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Tackling Youth Unemployment with Technical and Vocational Education and Training (TVET) in Kenya

According to Escudero & Mourelo (2014), Kenya is categorized into the leading economy group in sub-Saharan Africa. Kenya’s economy has increased at an average rate of over 5% over the past several decades. However, with such stable and successful economic growth, much work still needs to be done for the sake of qualifying its ever-increasing youth population to meet the requirement of employers. To be more specific, there is a high youth unemployment rate in Kenya because of insufficient qualified workers. Muiya (2014) points out that the reason falls on not enough or mismatched Technical and Vocational Education and Training (TVET) satisfying the requirement for the actual demand in labor market. It should be easier for companies to find suitable candidates to fill job vacancies if various and adequate TVET courses are offered meeting the requirements of different sectors.

Maronga, Maroria, & Nyikal (2015) provide a brief description of Technical and Vocational Education and Training(TVET) as the investment in concerned skills relevant to labor market, usually in a larger scope of strategies of promoting economic competitiveness, enabling the development of technical skills with an understanding of what matters in achieving employment in certain occupations. Zepeda, Leigh, Ndirangu, Omollo, & Wainaina (2013) suggest that the more access to and higher quality of TVET, the more vital role it will play in tackling youth unemployment in Kenya. The fact is that even those young Kenyans receive higher levels of education, the majority of them still lack the fundamental cognitive and technical skills to meet the demand of employers and therefore find it difficult to find decent jobs or become self-employed (Elder & Rosas, 2015). Taking this circumstance into consideration, Muiya (2014) claims that appropriate TVET can provide a higher return than merely general education or secondary education with a specific emphasis on providing and training participants in regard to particular work-relevant skills.

Harry (2014) points out that youth unemployment is becoming an increasingly critical issue in Kenya. Startling data shows that 40% of young Kenyans rarely had education, 34% of the youth had education at the elementary level, 16% had secondary education and only 10% had TVET or higher education. Under this situation, the Kenyan economy leaves almost 70% of the youth, aged between 15 and 34, under the shadow of unemployment, which makes unemployment in Kenya a youth problem. For instance, in Kenya, it is common that youth unemployment rate is higher than total unemployment rate. Statistics show that in 1999, youth unemployment rate was 5% higher than total unemployment rate; and in 2006, youth unemployment rate was almost 7.5% higher than total unemployment rate (Zepeda et al. 2013).

The Kenyan education system has a pattern of eight years of primary education then four years of secondary education and four years of university education. Unfortunately, as Escudero & Mourelo (2014) indicate, numbers of youths cannot complete school. For those who successfully go to graduate school, however, most of them still lack sufficient expertise to meet the expectations of employers and to facilitate employment. As a result, the Kenyan education system has been blamed for failing to pass suitable and necessary skills and technologies to youths to get them ready for the demanding labor market to achieve employment and self-employment. Therefore, the Kenyan government senses an urgent need to strengthen and increase proportionally successful methods of developing more qualified TVET. In other words, the government is eager to ensure that young people successfully and confidently acquire the foundational and relevant skills and training through TVET that are essential to enter the world of work.

The good news is that the potential and the importance of TVET has been emphasized as a driving force in addressing the issue of youth unemployment in Kenya (Omollo, 2012). Since 2012, a variety of TVET policies have been launched. Also, the Kenyan Parliament adopted the TVET Act in 2013. At the same time, novel government agencies have been established, focusing on improving and reforming the TVET with accompanied responsibility on its coordination and regulation (Harry, 2014). Thanks to all this effort, now, for those who have completed primary school, they have more opportunities to attend TVET in plenty of ways. There are more and more institutions such as Youth Polytechnics, Technical Training Institutes, Institutes of Technology, National Industrial Vocational Centers, secondary schools and universities conducting modified TVET skills and offering TVET certificates (Maronga et al. 2015).

Zepeda et al. (2013) points out that in Kenya, over half of all jobs have a requirement of a medium level qualification, which can be acquired through TVET primarily. It is hoped that with more access to modified TVET meeting the requirements in labor market, the youth unemployment rate in Kenya will decrease at a somewhat slow but stable rate. Youths who have attended technical and vocational education and training courses mostly spend one or two years pursuing different levels of certificate qualification in TVET. Then they are found enrolled in formal and informal employment. Qualifying themselves with a diploma or degree, such group of youth population begin to work in the formal and informal sector, among whom 30.5% are in formal employment, 9.2% in informal employment; 1% are home-maker, 1.3% in other categories (Maronga et al. 2015). Statistics of World Bank (n.d.) show that the youth unemployment rate reached from 22.81% in 2007 to 26.12% in 2012, during which time there were a little access to adequate and sufficient TVET; however, the youth unemployment rate maintains at 26.2% since 2013 instead of constantly increasing, which could be recognized as a piece of good news since the situation does not get worse. We understand that it takes time, and we hope we could see the vision of more access to adequate TVET influencing on reducing youth unemployment rate in Kenya.


Elder, S., & Rosas, G. (2015). Global employment trends for youth 2015: Scaling up investments in decent jobs for youth. International Labor Organization.

Escudero, V., & Mourelo, E. L. (2014). Understanding the drivers of the youth labor market in Kenya. In Disadvantaged Workers (pp. 203-228). Springer, Cham.

Harry, L. K. (2014). Kenya Country Report for the 2014 Ministerial Conference on Youth Employment: Policies, Mechanisms and Schemes for Integration of Youth into the Workforce and Job Creation. Abidjan, Côte d‟ Ivoire.

Maronga, E., Maroria, E. A., & Nyikal, E. (2015). A Critical Survey On Enrollment In Youth Polytechnics In Kisii Central District, Kenya. International Journal of Scientific and Technology Research4(5), 113-120.

Muiya, B. M. (2014). The Nature, Challenges and Consequences of Urban Youth Unemployment: A Case of Nairobi City, Kenya. Universal journal of educational research2(7), 495-503.

Omollo, J. (2012). Youth Employment in Kenya. Analysis of Labor Market and Policy Interventions.

World Bank. (n.d.). Kenya: Youth unemployment rate from 2007 to 2017. In Statista – The Statistics Portal. Retrieved October 6, 2018, from https://www.statista.com/statistics/812147/youth-unemployment-rate-in-kenya/.

Zepeda, E., Leigh, F., Ndirangu, L., Omollo, J., & Wainaina, S. (2013). Discussion paper: Kenya’s youth employment challenge. NY, NY: UNDP, January.

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