Smoothening Youth Transitions from training to work by Beria Wawira

Francis Kisio, a Narok Vocational Training Centre (VTC) alumnus graduated in Motor Vehicle Mechanics in the year 2002. His motivation to start a medium-sized workshop in Narok town arose from the skills he acquired during various internship opportunities. Years later, his establishment has expanded to a renowned auto spare and motor vehicle workshop in the area. At this workshop, he provides practical-real life learning opportunities to students from the surrounding vocational centres. Through Mr. Kisio, the best performing students from the nearby training institutions get a fair platform to kick start their careers as he provides employment opportunities.

Mr. Kisio points out: “Discipline, resilience and consistency have enabled me to be where I am today. Students are inspired by the growth of my business and look up to  me as a role model”. True to his word, he has proudly taken them under his wing and keenly nurtured their skills in his specialized field with the hope that they will find their niche as professionals.  

Vocational training centres in Kenya provide opportunities for the youth to learn key skills from the variety of artisan courses offered. Through these centers, many young people have acquired relevant skills which catapult them into the world of work. Some have even gone ahead and started their  businesses such as salons, beauty parlors and restaurants. Like Mr. Kisio, many graduates have gone back to their schools to explore opportunities to mentor others who are still learning. This has given birth to strong Alumni associations in many vocational training centres providing opportunities for career counselling and up to date information on the industry trends and demands.

Solutions for Youth Employment estimates that one million young people will enter the global labour market in the next one year, a majority in the informal sector. Despite the Kenya youth unemployment standing at 55%, employers are having a tough time finding people who can work efficiently and productively.  Employers have attributed this to lack of adequate preparation of the youth who are leaving training. Either there is skills shortage; the demand of the skill is greater than those who possess it or skills surplus; supply of the skill exceeds the demand of people with that skill or the type or level of skills is different from that which is required to adequately perform the job. ILO has also highlighted cases where skills taught are not appropriate for the job or where the youth have more or inadequate skills or education demanded.

While there are many pathways to acquiring skills, mentorship and the rapid connection to work spaces seems to work well. Sharing his experience on mentorship, Henry Kilonzo (Senior Manager for the Safaricom Foundation Programs) stated: “I was mentored by a young person, who led me to a job where I started. Through mentorship, youth hone their soft skills, values and other important competences that are demanded most by employers”. At this function in April 2021, Henry encouraged the Zizi Afrique youth mentors to pass the skills and knowledge acquired to their peers, to cultivate the best version of themselves

The examples given by Kisio and Kilonzo demonstrate the worth of two things. The importance of life skills and values in accessing and retaining jobs, but also the worth of mentorship and networks (confirmed by the Dalberg Study…’, in getting youth started. The challenge is to all of us, to figure out possibilities for the 500,000 youth enrolled in Kenyan TVET institutions today…. Whether through alumni associations, or through neighborhood enterprises, this dream could be achieved. Through and by all of us.

Beria Wawira is a programme officer at Zizi Afrique Foundation. For feedback, send email to

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