Third Eye

Let’s intervene to end unemployment among youth

Friday, November 5th, 2021 00:00 |
Unemployment. Photo/Courtesy

Greg Moser 

Business strategies are forward looking, focusing on the potential growth of future markets and human resources needed to meet the demands of a fast-evolving technological landscape.

While most interventions for unemployment are focused on creating jobs and bridging the gender, education and poverty gaps, many overlook the challenge of skills mismatch.

Due to strain on education resources and growing skills demand at the workplace, employers can no longer expect the educational system to solely produce candidates who possess the precise skill-sets required for the current and future labour market. 

Given the scope and complexities of global job market trends, which are heavily capitalised on digital technology, it takes real vision, along with commitment and collaboration, to secure a sustainable future for the private and public sectors and its workforce.

Hence, it is key for organisations to join forces with educational institutions, or take it upon themselves, to develop skills training for workforce. 

Fortunately, there are a number of innovative institutions that are currently making inroads to address this global talent crisis, and some efforts are already yielding tangible results. 

For instance, the Ministry of ICT, Innovation and Youth Affairs has an ongoing training, incubation and mentorship forum called Ajira Digital Club.

It seeks to equip youth with relevant digital skills to help them become more employable in the tech industry.

In fact, it has benefitted over 60,000 youths so far. It focuses on specifically reaching youths that are not in any formal education systems. 

While the efforts have made progress, Kenya’s unemployment rate is still not ideal.

At Sama, we train women and youths from underserved backgrounds with the relevant digital skills needed to jumpstart careers in the digital environment.

Our robust workforce development programme prepares individuals for a career in data training for artificial intelligence.

The 10-day programme covers Digital Literacy, Internet Literacy, an Intro to AI and Professional Workplace Readiness.

Recently, we released results from a study conducted from 2017 to 2020 in partnership with Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and Innovations for Poverty Action (IPA) to evaluate the effectiveness of our training and employment programmes in creating sustainable pathways out of poverty and validate its impact. 

It studied three groups of individuals from similar socioeconomic backgrounds that were randomly assigned to receive training through Sama (Group 1), or receive training and the opportunity for employment in the company (Group 2), or receive neither training nor the opportunity for employment (Control Group).

The main finding of the three-year study is that average earnings for individuals in Group 2 were almost 40 per cent higher than those in the Control Group, and unemployment rates were 10 per cent lower.

The study revealed that the programme had an even greater impact on women, with average earnings of those in Group 2 standing at 60 per cent higher than those in the Control Group.

Youths face numerous challenges when searching for jobs and the aforementioned programmes can go a long way towards balancing the scales not only in terms of youth unemployment, but of gender balance in the workforce.

Such initiatives could lead to the creation of entire new industries, jobs, goods and services and increased productivity. 

The approach of providing both skills training and job opportunities contributes to structural transformation and economic growth by enhancing employability, income sustainability and labour productivity while positioning the youth to become more competitive in labour markets. 

A 2019 report by Mercy Corp’s Youth Impact Labs, highlighted the lack of digital skilled workers as a major bottleneck for business operations, and as a result joblessness among the youth population continues to widen. 

To curb this, both formal and informal education structures are needed to step up to the challenge of equipping future workforce with needed skills to contend with the evolving expectations under the digital economy. Especially in the post-Covid-19 pandemic world. 

Our best chance at progressively reducing unemployment is to continue implementing programmes that empower youths by equipping them with skills that will enable them to adapt to new wave technology jobs.  — The writer is VP, Global Delivery at Sama (formerly known as Samasource)

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