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Survey: Kenyan Graduates Not Prepared for Workplace

A Kenyan student is prodded in the head by a riot policeman's club inside Nairobi University's main campus, Nairobi, May 20,2014

A Kenyan student is prodded in the head by a riot policeman's club inside Nairobi University's main campus, Nairobi, May 20,2014

In Kenya, a new survey shows more than half of university students graduate not prepared to work in their fields of study. The Inter-University Council for East Africa (IUCEA), a body created to regulate higher education in the region, says the situation has contributed to the slow growth of the economy.

In the last decade, as the number of universities in Kenya has increased, so has the number of students. The result is tens of thousands of graduates enter the job market each year and are unable to find work.

The new report from the Inter-University Council for East Africa blamed the situation on poor training at the universities, which it says do not have enough quality teachers to instruct the ever-increasing number of students.

According to employers interviewed for the report, most graduates lack self-confidence, communication skills and practical expertise required in the jobs they are seeking.

The report also found many employers in East Africa are shunning new graduates in favor of already experienced and highly skilled workers.

Jamleck Njoka, a University of Nairobi official in charge of graduate employment, defends the quality of education delivered by the school. He says today’s graduates are better than the previous ones.

“I believe the quality of training for today’s graduates is even better, because the university is having to train a lot of the graduates. You may realize that a few may not be well prepared, but I would say today’s graduates are better placed and they are more exposed.”

Njoka says many students finish their studies without completing an internship, a key part of the program.

“There is less exposure for our graduates because when we talk about practical work, we expect that the graduates, in the course of their study, they will go out and work there in the industries and work also in the offices through internships and attachments. But you find that there are a lot of graduates who leave the university having not gone for this practical experience,” said Njoka.

Students in Nairobi who spoke to VOA remain optimistic about their employment prospects, with several focusing on becoming entrepreneurs.

David Njorogea, 21, a business student at the University of Nairobi, says he will not apply for the office jobs sought by so many graduates.

“I am not into white-collar jobs. Currently, I can see the white-collar jobs are pursued by many people. As for me, I want to venture into my own business.”

Another student, Beryl Osongo, says more students should start their own businesses so that in the future they can also become employers.

“There are no jobs because most of the students are waiting for readymade things. I think people should start investing so that they create jobs for each and every person. I think the students should just be creative to start their own jobs.”

The official unemployment rate in Kenya stands at 40 percent, with rates running even higher for people between the ages of 15 and 35.