My friends and I are mulling over the phenomenon of lack of jobs that is fast making some achieving graduates to desperate measures in order to survive. What comes to mind in the interim is the sad case of the trending feature on CITIZEN dubbed First Class Betrayal. This is the story line of a real life experience of one young man who graduated top of his class in actuarial science but was not able to get gainful employment.
The former University of Nairobi graduate shared how he had to live on the streets of Nairobi and counted himself fortunate to be able to wash cars in the Central Business District in order to have something to live on. This is the story of Kelvin Ochieng and the sight of him in the middle of Mathare became a wake up call. That is the story that among others called the Optiven family to consider the mentorship programme targeting university graduates who have qualified in their studies but are in need of getting experience. It is this cause that launched the Mentorship Programme in 2019 that has already seen the first cohort graduate from service within the Optiven Group.
A good 65% of the first cohort have been absorbed by different organizations where they continue to be transformative based on their experiences at Optiven. One of the main challenges for any of the graduates is the fact that companies whether corporate or private are looking out for seasoned employees who are ready to roll once they join the workforce.
The advertisements in the vacancy section of the dailies are laiden with the need for not less than 5 years experience... as a requirement for one to be employed. This is against a backdrop of even fewer graduates getting the opportunity to land internships in would be blue chip companies that in future provide a chance for them to be engaged as workers.
In my journey of 20 years in business, I have come across many young people mainly men who have done the best to fit in the real world of corporate engagement. But the situation has seen numerous end up in dens of alcohol, gangs of terror and worse some have become suicidal, not to mention the current influx of young men and women, getting hinged to older men and women in a bid to survive. With all this happening millions of graduates are not employable for not having the opportunity to understand how the working world works.
Midway during the engagement with the first cohorts, I had the opportunity to host the group of mentees within the Optiven Group during one of my sessions with the mentees. On that 17th May 2019 we were able to share our model on youth mentorship with the graduates. The truth is there has been a growing number of qualified university students from 60 universities in the country and the region. At Optiven Group we took an extra two mentees from unviersities in Uganda and South Africa, to also compare notes on culture in organizational operation.
In my engagement with the youth many are grappling with academic knowledge of the 20th century knowledge that is inapplicable in 21st century. This year I have been priviledged to address thousands of graduates at the Mt. Kenya University, Daystar University, Africa International University and the Africa Leadership University where I did what I know best – to share the story of Optiven and how it has been of impact in the corporate space. Many graduates are struggling with expectations of utopia in the belief that they deserve a better chance for being academically excellent and holders of degrees.
But a lot has changed in the work place where literacy levels have risen exponentially and it is not guaranteed that interns will be retained upon completion of their term of service. Soft skills are however missing in the equation and the youth are struggling with how to engage with people in real life. Many more are addicted to technology and have little or no time to nurture the skills of interaction, based on mutual respect and common corporate protocol within the corridors of work.
The emergence of millennial culture has necessitated the need to change how we at Optiven Group embrace the millennials – but for me that is a topic for another day given it’s berth of intricacy. In the case of mentees who serve under the Mentorship initiative at Optiven Group, we make it clear that while academics are important, a deep passion, right attitude and good values, coupled with a heart for philanthropy are key – as for skill we can train.
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