When *John (not his real name) joined college to pursue Electrical and Electronic engineering, the last thing he expected was to drop out due to lack of fees. Growing up, he always hoped that he would make it and sort of deliver his family from the lowly Kibera slums. Dreams shattered, he became a dejected young man living and hoping that his crumbled world will become better someday. For the longest time, he did odd menial jobs to fend for himself. He would save half of his measly salary and live on the other half but the saved money was never enough for him to go back to school. As I listen to him narrate this rather bitter story, I see him fight back tears because he is now optimistic that things will work out.
John is among the over 1000 young Kenyans who graduated on Friday from Generation Kenya, an innovative youth employment program funded by McKinsey & Company and United States Agency for International Development (USAID). So important is the program, that President Uhuru Kenyatta, CS Fred Matiang’i, CS Cecily Kariuki, KCB CEO-Joshua Oigara and other dignitaries graced the 4th graduation ceremony which also doubled up as the Generation Kenya’s graduation. The McKinsey Social Initiative program connects young adults with skills and jobs with an aims of supporting youth workforce development, training, upskilling and facilitate linkage to employment opportunities for the youth.
Generation Kenya aims to provide a solution to the unemployment problem facing more than 1.1 million young people in Kenya. Launched just over a year ago, the activity has benefited about 1,600 young people arming them with the financial skills that will help them succeed mainly in the private sector. By yesterday, 98% of the people who were graduating had already secured jobs as banking and insurance sales representatives, retail store assistants or fast-moving consumer goods sales representatives. The non-profit program is currently being offered in Buruburu, Kangemi, South B, Shauri Moyo, Kibera, Ruraka and recently opened two centres in Mombasa. The program mainly works with employer and implementation partners and targets unemployed and underemployed youth (between the ages of 20 and 30).
Employers are impressed by the work done by Generation Kenya’s graduates and it is not hard to see why. They are less expensive to hire, stay in the job longer and perform better than other entry level employees. In fact, some employers term them as the best source of talent and would re-hire them.
This program is not confined in Kenya only as it has a global goal of preparing about one million young people with skills then matching that with relevant jobs in Kenya, India, USA, Spain and Mexico by 2020.
While making his remarks, the president said that grades do not necessarily define a person but their character and work ethic do. More than 60% of the people who graduated, had score a C grade and below in their KCSE exam but they are guaranteed interviews with any one of Generation’s more than 60 employer partners including Liberty Insurance, Britam, Barclays, Java House, Bidco, Carrefour, Woolworths and Old Mutual among others. He also reiterated his commitment to support Kenyan youth by ensuring they get the right skills that make them employable. Particularly, he focused on those who do not make the cut for university education and are forced to settle for technical training institutes or start their own businesses.
Helping young people to achieve their dreams is the honorable thing to do. Generation is actualizing this.