Kenyan job seekers lack ICT skills and a mentality geared towards independent work, both of which need to be urgently addressed to improve the employment sector, according to Deborah Beaton, founder and chief executive officer (CEO) of online recruitment company Kama Kazi.
Disrupt Africa reported earlier this month, Beaton predicts the online recruitment market in Kenya is “set to explode soon”. Kama Kazi is currently on the lookout for investors, in a bid lead this expected upwards trend in online HR services.
However, speaking to Disrupt Africa, Beaton says job seekers often endanger their own chances of finding employment through a complete lack of ICT skills – a skill set in high demand.
“ICT skills are highly in demand especially from investing companies who are used to everyone having a certain standard of ICT competence as a minimum. This has been tricky for us. We find people with a degree who can barely use a computer. Basic ICT competence is very low,” Beaton says.
While Kenya is famed for its mobile uptake and innovation, Beaton says much more needs to be done to encourage basic ICT literacy among students, and ICT skills need to be elevated to a “minimum requirement” of education.
“Knowledge of simply Microsoft packages and the ability to type accurately and quickly is glaringly absent in many candidates’ profiles and I think this really shocks managers and CEOs from abroad,” Beaton says.
“A lot of works needs to be done to provide more access for students to the use of computers. Kenya is very literate at using mobiles but this does not mean the grasp of computer skills is high. This needs to be emphasized more and the importance of being able to competently use a computer needs to become a minimum requirement at a fairly early stage of education.”
Similarly, Beaton notes remote or online work has not at all taken root in Kenya, although in her opinion it offers an attractive solution to local challenges such as heavy traffic causing long commuting times, and high cost of office space for small companies.
“I would argue that online work is not common in Kenya, although it should be. Traditional methods of individuals working from the office is still very much standard. Remote workspaces tend to only be an option for more outward thinking tech companies or startups that cannot afford office space,” Beaton says.
“I personally allow many of my staff to work remotely. From a simple logistical point of view, many of my staff that would spend close to three hours in traffic each day instead spend none, therefore they start work on time far more often and tend to work longer hours than they would it they were concerned about making it home at a reasonable time,” she says.
“I believe that working remotely should become the way of working in Kenya especially in Nairobi. Many people work far from home/have to commute and simply from a time efficiency and stress management point of view this would be very beneficial.”
On the other hand, Beaton says there are a number of challenges to the take-off on remote work in Kenya, both from an infrastructural perspective – many homes having unstable power and internet supplies -, and from a cultural perspective.
“One of the main obstacles is that many people do not have internet at home/cannot afford to go to cafes etc. to work. And an allowance for internet [-based work] can be hindered by lack of network coverage or power cuts at home,” Beaton says.
“We also have a cultural block which is that throughout the education system many people have been taught to work off of instruction only, and so thinking independently and proactively is often a struggle, and so the need to manage employees quite closely is still a big concern for many managers,” she says.
“However, whether managers would trust their employees to work remotely and also take the time to understand how to accurately manage remote workers is maybe still a way off.”
Nonetheless, Beaton says if ICT education was improved, and the infrastructural and social obstacles properly addressed, remote work could shake-up employment in Kenya.
“If we could address these issues I think that remote work would be incredibly efficient.”