Match curricula with labour needs to stop brain wastage

Deputy President William Ruto brought so much opprobrium on himself recently when he suggested that universities should do away with arts courses because they don't match with the job market needs.

“How many anthropologists or sociologists do we need?” he posed at the Kenya Teachers Technical College.

To a large degree, the DP has a point: Why spend so much money training someone in university who will end up roasting maize by the roadside? Surely, isn't that a misapplication of skills? On average, the government spends between Sh500,00- Sh1 million (on tuition, food and accommodation on each of the public sponsored students.

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Yet this cost will keep rising even as jobs gets scarce.

The average global cost of a graduate course is at least Sh5.5m at private colleges/universities, Sh2 million in public universities in the US. That includes tuition, accommodation and food. When determining the worth of a course, educationists and job experts consider how quickly a graduate secures a job and the average pay the job attracts.

Any course must guarantee a return on investment.

Yesterday, The Standard reported exclusively on the distortion in Kenya’s jobs sector where increasingly, degrees are losing value. The Federation Kenya Employers report dubbed 2018 Skills Mismatch Report makes for grim reading.

The report is an indictment of the education system and the policy wonks in the government for the thousands of graduates out there in jobs that they never trained for; or the thousands of fresh graduates who are jacks of all trades and masters of none.

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Because of the cut-throat competition in the job market, degree holders don’t mind doing jobs that they would ordinarily be considered “over qualified”. That has pushed out the diploma holders in such low-skilled jobs as clerical officers, secretarial, security

Whereas we have more and more people graduating, the economy has not been expanding fast enough to accommodate all those who want jobs leading to saturation at the top. 

The World Bank reports that 9 in every 10 unemployed Kenyans are 35 years and below making Kenya's youth unemployment rate one of the highest on the continent.  That says something is not right. Not just about government policy and economic growth plans but also on the skill sets of those who walk out of our universities. 

So what needs to be done?

What we need are courses that promote entrepreneurship and encourage an out-of-the-box- thinking.  Colleges and universities need to attune their courses with the reality of the job market. For so long, the school curriculum was purposed for job-seeking rather than job-creation. That needs to change. There are no indication that the jobs crisis will go away any time soon, but then modern education has handed us tools to create the universe we want.

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We haven't stretched out the possibilities that technology offers our youngsters. The marvel that is Mpesa shows us what extending technology can give. 

Combining technology with such fields as research and development and more focus on technical institutions (TVETS) will surely throw wide the horizons and help minimize the brain waste that is building up.

Deputy President William RutoKenya Teachers Technical CollegeThe StandardTVETS