Drop some requirements to widen the disability workforce.

About a month ago, the state of Maryland in the United States decided to drop the four-year degree requirement for government jobs in the state. In America, states can make their own laws that are applicable to the state in question except for security matters. Security matters are a preserve of the Federal Government, what we call the National Government in Kenya, and a  State in the USA is the equivalent of a County in Kenya. In its defence on why the university degree was dropped, officials said that work is essentially about innovation and productivity, and that can be achieved without a university degree. In its place, the university degree requirement will be by checking the alternative place that a person might have developed a skill from, and the alternative could be military service, learning on the job, apprenticeship or learning a skill from a community service.  The goal was to enable more people to get into jobs especially after the pandemic. 

On Wednesday and Thursday, two interrelated things were happening in the country simultaneously. One, form one students were reporting to school to begin their secondary education endeavors. Two, the 2021 Economic Survey Report was released at the KICC in Nairobi. The report shows how the economy performed in 2021 and what we can expect of 2022. The Treasury has been forced to revise the 2022 growth projections downwards, given the political and electioneering environment in the country, in addition to the situation in Eastern Europe.

 

The Economic Survey Report is of significant importance to a country as it is the yardstick against which progress is measured. For instance, only 700, 000 jobs were created in 2021 against a target of 1 million jobs per year by the government.  In the political field, political leaders use the Report to illustrate to people that they have delivered on their promises, otherwise known as manifestos. It becomes fodder for the opposition if the government has failed, especially in an election year like what we find ourselves in. The Report is also a development index just like the corporate world has the Key Performance Indicators (KPI).

 Amidst the wave of disability employment initiatives that have taken hold in most blue-chip companies in Kenya, it's time some of the requirements for employment of PWDs was lowered not just as a way of empowering more people, but also as a way of the early adoption of non-conventional methods of searching, recruiting and retaining talent at an organization. In any case, the world seems to be ditching grades as proof of having a skill. Case in point is the coming of the Competency Based Curriculum which will do away with one major exam to determine whether one will proceed to high school or campus, in favor of periodic assessment of learners while also inculcating practical skills, as opposed to the current system where everything is theoretical. More to this is the fact that with the high penetration of the Internet, one can acquire a skill without ever stepping in a learning institution and employ themselves from that skill. Tied to this is the rise of the gig economy that gives more freedom to individuals to work at their own time and pace without being answerable to anyone. The rise of taxi apps where one can accept or reject a client, is a testament to this claim.

The rise of the gig economy has been a thorn in the flesh for organizations and this explains why work life balance initiatives have been gaining momentum. Before Covid, companies were casual about talent retention in the organization. Retrenchments were rife left, right and center and employees always lived in fear of the next big chop. But with labor outsourcing and the gig economy, it’s the companies aggressively fishing for employees.

The benefit of picking employees from a lower entry point is that there's more commitment and loyalty to the job for some time before someone decides to shift to another company. Sometimes, employees can stick with the company up to the end of their careers having grown with the company from when they started to the top most position in the company. High flying Kenya Airways captain Ruth Karauri is an illustration of this. Ruth was picked by the national carrier right after high school before proceeding for training in Ethiopia. Given that it takes some time before one can become a captain in the aviation industry, she must have been with the airline for a while. 

For PWDs, focusing on the core subjects of a students and their skill from a form four point of view would be a good recruiting point. Organizations can pick the prospective from that point and grow from there. Even better, the organization can partner with an organization like Riziki Source if they feel more training is required if they want to take a would-be employee straight from high school. 

Most learning institutions have a higher probability of achieving this kind of engagement because of the fact that corporations always undertake CSR activities with schools. Be it scholarships or donation of cash or items in kind, there exists a relationship between employers in the name of companies, and employees in the name of schools. Some companies such as Equity Bank cemented their reputation as an institution for the common man through an education based philanthropic activity, i.e. the Wings to Fly. By converting the CSR relationship to a PPP, both parties gain for the long term. Schools are better equipped to offer knowledge giving maximum attention to the student, especially if the student is a PWD. After that the company knows it can get a well-trained workforce from the school because of the partnership they have. With this arrangement, getting more people with disabilities in the workforce will be achieved at a much faster pace and help to improve the economic participation of PWDs in Kenya.

By

Brian Ndiritu