If there is one thing that pleases me the most in this new Constitution, it is the manner in which this document has taken into consideration the needs of the youth.
The Constitution actually now mandates the State to take specific measures to ensure that our young people access education, training, employment and generally be able to contribute productively in the political, social and economic spheres of our society.
Having said that, I was pleasantly surprised to read in the dailies an initiative in which the Government will be teaming up with Private Sector members to provide internship opportunities, and enable the youth acquire skills that ease entry into the job market.
One thing they mentioned is that this project is similar to another currently being run by the Canadian Government. So I set to find out more.
It turns out that Canadians were experiencing the same challenges often felt by our young people today, where after investing much time and resources in their education, they were still unable to gain employment encountering the circuitous challenge of no job, no experience and vice versa.
This is often the case in any business scenario; when supply of a good or service exceeds market demand. The choicest goods or services are then acquired at a very cheap rate.
In this case, the labour supply in Kenya has for many decades exceeded employment demand and employers are often left to pick and choose top quality in the market. Unfortunately, even if this practice encourages our young people to be top achievers, as a country we are still left with about 70 percent of young people whom the market cannot absorb.
Back to the Canadians, in 1997 their Government started the Youth Empowerment Strategy to help curb unemployment at national levels. Their strategy offers a broad range of initiatives to not only equip the youth with relevant skills that enable them penetrate the job market, but also ensure that they stay employed. The Canadian Government actually funds the employers to improve the employability of their young people.
I can confidently assure you that this is the leaf we are now borrowing from our more developed counterparts courtesy of World Bank funding.
The Kenya Youth Empowerment Programme (KYEP) is being funded to run a similar program in collaboration with Private Sector players.
Having conducted a needs analysis, the KYEP has discovered that part of the problem plaguing our young people, is that even after leaving school, they still lack some basic skills to improve their marketability. This programme will ensure that over the course of four years, our youth acquire not only the basic skills but also benefit from on-going training and skills enhancement. This greatly improves their chances of getting and staying employed.
I am not going to say much more about this because I want to ensure comprehensive coverage of this programme from a journalist. What I will say and can assure you is that this programme will be taking off in the next couple of months (of course all factors, including funding, remaining constant).
As a young person, between the ages of 15 and 29 years, with eight years minimum education and having been out of work for one year… this is your chance.
I want to reiterate what I have always said; that there is no such thing as luck. Luck is often misconstrued to be fate, but in reality… lucky people are those who are well prepared to take advantage of opportunities that present themselves.
Sit and write down your long-term goals, cascading downwards to medium and short terms. Be very clear in your mind where and in which sectors of the economy you can achieve those goals. Of course, always be flexible and give yourself room to work with. If you know where you want to go, it is easier to get there.
On the other end of this stick, I want to urge my fellow employers to jump onboard this initiative, being spearheaded by KEPSA (Kenya Private Sector Alliance), as I will no doubt be doing. It is our opportunity to be part of a great initiative that has the potential to positively change the psyche of our youth and minimise the gap between the haves and the have nots.