The one-year Public Service internship programme started by the government last year has now prepared its first batch of 3,100 inaugural graduates.
It is prudent that the government now absorbs them into its agencies and departments to exploit the experience they have acquired as well as give them an opportunity to graduate the stipends they have been earning into salaries matching their skills.
By absorbing them, the country will start laying a foundation, once very strong, of being seen as an equal employer for the thousands of graduates who are leaving our training institutions every year to join an already choked job market.It would also create a good precedent that the county governments, which still lack clear focus and strategy of employing the young people leaving schools, a template to learn from.
It is impressive that this programme has been designed as a government initiative to offer the opportunities for young college graduates to acquire and develop professional skills while gaining work experience, which has received Parliament support with a Sh1 billion allocation this financial year.
Ignoring participation of the youth in Public Service and governance is not only bad for the youth but is also a tragedy for a country seeking to be developed such as ours. The youth in Kenya have demonstrated huge potential; they have fresh ideas and immense energies- in essence, the country's young population is a crucible of great creativity.
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A recent report, “Greater inclusion of African Youth in Public Service and Governance” that was developed as part of a partnership between African Leadership Institute and African Union office of the Youth Envoy, calls for the need to develop an enabling environment to prepare and absorb youth into the public service. In Kenya, only 19 per cent of the civil servants are aged 19-35 years. Another 13.9 per cent are aged 36-40 years while 14 per cent of them are aged between 41 and 45 years. Going by these statistics, the need to absorb youth into public service becomes imperative by accommodating this first set.
The overwhelming applications that were received when the programme was advertised through all the available media is a testimony of the great desire for young people to join public services. The manner in which recruitment was made offers a strong statement that these young people are highly competent. More than 18,000 Kenyan graduates, some of whom graduated way back in 2015, applied and after a rigorous vetting and interview exercise, only 3,100 were selected for the programme.
Article 10 and 232 of the Constitution advocates for fairness, equity and suitability as the basis for appointments in the public service. The interns were selected fairly across the nation. And constituencies were the smallest administrative unit for selection. This means that the interns represent the face of Kenya. Absorbing them will help the Public Service Commission (PSC) move closer to attaining the much needed regional balance in public appointments.
It is evident that most ministries are currently facing a big shortfall in human resources. Most offices are crippled, record low levels of productivity as the majority of employees are over the age of 50 years and most lack modern skills. Retaining the interns will, therefore, help breach that gap. Moreover, the interns are already trained and have hands-on experience in tasks that are performed in various government offices. Retaining them will make service delivery efficient and cost-effective. It will make it easy for the interns to take up duties without necessarily spending huge sums of money on training new employees.
Finally, the current situation in Kenya, where companies are retrenching their employees, is not favourable for job-hunting after an internship. It will then not be prudent to train and release thousands of these graduates into the already diluted and unstable job market. Just as the Teachers Service Commission (TSC) is planning to employ their 10,000 interns after an internship, PSC should absorb interns after the internship as failing to do so will make them more miserable than before.
Youth are tech-savvy and are well suited to drive efficient and effective service delivery through technology. Absorption of youth into public service will serve to show that the government is committed to supporting the youth and keeping their promises.
-Mr Obonyo is a Policy Analyst. [email protected]