Why companies are unable to offer you employment

President Uhuru Kenyatta with Safaricom CEO Bob Collmore at the official opening of the 2016 African Employers' Summit.(Photo: File/Standard)

There are hundreds of thousands of young graduates who wake up every day, arm themselves with an academic certificate and faint hope that things will be different.

After spending hundreds of shillings in a cyber café sending their resumes to different employers and keeping an eye on their email for, at least, a word of rejection from the many other previous employers, they have gone back downcast. There has been neither job nor word from the employers.

According to a report by the Kenya Institute for Public Policy Research and Analysis (Kippra), about three in 10 Kenyans aged 15 to 64 are unemployed. 80 per cent of these are youths aged 35 years and below.

But now, a new report by Finnish based recruitment firm, Fuzu, gives insight into why many of job-seekers continue to ‘tarmac,’ as unemployment is known in street parlance. Unemployment remains a top political agenda and this explains why Kenya was host to the first African Employers’ Summit.

The summit held recently In Naivasha and presided by President Uhuru Kenyatta, the Government was asked to support businesses, nurture talent, generate and sustain decent jobs if it wants to address the challenge of unemployment.

High Level participants that included top executives and resource persons from the International Labour Organisation, International Organisation of Employers, Business Africa, World Bank, McKinsey & Company as well as key representatives of the private sector and policy leaders from the Government of Kenya.

By integrating the findings of the report Kenyan Job Market 2015-2016: Insights from Fuzu Job seeker and Employment Data with those of the Ministry of Labour’s 2010/2011 National Manpower Survey, Business Beat discovered interesting findings of the country’s job market and explains why there is a huge number of unemployed youths.

At the heart of the two report findings is a gulf in expectations between the job-seekers and employers which has bred the current state of affairs. In other words, it boils down to Federation of Kenya Employers’ sing-song: Skills mismatch, but in the end it, usually boils down to five key areas that explains when one is unable to get employed.

More than Five years’ Experience:

For most job-seekers, experience has been their Trojan horse. A cursory look at most job advertisements reveals that most job openings require between five and 10 years’ experience. However, most of the job seekers surveyed by Fuzu, show 89 per cent, had between zero to five years’ experience, a fact that must locked them from the job market.

More than half of these job applicants, 56 per cent, have between zero or two years’ work experience. Only 17 per cent of the 150,000 in Fuzu’s database meet the 5-10 year experience employers look for.

So critical is the need for experienced workers that employers have recycled employees thus locking out new job-seekers. Even after the Government dangled incentives of tax rebates to companies that recruited interns, it does not look like businesses are interested. Most of them are, probably, are afraid of the cost of training new job recruits and compromising the standard of their products. However, the Fuzu report noted that there has been an increase in the number of applications for internship.

Sorry, if you are a Form Four Leaver:

Employers, especially corporates, have pushed their standards for educational qualifications really high. 90 per cent of employers want employees with at least tertiary education. 65.4 per cent require job applicants to have a Bachelor’s degree, 17 per cent with a diploma and 11 per cent post-graduate. True, a good number of job seekers in Fuzu’s database, about 42 per cent, have a Bachelor’s degree as their highest level of education. And 25 per cent have Diploma degrees. But the National Manpower Survey paints a different picture. More than 80 per cent of Kenyans, according the NMS — lack tertiary qualifications. If it were not for the wanton conversion and/or takeover of middle-level colleges, and technical and vocational education and training (TVET) institutions by universities, form four leavers would have found places to gain some skills that they could then be used to gain employment .

Knowing how to sell snow to an Eskimo has never been important:

Employers of today are looking for different sets of skills from the employers of yesterday. Can you sell snow to an Eskimo, is a cliché that has caught on within the inner sanctums of sales representatives such as the bothersome insurance agents.

Well, most corporations want skills such as business development, budgeting, sales strategy, accounting, market research and intelligence, project monitoring and evaluation (M&E), project implementation, project management- all of which have an element of sales.

On the other hand, Fuzu job-seekers are armed with their own set of skills: computer skills, communication and presentation skills, as well as reporting and customer service skills. Most of these skills entail full responsibility of a business such as entrepreneur, business manager, executive director, general manager. It appears that communication and being persuasive are highly valued skills in the job market.

Most want to be CEOs and Business managers:

Job-seekers want to be CEOs, the industry already has enough experienced CEOs. According to Fuzu report, Fuzu’s job applicants seem to emphasize “those roles that entail full responsibility of a business.” This includes entrepreneur, business manager, executive director, general manager. But areas in social work and banking insurance have the most openings: And, according to NMS skill shortages were reported in the major occupation groups of professionals, technicians and associate professionals such as teachers, plumbers, mechanics and engineers. There were also shortages in secretarial, clerical services and related workers. The shortage was highest in the area of education (at 56.08 per cent), followed by public administration and defence, and compulsory social security. The private sector reported skills shortages in managerial areas, and technical and support staff. The shortage was most acute in wholesale and retail trade, and repair of motor vehicles and motorcycles. This is far from areas that most job seekers applied jobs.

Cool-jobs craze:

Job seekers are obsessed with cool jobs or the in-thing- like being TV presenters, or managing a business entity or being entrepreneurs. Indeed, most have opted for degrees that meet ‘social demand’, not market demand. For example, the Fuzu report showed that one of the jobs that attracted most applications was for Television Show Host and Safety Intern at Kenya Airways.

Most undergraduates are going back to school to do an MBA, when there can only be limited vacancies at the C-suite. And as the NMS and Fuzu reports reveal, skills that are in high demand are not managerial. Skills that are most in demand in the country are in the major occupation groups of technicians and associated professionals. On high demand are teachers, shopkeepers, mechanics, salespersons, accountants and auditors, according to NMS.

Also on high demand are chemical engineers and technologists.