Nexford University eyes Kenya in helping local graduates find jobs

The collaboration aims to alleviate constraints in the job market, particularly the extended average duration of five years for Kenyan graduates to find suitable employment due to a lack of relevant skills.

Nexford University, a US-accredited online university, has partnered with the Federation of Kenya Employers (FKE) and Africa Digital Media Institute (ADMI) to help Kenyan graduates find jobs.

The collaboration aims to address job market constraints. For instance, Kenyan graduates take an average of five years to find a job due to a lack of relevant skills. To this end, and through tailored Nexford and ADMI courses, graduates will gain the skills they need to be successful in today’s job market.

Employers will also benefit from the partnership since they will be able to design programs specifically to improve employee skills and productivity. The programs will be informed by a nationwide skills survey of 270 of Kenya’s largest employers.

The partnership makes sense because the local tech space has been growing over the last couple of years. Amid major layoffs in the tech market, tech skills are still in high demand, and the partnership will help Kenyan graduates to acquire the skills they need to succeed in the growing sector.

Nexford University is a leading provider of skills-focused, US-accredited master’s and bachelor’s degree programs globally at a fraction of traditional costs. According to the institution, Nexford master’s degrees cost around $2800, compared to the US average of $36,000. Nexford learners in over 90 countries have since completed over 33,000 courses, and graduates have gone on to work at companies like Google, Microsoft, KPMG, and EY.

Tech Cabal had a chat with Nexford University’s CEO Fadl Al Tarzi, who mentioned that the identification of specific skills will depend on the ongoing survey results. From the preliminary findings, it is evident that power skills such as critical thinking and communication skills continue to be highly prioritised. The CEO added that there is an increasing demand for data analytics skills due to the significant digital transformation efforts happening.

Tech Cabal further wanted to understand how the skills survey of 270 of Kenya’s largest employers would inform the design of the courses aimed at boosting employee skills. Fadl Al Tarzi clarified that the curriculum has been developed using a backward design approach, starting with a thorough analysis of employer needs. This approach ensures that the curriculum is aligned with the desired outcomes, allowing for a clear and focused educational journey.

“That end is typically what employers are looking for. So, for instance, if we identify banks are looking for people who know how to analyse credit risk – we then map that backwards to identify what skills are needed in order to know how to analyse credit risk, then we build a curriculum that delivers on that skill and measures whether learners know how to analyse credit risk,” said CEO Al Tarzi.

It was also critical to understand Nexford University’s approach to integrating tech skills into the customised courses provided to Kenyan graduates, considering the increasing emphasis on technology in the country’s job market. In his response, the CEO said the focus on technology is not limited to Kenya alone but has become a global phenomenon. Digital transformation is now prioritised by employers worldwide. While significant advancements have been made in the tech startup sector and substantial investments from venture capital firms in the past decade, most businesses worldwide still have not fully embraced digitisation. He highlighted that approximately 75% of the world’s GDP comes from traditional legacy industries where the process of digitisation is only in its early stages.

“So our programs weave digital transformation skills both horizontally and vertically. Learners can build specific—say software development skills—but equally when enrolled in say a finance or accounting course they will still be learning about how to use, say blockchain, in that specific functional setting,” he added.

Organisations such as Microsoft, which has an ADC office in Nairobi, have been working in partnership with local universities in Kenya to assess and enhance their curricula, aligning them with the current industry requirements. Will Nexford take the same approach? – Tech Cabal asked. 

“Many organisations are following a similar approach, a key difference here is we’re integrating these practical skills within our degree programs – so rendering the choice between skills and credentials no longer necessary. Learners will build practical skills while enrolled in our degree programs,” clarified Al Tarzi.

The institution is also engaged in discussions with several local universities to provide bootcamps to its students. These bootcamps, which are usually six-month intensive programs, focus on hands-on practical training and serve as a valuable complement to its degree programs.

Nexford says millions of dollars have been invested in developing a technology-enabled platform that automates many traditionally manual administrative tasks, providing little value to learners. At the same time, the absence of physical infrastructure costs, typically associated with traditional universities, enables passing on the resulting savings directly to learners.

“The impact of this specific partnership will likely be felt more across driving business performance, as when we upskill existing employees that will help drive business performance. 75% of job seekers find a company more appealing if it offers additional skills training, and companies experience 24% higher profit margins when they invest in training,” concluded Nexford CEO. 

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