We are currently facing two global challenges:
- Three billion people today are under 25 and approximately 160 Million of the unemployed worldwide are young people.
- Globally, tertiary education is not producing the kinds of graduates with the skills, attitudes and competencies that employers are looking for.
This indicates that access to tertiary education needs to improve and universities and colleges need to equip graduates with the 21st century skills needed for the workplace of today and the future. These skills are critical thinking, negotiation, leadership, strategic thinking, conflict management, negotiation, decision making, digital literacy and knowledge management. Research indicates that graduate unemployment in Africa remains acute and in Kenya for example, it takes a university graduate an average of 5 years to get a job
So what is the role of tertiary education in addressing this conundrum?
Under the Millennium Development Goals, focus has been on primary education but there is a noticeable shift in attention globally towards secondary and tertiary education. In sub Saharan Africa, enrollment rates in higher education are booming, but are still substantially lower than rates globally (29% worldwide, 7% for SSA and only 4% for Kenya!) This means that there is enormous scope to expand, and that the demand for tertiary education will continue to grow.
So what does this mean for Kabarak University?
We need to be in the forefront in bridging the divide between the university, society and the world of work. Research undertaken across 6 universities in the UK found a positive effect on both education and employment outcomes when there was employer engagement in course design, and when this was linked to work placements and other forms of in-training and post-training experience.
In Africa, reform of the curriculum features as critical, including updating modes of delivery and the professional expertise of teachers, tutors and lecturers. Poor infrastructure, inadequate facilities and poor staff student rations are also mentioned.
In an increasingly interconnected and interdependent world, young people need more than preparation for the workplace through acquiring technical and vocational skills. There is also need for a critical focus on 21st century skills to enable them engage analytically, critically and constructively in society as global citizens.
However, there is no quick fix solution. Education system reform including active linkages with labor markets is a good start. Inculcating entrepreneurial skills in young people will spur the innovations that are needed to move graduates from job seekers to job creators.
Adapted from article on DN, 9/10/14 by Dr Jo Beall, Director, Education and society, British Council.