Survey reveals Kenya's most sought-after skills in job market

Africa Digital Media Institute Partnerships Manager Mukui Mbindyo, Federation of Kenya Employers CEO Jacqueline Mugo and Nexford University CEO Fadl Al Tarzi hold copies of a report during the launch of the Skills Needs survey report on November 21, 2023. [Boniface Okendo, Standard]

A recent survey has put a spotlight on the shift in Kenya’s workforce demand.

The findings call for key skills in transport and logistics, signalling a pivotal moment in the intersection of education and industry needs.

The survey conducted by the Federation of Kenya Employers (FKE) in partnership with the Africa Digital Media Institute (ADMI), and Nexford University, have collaboratively launched a comprehensive report shedding light on the changing demands for skills in Kenya’s workforce.

The survey specifically targeted FKE members across diverse sectors. It saw 521 enterprises participate in the survey.

The enterprises under study showcased a demand for skills in various career fields. Information technology had a 28.4 per cent demand, finance and business management had 27.4 per cent, engineering (19.2 per cent) transportation, distribution and Logistics (18.6 per cent), and legal with 18.2 per cent.

Industry needs

Speaking during the launch, ADMI Chief Executive Dr Laila Macharia said the report sheds light on the critical intersection of education and industry needs.

“As we navigate the evolving demands of the workforce, it is imperative for educational institutions, businesses, and policymakers to collaborate in shaping an agile and skilled workforce that can drive innovation and sustainable economic growth,” said Dr Macharia.

The survey also showed that the predominant educational qualifications sought by these enterprises were undergraduate (bachelor’s) degrees at 43.8 per cent followed by Technical and Vocational Education and Training (TVET) at 34.9 per cent.

The top TVET skills in demand were in transport and logistics (21.3 per cent), electrical (21.1 per cent) and building and construction (18.2 per cent).

In the engineering sector, computer and software engineering led the list at 30.7 per cent, followed by electrical and electronics engineering at 27.4 per cent and mechanical and production engineering at 25 per cent.

FKE Chief Executive Jacqueline Mugo said the fast-paced technological changes and labour market dynamics are evolving faster leading to a mismatch between workers’ skills and those required by available jobs.

This, she noted has become a top priority policy concern.

As such, many employers report difficulties finding suitably skilled workers, even though the unemployment rate is high.

The surveyed enterprises further identified social skills that are crucial to them.

Effective communication carried the lion’s share as the most crucial skill at 49.1 per cent, followed by critical thinking at 41.7 per cent, teamwork at 25.7 per cent, and time management at 23.4 per cent.

Over 73.1 per cent of the enterprises under study, utilised training to bridge the skills gap, often in collaboration with other organisations in the capacity-building space.

The survey highlighted that 20 per cent of enterprises faced hard-to-fill vacancies, leading some to employ applicants with qualifications below their initial requirements.

Industries like manufacturing reported the highest difficulty in filling positions. 

Nexford University CEO Fadl Al Tarzi said the report helps to move a step closer to integrating employers within the future of education in Kenya.

He noted that the report shows that employers need to do more to upskill their team members and to partner with educators to bridge the gap between educators and employers.

“Equally, the report shows that while jobs may be limited compared to the size of Kenya’s talent pool, employers are still struggling to find qualified talent and that struggle will only increase as technology continues to disrupt industries,” said Al Tarzi.

Reasons for non-employment or staff retention challenges included a lack of qualified candidates in the local region and high salary expectations from candidates.

Consequences of skills deficits included inhibiting business expansion, loss of revenue and a decline in customers or market share.

Existing employees

According to the survey, 48 per cent of enterprises addressed the skills gap by training existing employees and 27 per cent hired new staff.

The education level demanded by enterprises varied across career fields, with secondary education mainly sought in public safety, corrections and security and arts and recreational services.

TVET skills were in demand in transport, distribution and logistics social service and community development, and hospitality and tourism.

Undergraduate degree qualifications were mostly sought in information technology finance business management, and legal professions.