School of Graduate Studies, Research and Extension holds the USAID Empowered Youth Training Workshop on Career Advisory & Counselling: Building Kenya's Higher Education Institutions Capacity

By Brenda Owino

Kenya’s Ministry of Education acknowledges that most graduates from universities and tertiary institutions fail to secure jobs long after graduating. This is attributed to insufficient capacity and requisite skills to transition students to the workforce or entrepreneurial ventures. Establishing the Office of Career Services (OCS) in Higher Education Institutions (HEI’s) has therefore been identified by the Ministry as an essential intervention to address this challenge. The OCS should model other prominent centers worldwide that incorporate recruitment, counseling services, apprenticeships, career fairs, graduate tracker services and industry linkages as transition strategies to the job market.

In line with the government initiative, USAID Empowered Youth (EY) supports the integration of youth employability in the courses offered at Technical and Vocational Education and Training (TVET) institutions. Specifically, the establishment of EY Career Centers at the institutions will equip students, a critical supply element, with pre requisite employability skills demanded by sectorial industry players for transition into the job market.

As a preliminary activity, EY organized a Career Advisory and Counselling Training workshop in Kisumu from August 29 –September 2, 2022. The workshop convened 43 participants representing Career Development Advisors and government officials from 6 high touch counties namely Kiambu, Kakamega, Kisumu, Nakuru, Mombasa and Isiolo.

Mr. John Obiero Awiti, County Minister, Department of Education, ICT and Human Capacity Development - Kisumu County, opened the workshop by stressing that the OCS will help TVETs to bridge the skills gap in training and employment in the industry thus improving youth employability. Mr. Bernard Isalambo, Deputy Director of TVET highlighted the positive attitude among youth towards TVETs. He pointed out that more youth are now open to joining these institutions regardless of the lower grade requirement compared to universities. He added that this in itself is a great opportunity for the OCS to provide these young people with the information and skills needed to pursue meaningful employment.

Cecilia Waihenya, the Principal Placement Officer at USIU-Africa and Dr. Bernard Oloo, a lecturer and life coach at Egerton University, facilitated various sessions to build on participants knowledge, understanding and practice of operationalizing career centers in line with the government policies. Prof Amos Njuguna, Partner Lead and Dean of the School of Graduate Studies, Research and Extension at USIU-Africa emphasized the importance of providing demand driven skills training for youth to transition into the labor market as a prerequisite for success. Further, he elaborated that findings from EY’s Labor Market Analysis identified key economic sectors with the highest potential to create employment opportunities for youth.

Prof. Alexander Kahi, Partner Lead USAID EY from Egerton University encouraged participants to embrace setting up of career centers as it stands to benefit millions of youth who have been periodically disadvantaged due to lack of career guidance. EY’s Chief of Party, Mr. Elijah Otiende reiterated that to ensure its success, young people should be at the center of decisions made by the OCS. Its success heavily depends on the ability to build sustainable relationships with the youth, thereby attracting and maintaining labor supply to the job market. He also urged the institutions to be proactive in systematically operationalizing the career centers and align the OCS functions with their strategic plans.

Urging the need to promote gender, equity and inclusion within TVETs, Dr. Josephine Obonyo, EY Gender Specialist, encouraged the career officers to provide equal opportunities for both genders. She noted that there was an unfortunate trend in some institutions, where certain courses were strictly reserved just for women because of their socialization thus limiting their choices for learning. She added that the OCS can greatly change this narrative and perceptions.

At the end of the workshop, the participants reflected on their overall experience lauding the EY conveners for an insightful workshop. In particular, the field visit to YMCA’s OCS offered an opportunity for experiential learning as participants shared opportunities, successes, barriers and solutions to ensure sustainability of career centers beyond the project period.

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