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How YouTube is helping reclaim the lost art of apprenticeship

We live in a fast-paced century. Half the time at work is spent keeping up with and adapting to new technologies and the demands of an increasingly digital economy. A consequence of this hurriedness is that we have less time for reflection and growth of skills relevant to one’s job requirements.

This sense of urgency is also reflected in hiring processes, where most companies would rather hire a person who already has the relevant skill set rather than train one from the ground up. The inevitable result of this is high employee turnover, as employees stay in one job only long enough to take evening classes that will equip and qualify them for the next job.

A 2014 study by Deloitte Kenya identified “retaining and engaging talent” as the key human capital challenge. Rising costs of living coupled with high training fees mean that employees have resorted to alternative, more affordable ways of acquiring skills. The Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) rose in popularity in the first decade of the century.

However, since most employers seldom recognised skills acquired through self-training programmes without a corresponding certificate from accredited academic institutions, many otherwise highly skilled candidates ended up missing out on fitting opportunities. This also meant employers missed out on skills that would have been pivotal to their success in a highly competitive but skills-scarce market.

In the past decade, YouTube has crafted a unique niche as a preferred platform for self-training and skills acquisition. As of mid last year, there were 500 million views of learning-related content on YouTube every day, and about one million learning videos were being shared every day.

“These videos are made and shared by a highly-motivated group of creators, such as Chef Raphael, whose videos provides tips and a guide on how to improve your cooking skills at home; or WebPro Education, who simplifies advanced tech concepts so that they are easily understood by the masses,” notes Charles Murito, the country manager for Google Kenya.

“Thanks to creators like Chef Raphael and Charles Muniu of WebPro Education, people can learn new skills for free and engage with a YouTube community of experts for valuable support,” adds Mr Murito.

One of the most notable educational channels is Crash Course, which is also part of Google Preferred education lineup. Crash Course is famous for “teach-along” videos, which rely on an expert who can speak straight to camera on specific topics.

However, even with the growing popularity of self-training, recruiters are still reluctant to hire someone whose claim to certain skills is not backed by the traditional “paperwork”. Furthermore, since it has become increasingly costly to train new skills within the organisation, on-the-job apprenticeship is less popular.

This calls for rethinking in the way apprenticeship is viewed. The traditional model of one-on-one mentorship is no longer working. In many organisations, interns barely get the attention they need to grow their knowledge on the job, as many of them now claim that they feel they are only hired to provide “cheap labor”.

YouTube and other free online platforms provide a much-needed mix of entertainment and education that fits the social preferences of millennials while equipping them with the skills necessary to carve out a successful career path in the fast-changing job market.

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