans for the upskilling of their staff in order to enjoy higher performance.

Having analysed over 30 million job vacancies, Mr Tarzi said they established that employers who upskill and train their employees have a 30 per cent higher retention rate than those who do not.

“Employers must consider the concept of collective benefit where there is a sectoral approach to upskill with enterprises in the same sector coming together to upskill their staff together for the benefit of the sector,” he said.

The survey noted that enterprises operating in the not-for-profit sector, education, financial and insurance, ICT, transport and storage, manufacturing and agriculture, forestry and fishing had difficulty in recruiting for positions due to lack of skills by jobseekers.

In contrast, enterprises in compulsory social security, arts, entertainment and recreation, public administration and real estate had less challenges filling vacancies.

The survey also found that enterprises are conscious of the effect that their operations have on the environment.