Higher Education Tips for the Youth

Editorial Weekend Reflections

Higher Education Tips for the Youth

Rising youth unemployment is a great concern, Africa’s young population being at the heart of the challenge. Quality education with impartation of work-ready skills is considered a long-term insurance against poor quality of life, to which high rates of youth unemployment is a key contributor. Can making the right choices of the courses to study at higher education levels help reverse the undesirable trends?

It is yet another season in Kenya when candidates are making key decisions on which courses to pursue at the higher education level. Good advice from an experienced and exposed mentor is gold. As a youth, you need such good advice now and with urgency as if your entire future depended on it, and to a great extent, it does!

Here are some selected pieces of advice that can empower you to make the right choice:

  1. Higher education does not mean going exclusively for a university degree. There are Technical and Vocational Education and Training (TVET) centres that should admit 80% of the candidates for skills-based training towards enhanced market readiness. For example, in most cases, going for a Diploma in Mechanical Engineering is very likely to lower the barriers to entry into the labour market and open opportunities for career security in our local Kenyan/African setting more than pursuing a degree in business administration, tourism, or gender studies.
  2. Aligning your gifts with hands-on experience, ingenuity, and a deep passion for what you do will open doors to greater opportunities for engagement, irrespective of the traditional academic path you want to start from. As such, the opportunities a university or college can expose you to must be part of your key considerations when choosing which institution to join. These opportunities include international exposure (e.g., the CEMEREM programme at Taita Taveta University – which presents scholarships for research stay, annual summer schools, and international conferences in Germany); attractive student/lecturer ratio (e.g., Bachelor of Medicine & Surgery with IT at Maseno University, as it is currently); prime location advantages (e.g., being at the heart of key headquarters, businesses, and meetings, incentives, conferences, and exhibitions (MICE) – which is the case for the University of Nairobi); and modern laboratory and workshop facilities (e.g., the GIS Lab at Taita Taveta University, the labs at Dedan Kimathi University, etc.), among others.
  3. Study the curve of global megatrends to inform a niche area for developing transferrable skills. Such desired skills are amenable to upskilling and reskilling for adaptive resilience in career development. As the world continues to embrace contextual intelligence in the era of Education 4.0, learners need to consider the implications of digital transformation and the Future of Work for their disciplinary training. Technology- and data-driven specialisations, including geospatial technologies, can empower young learners today to be more adaptive in their career development trajectories in a world rapidly shaped by automation, miniaturised data collectors and sensors, artificial intelligence, extended reality, and collaborative telepresence, among others. With the increasing life expectancy globally, careers in eldercare will gain currency – hence nursing aid workers and the application of technologies that support senior citizens to see, hear, and get entertained better. In the diagram below, one can appreciate that there are various types of intelligence/Gardner’s Theory of Multiple Intelligences and innovations that need to be developed.

4. Further scholarship opportunities are mostly available for Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) subjects. Research to discover where there are postgraduate scholarship opportunities for your chosen discipline so that you can prepare to meet the threshold for sponsorship in advance. For example, Germany offers many scholarship opportunities for postgraduate studies in science, technology, and engineering. The Netherlands has been issuing scholarships for postgraduate studies in geospatial sciences and technologies, e.g., GIS and Remote Sensing, making bachelor’s degrees in geomatics/geospatial studies, geography, GIS, and spatial/urban/environmental planning a suitable choice for such aspirational futures. Australia has been sponsoring studies in mining and geomatics/geospatial engineering for decades, and so on.

Youth unemployment can be addressed by making the right training choices early. Overall, skills-based training as envisioned in competency-based curricula and TVET education is more promising for equipping the majority of the youth to be meaningfully engaged in employment and job creation, hence improved labour market participation and reduced skills mismatch. While not a guarantee of success, a university degree equips individuals with the tools, knowledge, and network necessary to push the boundaries of human understanding and make significant contributions to various fields of study.

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