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Offering graduates a degree of hope

By Edith Mutethya | China Daily | Updated: 2018-01-07 15:28

Unlike Kenya's local businesses, Chinese companies are eager to recruit fresh talent

The increasing number of Chinese enterprises in Kenya is good news for fresh university graduates. The companies have given them hope of securing jobs immediately after graduating.

Students apply for jobs at the 2017 job fair at the University of Nairobi on Dec 20. Liu Hongjie / China Daily

Unlike the Chinese businesses, most local companies prefer to employ experienced personnel rather than recent graduates.

The local businesses argue that, while hiring fresh graduates has advantages such as low salary overheads, there are disadvantages such as a greater need for supervision and help.

This can be disheartening for young people who, after struggling to get through school with the hope of clinching white-collar employment, have to face the reality of job-hunting for years. The problem is made worse by the fact that thousands of graduates are released into the job market every year.

However, Chinese enterprises are changing this situation as they seek to collaborate with local universities. In 2016, the Kenya-China Economic and Trade Association, the Kenya Chinese Chamber of Commerce and the Confucius Institute at the University of Nairobi launched job fairs for Kenyan students.

These have been a platform for students to acquire firsthand information on the skills required for employment. Several students have acquired jobs through the fairs.

Elizabeth Wanjala, who graduated on Dec 22 with a major in Chinese and communication from the University of Nairobi, secured employment with a Chinese company through the job fairs, even before graduating.

Wanjala applied for a job at China Road and Bridge Corp as a standard gauge railway locomotive driver during the first job fair in 2016 and was hired. She was also given the opportunity to go to China for training.

"I advise all students to take a keen interest in these job fairs in order to secure opportunities offered by Chinese enterprises. I thank CRBC for giving me an opportunity to acquire the skills that I currently have," she says.

Wanjala says the fairs have given university students hope and motivated them to pursue their dream careers.

Purity Wanyaga, who graduated in August with a degree in agribusiness management and economics from Kenyatta University, says she is grateful to Chinese enterprises for the opportunities they offer new graduates.

"Advertisements for job opportunities always require more than two years of experience. This is a great disadvantage to fresh graduates. I'm really grateful to the Chinese enterprises for giving us an opportunity to work with them without any experience," she says.

During the recent job fair, Wanyaga got a job with a Chinese company in sales and marketing. "Sales and marketing gives one an all-around exposure and also offers a person an opportunity to network with various people," she says.

Kevin Xu, general manager of Longtron (K) Electronics Technology Ltd, says his company prefers fresh graduates because they have a good foundation of knowledge. He says it's easier to mold a fresh graduate than train experienced personnel to adjust or completely discard their preconceived habits and notions.

"As foreign investors, most of the time we bring in new technologies, compelling us to train local staff, and in this case fresh graduates are easier to deal with because they adapt easily," he says.

During the 2016 job fair, his company recruited 12 graduates whose performance, he says, has been commendable. At the 2017 fair, the company had 35 vacancies. Xu also encouraged 13 companies from the Hunan Association to participate in the fair.

Peter Mbithi, University of Nairobi vice-chancellor, challenges local companies to emulate Chinese enterprises and actively support recent graduates by organizing job fairs.

"Job fairs would offer your company the upper hand to access qualified candidates long before graduation. Young people are the future of this nation, so they should be given an opportunity to participate in the country's economic growth," he says.

Similar sentiments are shared by Beatrice Elachi, the Nairobi county speaker, who says students should be given an opportunity to face prospective employers in order to acquire firsthand information on the skills required for job recruitment.

Li Xuhang, the charge d'affaires of the Chinese embassy, challenges Chinese companies to take full advantage of the job fairs to discover and select young talent.

"Train young talent properly so it can grow and develop to its full potential together with your companies," he says.

edithmutethya@chinadaily.com.cn

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