Degree, skills or both?

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Last week, I attended the launch of Strathmore Institute. Maybe it’s time I mention that I’m an alumna of Strathmore University just to avoid talking in many parables going forward. Strathmore Institute is the professional training arm of Strathmore University and its mandate includes but is not limited to professional courses in accountancy, information technology, management, entrepreneurial skills, enhancing teaching and management skills. So in case you’re looking for an institution that offers any of the above, you’re welcome!

A look at the program of the day excited me! The chief guest, key note speaker and panelists were giants from various sectors in this country so it was quite interesting to hear what some of the top employers had to say about professional and training courses which academically, are ranked lower than a degree.  And you can guess it already, there was a lot of emphasis to go back to gaining skills learnt in a professional course that can’t be acquired in a degree. One of the speakers put it so well, that a great worker has knowledge + skills + right attitude. You see, they did not say or…nope! That’s the recipe and all need to be included. Your degree adds you knowledge but not necessarily skills. You need to go beyond your degree to get some very necessary skills especially those in line with your degree or career choice.

Tesla has been employing engineers without degrees and this is what someone had to say about it, “Who wants to hire some nob that’s done a B.S or masters in comp sci to roll out their 2k3 ad migration when they have never touched the software?  You’d much rather hire a 20 something who has been tinkering and testing the product while flipping burgers and spitting in your onion rings”.  That sounds harsh to anyone but putting emotions aside, how true is that statement? We have been so consumed with academic qualifications and have put aside skill qualifications and this is the headache most employers are facing. We have more graduates than technicians. During the launch, the message was the same from all employers, ‘We are spending a lot of money and time training graduates and interns skills that they should have learnt while still in school.’ And while our education system here in Kenya has sadly made us more obsessed with grades and theory, I think it’s time that we do our part to the best. Join clubs, volunteer, sign up for professional courses. Fill in the gap that our education system creates as we hope and pray that one day things will change.

For employers and aspiring entrepreneurs, how about we change the narrative? Let’s stop hiring people based only on academic qualifications. Let’s test their skills. This way, Universities are challenged to equip their students with both knowledge and skills. I’m challenging myself to carry out simulation interviews with my next employees which will test their skills, ability to think, ability to learn and solve problems. If a person with a diploma does better than one with a degree then that’s good, they get the job. Many big organizations probably do this already but reality is we currently have more SMEs so inevitably, most graduates will end up working in SMEs so this is a challenge especially to SMEs.

As usual, I’d love to hear your take in the comment section below. What are you doing or planning to improve your skills? If you’ve done any professional course e.g. ACCA, CPA, CMA, CHRP, CISCO, CFO etc. what have you gained that your degree did not give?

Stay blessed!

2 Comments Add yours

  1. Lucia Mamta says:


    Thought I was the only one feeling this way, thank you for sharing your thoughts I must add I do have a lot to say about this, …brace yourself haha!.

    It’s clear now that this is a common issue. I believe there’s a reason why technical colleges are being turned into universities, and profitability plays a major role in these institutions ha! ‘it’s just business’, .It turns out you have to sacrifice comfort to do good. That aside, Strath being a non-profit, has allowed itself to keep focus on the vision you know.. to improve the quality of life through proper education.

    I recently had to take a work leave from my studies and just dove into the market to build a start-up. Sitting in class although, it teaches me do iterations and avoid repeating mistakes out there, it’s still soo… theoretical and entrepreneurship is more than that.

    So, by God’s grace I found out that I have to way my options do I;
    – have a desk job and a monotonous life for financial security or,
    – knowing what my purpose is, live truly by it even though it may mean risking it all or,
    – if possible have both and be a ‘certisfied’ worker?

    Pursuing a degree means that you are a scholar, it creates a need for innovation in you that’s what lead to Facebook. If you can’t bring out that uniqueness, soon you realise haya! I need a masters then later realise what! you mean people are that competitive out here, so you pursue a phd in the hope that your thesis will help people change how they think, but you don’t have the support or resources so then the only way to have a meaningful career is to be a professsor. Pass on that ‘new’ knowlegde to the people that sit where you once did, help them be at the forefront and push our societal norms forward. On the other hand your skills are ment to help you carryout this invetion/idea and pay your rent as you do so. Find out what you are naturally good at before further education and seek employment based on that. If you are content with that, fine awesome! but if you want to really change the game, you will sharpen your skills through courses or workshops to attract a wider audience in your own professional practice, I guess unemployment is a blessing in disguise.

    The only way we can achieve this is to live in community like in the Danish economy, but hatujachoka na debt and corruption therefore kenyans are not yet free to live as the danes do ( Our society is still immature forcing us to be survivors and selfishly take care of ourselves that’s why foreign companies take time before setting up shop here… enyewe props! to Strathmore for trying.

    My take on this is if Strath wants to help in this issue they need to re-evaluate the professors, see how they are bringing new & current ideas to class that students can relate to not just teach by the old ways, and while at it, change how they examine. I had a taste of this in a marketing class but it never took off yet it was one of the most interactive classes we ever had, for real I couldn’t wait for the next one.
    Another thing that will be of big help is certification. The school at Boma I’m not sure if they changed, but when my sis schooled there, they certified yearly; like now instead of 4years for a degree, you’d have 4 stages and for stage 1 you would have a certificate, then stage 2 a diploma then move on to a degree then stage 4 post graduate diploma. This merging will give freedom to students in specializing mapema and if for some reason you won’t continue you’re are still credited to have some level of experience. It will also help the university manage it’s facilities better like availability of classrooms and avoid clashing timetables all that, to save on time.
    They can start which such simple reforms.

    Barikiwa pia!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. thewazabiz says:

      Wow! Your reply is so on point is could pass for a blog post on its own. Thank you for sharing your thoughts Lucia. I wouldn’t have said it any better. Be sure to share with your friends 🎉


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