Developing talent takes time and deliberate effort. Most graduates quickly realize that school was neither an end nor a means, but the start of a lifelong process of learning.

Employers also know they need to continuously train their staff, both the entry-level and experienced staff if they are to keep up with the industry and competition. This is perhaps the reason why the Government of Kenya decided to take action and empower its young people in the digital technology field.

Kenya's Presidential digital talent programme

For the last five years, the government of Kenya has been running a program that seeks to empower young people by training them and giving them exposure in various fields to make them fit for the job market and give them hands-on skills.

Launched in 2015, the program aims to train 400 young Kenyans every year in the fields of ICT and engineering. These are usually young people who have recently graduated, putting them in a one-year program that gets them to work in both the public and private sectors. At the end of the year, the cohort participants are evaluated for the skills gained and assisted to get job placements where possible.

Kenya's Presidential Digitalent Programme

During the period, these young people get on the job trainings and also get training and certifications such as those offered by Huawei, Microsoft Azure or even Digital Skills by Google.

The program whose objective is to build the next generation of globally competitive ICT, leadership and technology talent is called Digitalent and has been one of the most successful government projects the current government is doing.

Missed opportunities

While developing talent is good, a more urgent need at the moment is to create opportunities for the people of Kenya. The challenge with this program is that the people who go through the program are not assured of any job opportunity after the program is over. They still have to compete with many other people for the opportunities that are there.

In a situation where there are many opportunities, companies are more than willing to take fresh graduates and train them from the word go. In a situation where there are very few job opportunities, only the cream of the talent gets jobs first, and other people take longer to get entry-level jobs. Sometimes even those jobs are hard to find, and people diversify to other fields in an attempt to make a living.

Young people are also urged to go into self-employment and create jobs in an attempt to earn a living and also solve the unemployment challenge. The call is unrealistic because only a small portion of a population can successfully venture into entrepreneurship.

While the project is noble and can be emulated in other places, the government should also focus on creating an enabling environment where businesses will thrive, thus more jobs. In the past one year, there have been too many cases of companies winding up and people being retrenched, a factor that is aggravating an already bad problem of joblessness.

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