Fighting Employment Through Vocational Training in Kenya

Job creation is increasingly featuring in local political discourse as the country gears up for general elections. Youth bear the biggest brunt of unemployment in the country with one in every six being jobless.

To help deal with the problem, USAID Kenya Youth Employment and Skills Program (K-YES) is empowering them with skills that meet current market demands hence making them more employable in the long run. Results are promising – they are using gained skills to secure jobs and empower others.

One such example is Samuel Omondi, a choreographer.

An entrepreneurship training made him convert his passion for dancing from mere entrainment to an economic activity.

“The training was short but with long-term benefits. My perception towards dance changed – from mere fun to business.” He observes.

Thanks to the training, the 21 year old school drop-out now manages a troupe comprising 20 youth who derive their income from entertainment activities.

Others are discovering career pathways in fields dominated by men. Mildred Wanjala rans a barbershop, an undertaking associated by men in her community while Mwanasiti Ramadhan is the envy of many as the only female at a garage in Kwale, Kenyan Coast.

Integrated program initiatives have seen 10,500 youth gain new or better employment during the last two years. The bulk of these jobs are in informal sector that accounts for over 80% of jobs created nationally.

Investment in training is also paying off – 3,000 youth have undergone vocational training with 70% accessing apprenticeships. These figures are bound to improve once a newly developed curriculum is approved for a national roll-out.

Put together by K-YES in partnership with other stakeholders, the curriculum covers poultry, sales and marketing, hotel industry, masonry; and plumbing courses. It has successfully undergone piloting phase in selected counties and now awaits consent from a national certifying entity that will see it adapted by vocational training centers nationally.

Program Chief of Party Joyce Wafula believes it is the industry game changer.

“It is aligned to industry needs, has a short training duration not exceeding three months and emphasizes on practical learning. Such factors are bound to endear it more to the youth and improve quality in vocational training.” She observes.

To help fight negative perceptions towards vocational institutes and blue collar jobs; the program has developed a comprehensive behavior change communications strategy. It seeks to collaborate with other stakeholders in sensitizing the public on role vocational training institutions, showcasing their impact through positive messaging and sharing beneficiary success stories.

The program also secured a $25,000 grant for County Youth Bunges to help in implementing selected activities within a specified time frame. Established under the previous Yes Youth Can Program in the country, Bunges play a key role mobilizing and ensuring youth participation in program activities at county level.

Such developments have attracted interest among other key stakeholders including US Ambassador to Kenya Robert Godec who visited program site in Garissa and interacted with beneficiaries (see video link).

To depict impact, beneficiary experiences are captured through success stories and shared with relevant entities. One of the stories featuring Mildred Wanjala, a school drop-out from Bungoma who has succeeded in her business as a result of program trainings went viral after appearing on USAID website.

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