Family connections and networks are much more critical to landing a job than degrees or other qualifications, a study conducted in universities has revealed.
The survey by the British Council indicates that the students lack self–esteem and confidence and believe that they have something because of their parents and not their education or qualifications.
“Lack of networks was identified as the foremost barrier to employability,” adds the report that surveyed 1,300 final year students.
It was conducted between 2013-2016 in some African 14 universities that included three in Kenya: Nairobi, Daystar and Moi.
Other countries that participated were Ghana, Nigeria, South Africa and the United Kingdom for comparative purposes.
The ‘Universities, employability, and inclusive development’ report observes that universities in Kenya are characterised by rote learning.
“A fundamental shift needs to be made towards critical thinking, enquiry-based learning and real-life application of knowledge,” states the report.
Despite the government promoting science, technology, engineering and mathematics subjects, more employers prefer social science graduates.
“Graduates of social sciences and humanities were rated the most, followed by business-related courses and lastly by those in the pure sciences,” adds the report.
The report also notes that students no longer see their future solely in conventional salaried employment.
“Entrepreneurship and social enterprise have become key areas of interest for graduates, along with combined careers in various sectors,” it adds.
Another key finding is that students from disadvantaged backgrounds face an uphill struggle.
Even for the lucky few who make it to university, developing employable skills, participating in internships and voluntary work, and securing employment is particularly difficult for certain groups.
The study found that employers associate the high number of unemployed graduates with the (low) quality of training they receive from local universities.
It has created a pool of unemployed graduates in a labour market that has a skills shortage.
Kenyan employers do not appear to engaging institutions of higher learning to improve the quality of skills training for graduates, the report points out.