BLOG: Where are they now? The importance of alumni tracking in workforce training

RTI International
In a riff off of the old PSA that asked parents, “Its 10:00 pm, do you know where your children are?” –– we might ask educators, “It’s been a year, do you know where your alumni are?”
 
In some places, this question is answered by government labour market information and/or school-based alumni tracer studies. These data help educators, policy makers, and the general public track the labour market outcomes of recent graduates––potentially informing a wide range of policy, program, and consumer decisions. Unfortunately, in many countries these data are not collected, or they are woefully delayed and hard to find. So, in these countries––no––we do not know where the graduates are; labour markets suffer as a result.
 
Kenya is one of these countries. According to the ILO, labour market information in Kenya is inconsistent, incomplete, and outdated, though they are supporting Kenyan reform, one of several labour market areas the Kenyan government is actively working to improve. For RTI International, as implementer of a USAID program that seeks to provide Kenyan youth with market-relevant job and business skills, we needed alumni outcome data to guide program investments.
 
Using low-cost mobile phone survey techniques, we surveyed 1266 youth aged 18-35 across five counties (Nairobi, Bungoma, Kwale, Kericho, Garissa), with eligible respondents needing to have recently enrolled in secondary school or higher and be currently employed.
 
What we found:
 
Kenyan youth we surveyed were not well-employed….
 
46% report making less than 2000 shillings a week after taxes, or about $2.75 a day, just slightly above the poverty level. Another 35% report making between 2000 and 5000 shillings a week.
 
50% report working in a field outside of their education and training background.
 
55% report being “dissatisfied” or “very dissatisfied” with their jobs.
 
62% report being employed in temporary positions and 45% report working part time, a reflection of the large informal Kenyan economy.
 
It took these youth an average of 11 months to find their first job after graduation.
 
They now work in Hospitality (21%), Retail (16%), and Agribusiness (13%), with lower levels in Construction, Manufacturing, ICT, Transport (9% each), finance (8%), and entertainment (6%).
 
….But many of those surveyed would recommend their path to others.
 
65% of youth surveyed reported that they would recommend the post-secondary institution they attended to friends, and
43% said they would recommend their employment sector to friends.
 
What we are doing:
 
The USAID Kenyan Youth Employment Services (K-YES) project used these data for consultations with county stake-holders to inform program design and establish baselines. One year in, K-YES is making progress towards its goals of better vocational education in Kenya: nearly 4,000 youth have been assisted to find new or improved employment and 2,000 youth have accessed loans, grants, or credit to start their own business. Alongside the K-YES program, RTI is also tackling the problem of labour market data – this month we have launched a new research initiative to work with 25 Kenyan vocational training centres (VTCs) to understand their alumni tracking processes, abilities, and interests. Starting this month, we will assist these schools with tracking three years’ worth of alumni. This spring, we will hold focus groups to understand their experience with the process and gauge stakeholder reaction to the data. Through this, we will not only better understand “where the graduates are” but also if and how knowing so matters.
 
Originally published by RTI International