When a local TV station recently aired a story of an unemployed university graduate, Kenyans expressed their sympathies to him in all forms of media.
The story brought to fore the tribulations of unemployed graduates whose dreams never materialised.
The graduate is a victim of an education system that glorifies acquisition of academic papers with no regard for their utility in the labour market.
What the sympathisers failed to address were the causes of unemployment of graduates and how they can be addressed. Here are five ways of reducing the persistent unemployment that is ignored and sometimes wished away.
Universities have been accused of implementing curricula that is out of touch with the knowledge and skills required in the labour market. But they are adamant arguing that their role is to transfer learning and not to create jobs for their graduates.
Such misleading arguments have led to developing curricula that focus more on theory than practice. It is, therefore, not surprising that a university graduate fails to get a job with their first degree unless he or she cements it with a postgraduate diploma in a particular field of specialisation.
A first degree nowadays is a confirmation that one is literate. Days are gone when it was a passport to white-collar jobs.
The onus is on universities to review some of their outdated courses so that they produce employable graduates.
Fresh graduates would be cheating themselves that a first degree is all they need to secure jobs in the ever-competitive labour market. The first degree is a prerequisite for further training that would equip them with employable skills for either the corporate sector or self-employment.
Organisations require new employees who have been exposed to basic aspects of work. There is a need for students to undergo formal intensive internships or apprenticeships during their studies or soon after graduation to expose them to the demands of a working environment.
The societal perception of university degrees creates unrealistic expectations for fresh graduates. While university education prepared them for paid employment, the reality on the ground is that self-employment opportunities are beckoning the graduates.
On graduation, they face an uphill task when they try to venture into businesses they were not prepared for. The curriculum at all levels of education should incorporate entrepreneurship studies to provide graduates with employment options.
PROMOTE SMALL ENTERPRISES
Unlike the early days when both the public and private sectors were the main employers, small enterprises create more jobs than before. The dwindling capacity of job creation in the formal sector should shift attention to the promotion of SMEs. Concerned authorities need to level the playing field particularly on overhauling legislation that impedes entry and expansion of small businesses.
Although devolution was aimed at decentralising investment opportunities from major urban areas such as Nairobi to county towns, the latter have not positioned themselves as investment destinations.
The performance of some urban centres is worse than when they operated as county or municipal councils.
Counties would create jobs by offering incentives that attract manufacturing investments that use local resources.
Graduates should seek jobs in county towns instead of flocking to Nairobi whose employment absorption capacity is already outstretched.