Data shows job market haunted by huge skills mismatch

Sunguraville farm owner Shem Ariwy and the technical manager at the farm Lincy Osore in Mua, Machakos County with one of the rabbits. [File, Standard]

More than half of the country’s households make their living from growing crops and rearing livestock.

However, a dismal 0.3 per cent of these people told the Kenya National Bureau of Statistics (KNBS) that they had some training in agriculture. 

It is a sad state of affairs that might have contributed to the current unemployment crisis where the skills in the market do not match those demanded by employers.

For example, in a country where agriculture contributes more than a third of the national output, or gross domestic product (GDP), it is striking that there are as many journalists as there are experts in farming, such as extension and veterinary officers.

The growing skills mismatch, experts have warned, threatens the economic well-being of the country.

“Every year, about 10,000 students graduate from university. But of these, 7,000 do not have the skills required by the job market, yet we would have already spent millions of shillings on them,” Jacob Omolo, a labour economist and lecturer at Kenyatta University, told The Standard in a past interview.

Of the 12 million households that were counted during the 2019 census, 6.3 million said they were farmers.

For More of This and Other Stories, Grab Your Copy of the Standard Newspaper.  

The government has, however, put in place measures to promote the acquisition of technical capabilities in an attempt to address the skills mismatch - where the skills possessed by labour market participants are not the ones required by industry. These efforts include subsidising the cost of getting an education at a technical and vocational institute.

There has been plenty of hue and cry from employers about how entry-level employees lack critical attributes, such as communication skills, interpersonal relations and independence. Employees lacking these so-called soft skills have difficulties retaining a job.

The private sector has made efforts to bridge the gap through various initiatives, including offering free online training and initiating partnerships with higher education institutions.

But the agriculture sector has not drawn similar interest, and the government has not made matters any easier.

Starting from the 2006-07 financial year, for instance, the annual allocation to the agricultural sector as a fraction of the country’s total budget peaked at 4.5 per cent in 2010-11 before it started trending downwards.

By June last year, the allocation had declined to an unprecedented low of 1.5 per cent. Yet agriculture is the mainstay of the country’s economy, contributing close to a third of its GDP.

In his last term, President Uhuru Kenyatta has tried to right this wrong by coming up with an agenda that targets sectors that are closer to Kenyans’ everyday lives.

Through the Big Four Agenda, he is targeting improving access to critical healthcare services, quality food, manufacturing jobs and cheaper housing.

Do not miss out on the latest news. Join the Standard Digital Telegram channel HERE.

Get the latest summary of news in your email every morning. Subscribe below

* indicates required
(KNBSJob mismatchBig Four AgendaAgriculture