At Thika-based M-PESA Foundation Academy, the centre seeks to discover and nurture talent by creating an environment that allows our learners to pursue their interests in both academics and sports.

Kenyan corporates are turning to specialized training programmes in the hunt for fresh talent as the demand for high-skilled personnel in the country continues to grow.

This comes in the wake of widespread disruption across various sectors of the economy following the COVID-19 pandemic that has fueled the need for a dynamic and multi-skilled workforce to drive economic growth.

While in the past, employers and recruiting agencies prioritised academic credentials and work experience when seeking to fill competitive roles, the pandemic has upended the notion of what it means to be an expert or professional in a particular field.

With the growth of online learning and remote working in the past two years, both the private and public sector is slowly embracing workers that have built their expertise and competence outside the traditional university-to-corporate pipeline.

The National Industrial Training Authority, NITA, recently unveiled a drive to urge the manufacturing sector to recognise personnel that are self-taught, either through experience or via online certification courses.

“The training content and curriculum is very limited for informal sector development and content is still delivered under the apprenticeship model,” he explained. “This becomes a bottleneck because there is inadequate standardization which makes it difficult to map existing skills in the informal sector and gauge the gaps that exist.”

Data from the Kenya National Bureau of Statistics (KNBS) indicates that the pandemic pushed companies to cut jobs, with many sectors recording a freeze in new hires over the past 24 months.

The informal sector, which accounts for the bulk of paid wage laborers, shed more than 543,000 jobs, with private sector work opportunities falling 10 percent from two million in 2019 to 1.8 million in 2020, the lowest in more than five years.

Women suffered the brunt of job losses with overall wage employment among women falling by 10.3 percent compared to 4 percent among men.

Read also: Moringa school: where Kenyan youth learn in-demand tech skills, get dream jobs

Mr. Christian Gulzow, Director of the M-PESA Academy’s Uongozi Center says creative specialised training programmes should seek to enhance the leadership potential of participants, promote independent thinking, and graduands to incubate business ideas that impact the society.

The Uongozi Center, an offspring of the M-PESA Foundation Academy, seeks to support learners through the transition from secondary school into tertiary institutions both in Kenya and abroad.

Safaricom PLC Chief Executive led by M-PESA Foundation Academy’s Unongozi Centre Director Christian Gulzow sample some of the innovation by the academy students in areas pertaining STEAM (Science Technology Engineering Arts and Maths).

The academy’s first cohort, a total of 96 students recently left for universities in the USA, and Uongozi Centre has been providing counsel, tuition, accommodation, travel, and living expenses support for them to succeed in their respective careers.

Successive graduates, who excel in community engagement, leadership as well as sports, also benefit from study opportunities in the US, United Kingdom (UK), and South Africa.

Mr Gulzow says the initiative places a huge premium on the acquisition of technical skills such as hospitality and carpentry of their graduates through partnerships with partners such as the Nairobi Technical Training Institute, and Thika Technical Training Institute among others.

Overseas, the school has been organizing world-class study collaborations with hospitality colleges in South Africa as well as in Switzerland.

Scholars have also been securing university admissions in institutions of higher learning such as Strathmore University, USIU Africa, and Daystar with Uongozi Centre stepping in to meet their tuition, accommodation and living expenses.

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