Internship programme in the public service holds key to solving the incessant ageing workforce puzzle as well as correcting the glaring ethnic imbalance, Commission chairman Stephen Kirogo holds.
This comes in the wake of consistent reports pointing to a country struggling with elderly workers, with a vast majority being over 50 years, and no fresh blood with the skills to replace them. In addition, five out of the 44 tribes are overrepresented.
And with 3,200 staff exiting the service every year through natural attrition, the Public Service Commission (PSC) is keen to replace that number by absorbing interns at the end of their training.
"We are taking in 3,600 interns this year and the number can increase every year on need basis, with a possibility of 100 per cent transition. We will not lock out others but we expect the interns to perform better in the job interviews as they will be possessing the requisite skills," he said.
Public Service Cabinet Secretary Margaret Kobia admits that there is a problem that calls for urgent action. "About 20 per cent of the workforce will retire in two to three years," she said.
"Most of the technical people in job group S are retiring. We are working on promoting those below them. A deputy director should be able to do the job of a retiring director," she said, adding that her ministry is working with the PSC to fill in the gaps.
"We'll be reaching out to the Treasury to allow us hire for entry level. This will allow us train our own staff."
The commission is upbeat that through the model, it will create the next crop of civil servants, properly inducted to serve the public.
In July last year, some 18,998 workers retired, throwing the public service into a crisis as the government struggled to find their replacement.
Another 7,000 left last December with the blanket moratorium by the government on hiring complicating matters in what saw human resource experts in the government raising a red flag over a looming crisis.
The last day of submitting applications was July 30, with 8,213 applicants being shortlisted for the interview.
Mr Kirogo believes that spreading the exercise to the 290 constituencies is one sure way of ensuring that all ethnicities are represented.
"By making constituencies the recruitment point of reference, we are keen to ensure that no part of the country is left out. Gradually, we will be able to cure the existing dominance by a few ethnic groups. We stand for equity and professionalism," he said during the interview at the PSC head offices.
A PSC report released two months ago shows that five ethnic groups dominate the service.
It shows the Kikuyu, Luhya, Kisii, Maasai and Embu control 53.3 per cent of the 223 jobs.
Jointly, they hold 119 jobs at the commission, leaving the other 43 ethnic groups to share the remaining 104 slots.
"We admit to the imbalanced ethnic representation at the PSC and are deliberately working towards having a balanced workforce," Mr Kirogo told the National Assembly Committee on National Cohesion in July.
"We are keen to enforce Chapter 232 (1) on fair competition and merit, representation of Kenya's diverse communities and affording equal employment opportunities to men and women, members of all ethnic groups and persons with disabilities," he added.
Mr Kirogo added that they were not violating the employment moratorium imposed by the National Treasury a while back as they are only replacing staff that have left the service.
"This is purely succession management. We are not expanding the executive," he said.
The PSC boss announced that all the 66 people living with disability who applied will be absorbed in the training that runs for one year.
"We have finalised the interviews and will publish the list of the successful candidates," he said.
At the same time, PSC is in the process of setting up a call centre to get real-time feedback from the public.
The centre will be up and running in the first week of next month. "Out of the feedback, we will generate an action plan."
Mr Kirogo insists that having staff on contract basis not only improves their productivity but also makes it easier for them to explore other opportunities beyond the borders, when such come up.
The PSC is also working closely with the Cabinet office to have a policy paper on volunteerism.
It would spell out how to utilise services of retired but 'not tired' employees or those from the private sector, especially in instances where there is no adequate staff from PSC to render the services.
"There are teachers, doctors, technicians and agriculture experts who may have left the service but are still energetic enough to help the communities in which they live.
"They could be empowered to chip in and feel appreciated even in their retirement. Other than getting some token of appreciation, these are the individuals who could get the Head of State Commendation," he said.
The PSC had borne the brunt as a huge number of skilled staff continuously retire after the age was changed from 55 to 60 in 2009.
There has been no corresponding number of young blood coming in.
Economists, surveyors, planners, plant and livestock technologists and agricultural extension officers are some of the workers whose numbers have greatly dwindled.
Figures from the Public Service Commission show that between 2015 and 2017, some 18,998 employees retired from the national and county governments.
The total workforce stands at 210,000, of which 142,000 are in the devolved units.