Nexford and FKE partner to close the employee skills gaps in Kenya

Mark Talmage-Rostron
December 4, 2023 · 6 min read

In a recent report, the World Education Forum consulted 140 countries with 34 African nations to identify the best education system based on skills development. In Africa, the leader was the Seychelles, with Kenya holding its own in seventh place. But what can be done to elevate the country to a loftier status? Better education and more specifically, education that puts at the heart of its curriculum, skills development.

Gone are the days when you could perfect a skill and use it to keep a job for life. That ship has sailed. Today it has been replaced with a superyacht powered by modern skills where its occupants need to stay on a lifetime journey to continuously upskill or reskill or risk being torpedoed and sunk by the demands of the modern work environment.

Take Kenya for instance, the pride of East Africa. According to the International Labour Organization, it is rated 95th in the global education system, has a 78.7% literacy rate, is ranked 432 in digital skills globally, 21 in finding skilled employees, and 55.4 points for education efforts. Yet, despite all of these supposedly wonderful figures, there still exists a very wide gap between the skills that modern employers are looking for, and an employee workforce that can bring those skills to the party.

This is incredibly frustrating for companies in Kenya. A World Bank Report indicated that the lack of skills and experience contribute significantly to recruitment constraints. Between 30% and 35% of those firms surveyed said that they experienced difficulties in hiring because of the lack of required skills in workers along with a lack of work experience in applicants.

Lack of skilled employees is a global phenomenon

The problem of a poorly skilled workforce is not just endemic across Kenyan organizations, the sad reality is that it exists across the world, as 75% of global companies that are recruiting believe that there is a skills shortage amongst their applicants. And that percentage has been going up in the last few years and is at a 17-year high right now.

A myriad of factors contribute to this shortfall, ranging from the rapid evolution of technology and changing job requirements to inadequacies within educational systems and the struggle to keep pace with emerging trends. Industries like healthcare, technology, engineering, and data analytics confront acute shortages, impeding innovation and economic growth.

The demand for specialized technical competencies, coupled with a scarcity of individuals possessing these skills, amplifies the issue. Moreover, the pandemic has catalyzed a shift in work dynamics, accelerating the need for digital fluency and remote collaboration skills, further accentuating the deficit.

Addressing this pervasive lack of skilled employees necessitates collaborative efforts between educational institutions, governments, and the private sector to recalibrate training programs, promote lifelong learning, and cultivate adaptive, versatile skill sets that align with the evolving demands of the global workforce.

Something must happen and fast, as the impact of the skills deficit on global companies is becoming crippling as 60% of organizations are seeing decreased revenues and 51% a loss of market share.

But not all global companies are just rolling over and taking it lying down. Astute companies are recognizing the necessity to think outside the box and take urgent measures to address the skills gaps with the most preferred actions being: training of employees (89%), hiring of temporary staff (71%), outsourcing the work (70%), and employing staff from abroad (40%), further to that employing new staff from the Kenya market sits at 83%.

For those that choose to look inwardly, rather than outwardly, there are also very precise measures that are being taken by global organizations as they attempt to upskill and reskill their current employees.

Correcting the global skills shortage issue is proving to be more bottom-up than top-down

Many think that the answer to closing the global skills gap lies in the hands of developed countries, but it is the wrong train of thought. With a burgeoning youth population, the continent of Africa presents an opportunity to harness and cultivate a skilled workforce. Investing in education, vocational training, and technology initiatives across Africa will equip its youth with the necessary skills to meet global demands. Africa's young people are energetic and ambitious. As the most connected generation of Africans in history, they hold the key to unleashing greater productivity and propelling the economic trajectory of the continent and beyond.

Several Kenyan youths have made significant impacts on global companies, particularly in technology, entrepreneurship, and social innovation sectors. Juliana Rotich, co-founder of Ushahidi, a technology platform that allows users to crowdsource crisis information, has been instrumental in disaster response, crisis mapping, and election monitoring worldwide, and Mark Kaigwa, known for his expertise in digital storytelling and social media strategy has worked with various global brands to help them navigate and engage African markets through digital platforms. Their contributions demonstrate the potential of African youth in driving change, innovation, and sustainable development on a global scale.

And Kenya needs more of these skilled individuals as it has been shown that three out of four organizations in Kenya deal with a skills shortage today. Or in other words, 76% of enterprises face challenges in filling their vacancies due to the lack of relevant skills in job seekers.

Is harnessing digital skills the way to close Kenya’s skills gap?

McKinsey & Co. said in a report titled, “Reimagining economic growth in Africa, June 2023,” that digital skills will be important to develop among the continent’s young talent, especially since companies around the world, particularly in countries with aging demographics, will increasingly turn to Africa as a source of talent. Indeed, African talent could become the continent’s largest export and given shifts we are seeing in how work gets done, this talent may not need to leave the continent to fulfill this demand.

Looking more closely at Kenya, according to a 2022 report by the Kenya Association of Manufacturers, businesses that embraced digital tools witnessed a remarkable 75% increase in productivity. The Kenya National Skills Development Survey further revealed that a staggering 60% of companies consider digital skills crucial for maintaining a competitive edge in the market.

To close the skills gap in Kenya, initiatives focusing on digital literacy, coding skills, data analytics, cybersecurity, digital marketing, and other relevant technological competencies are essential. Efforts should involve collaborations between the government, educational institutions, private sector organizations, and non-profit entities to develop and implement comprehensive programs that impart these skills from an early age and throughout one's professional life.

Additionally, providing access to digital infrastructure, internet connectivity, affordable devices, and continuous upskilling opportunities for the existing workforce are critical components in ensuring a digitally inclusive society and workforce.

While digital skills are crucial, they should be complemented by a holistic approach to skills development that encompasses both technical and soft skills to address Kenya's multifaceted skills gap comprehensively. Globally the top three soft and social skills that are in highest demand are: communication and interpersonal skills, problem-solving, and the ability to adapt to change.

As has been highlighted several times in this article, the key to closing the skills gap is for organizations to seek out skilled individuals, but closer to home, using universities to update current employees’ skills through tailored programs, certificates, and courses. One such university is Nexford whose affordable tuition, flexible learning, and 100% online learning model creates the perfect opportunity for organizations to future-proof their businesses with employees with the right skills.

The full FKE skills report can be found here.

About the author
Mark Talmage-Rostron
Mark Talmage-Rostron

Mark is a college graduate with Honours in Copywriting. He is the Content Marketing Manager at Nexford, creating engaging, thought-provoking, and action-oriented content.

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