BWIRE: Why TVETs should be prioritised

By Victor Bwire Kenya will continue failing to attract investors for the big four agenda and earning direct foreign investments even as it improves on its ease of doing business of inadequately educated workforce, insufficient capacity to innovate and lack of standardized required skills for modern industry. This is because the country has not prioritized vocational and technical training education (TVET) as the revised policy framework through complete has not been signed off. We need a national resolve and focus, with the necessary political will and zeal to embrace TVET in Kenya, otherwise, the youth’s dream to get gainful employment will remain a pipe dream. We must mobilise Kenyans to see the value in skills based training away from the obsession with certificates from universities and owning land as the only way of investing for security for the future; that skills are more relevant and a tool for future security for the individuals and the country. Both Government and the private sector agree that despite a huge potential in the vocational and technical sectors as the engines required for the country’s much needed national development, employment creation, and adequately skilled workers, there lacks a national drive and focus on the sector. Little is known about what the Government is investing towards this direction and the much- needed political push is lacking. Investors including the local private sector have found, despite Government commitment to invest in skills based training, that the supply side of the job market in Kenya is skewed towards white collar jobs, which currently are not the focus, and the cost of importing such basic employees is a huge burden including the costs and visa related requirements, thus opt for other countries. In an effort to re-orient that country’s training focus for the job market and make the youth employable through acquisition of relevant industry skills, the government created the state department for vocational and technical education and for example this year allocated Ksh.16 billion to the sector and plans to build a technical college in every constituency and a vocational Training Centre in every Ward for areas that do not have the institutions, enrolment to the existing ones is still a major challenge. TVET is governed by the Constitution of Kenya 2010, the TVET Act 2013 and other related Acts of Parliament such as the University Act 2012 and The Charters for Universities (2012) and the Kenya Qualifications Framework Act 2014. TVET is also guided by a number of policy documents including: the National Training Strategy 2005, Kenya Vision 2030 (2008) and the Second and third Medium Term Plan (2013 to 2018 and 2018-2022 respectively). TVET is implemented within the requirements of policy document on reforming education and training in Kenya, the National Technical and Vocational Education and Training Master Plan and Strategy developed to guide the growth of the TVET sector. Dr Kevit Desai, the Principal Secretary State department for Vocational and Technical Education, says that while the Government has invested and is focused on revatilising the Technical and Vocational Educational Training which is critical to the success of the big four agenda and visions 2030, through allowing the nearly 1 million youth who miss to join universities annually, the country is yet to fully embrace the initiative while support especially from the private sector is wanting. Government’s efforts to promote youth training and skills development although low level and yet to excite the nation is on course as the government allocated Sh16billion to support equipping of the institutions across the country. Plans are also on course to build a technical college in every constituency and a vocational Training Centre in every Ward for areas that do not have the institutions. Last year, the government unveiled 1.4million enrolment plan in 280 technical and vocational colleges and 1.6 million enrolment technical vocational centres. The TVET Curriculum Development and Assessment Certification Council (CDACC) has so developed 366 courses to be offered through both public and private training institutions, and jointly with HELB, and County Governments have loan and bursary facilities to support students. The requirements are for Level 6, you require a C- for a two years course, Level 5, D for I year course, Level 4 any KCSE certificate for 6 months and for Level 3, any KCPE for a three months course. This is happening at a time when there is enough evidence that TVET approach to training the population has more than just economic dividends, but social impacts including social cohesion, individual dignity and inclusiveness, that are a perquisite to dealing with the vices afflicting the youth. Skilled youth will be more innovative, creative and outgoing, including going out of the country to sell his/her skills thus stay away from drugs, crime, radicalization among other vices. There is a huge potential for the Youth to get the necessary education, competences, skills, attitude and value through the TVET approach, as it touches the core of the country’s problems; stagnant economic productivity, which has forced rural urban migration leading to challenges in the urban areas, food insecurity, collapsed of the extension services, poor health services especially communicable diseases and massive unemployment in Kenya. Given the poor skills sets, incompetent labour and a cultural orientation towards white collar jobs, many youth remain desolate and isolated, have lost hope as people education into a degree acquisition enterprise for those who can afford. Only just recently, Education Cabinet Secretary Prof George Magoha expressed his frustration of being unable to find a plumber in Yala town and had to get one from Kisumu, a situation be blamed on inappropriate education system that is focused academics and negative attitude by the society towards such jobs as plumbers. A recent study by ZiziAfrique Foundation’s Ujana 360 project, revealed that most vocational training centers (VTCs) have outdated equipment while others have no equipment at all for practical learning. The VTCs in marginalized counties are the most affected since they don’t get support from leaders and low appreciation from the youth and parents as well. It also indicates that parents and youths shy away from these institutions due to fear that there is no quality learning in those institutions. There is also need to motivate students to join the institutions. Students should be guided to take up courses that will equip them with the right skills and land them jobs that will earn them decent income. In the report, the institutions are described as having a very low profile, being poorly funded and having poorly motivated instructors. These attributes have consequently led to the institutions having poor enrolment rates; the youth do not want any association with them. It also indicates that a majority of the youth enrolled in these institutions do not reside from the Ward which forces the institution to build dormitories and where they cannot manage students have to seek accommodation from the neighbouring areas which becomes more expensive for the parents. The management of these institutions has complained that the function was devolved without funding and machinery found in these institutions are archaic. Poor remuneration of tutors in these institutions have also made qualified personnel to shun them since they are not sure when they will earn their pay. A report by the World Bank and education experts in the country released on August 21 of this year indicate that many instructors have not received appropriate training to teach technical skills. A recent report by the World Bank shows that many instructors in the TVETS have not received appropriate training to teach technical skills. “The programme of these institutions is not fully aligned with the competency-based curriculum, and the links with industry are quite weak. In addition, these institutions are dispersed across several ministries, resulting in limited homogeneity in programmes and standards,” according to the report. A 2013 World Bank Enterprise survey showed that 30 percent of Kenyan firms reported an inadequately educated workforce as a major obstacle to their operations and growth. A 2017/18 global competitiveness index identified insufficient capacity to innovate, poor work ethics, and an inadequately educated workforce as some of the most challenging factors for doing business in Kenya. The author is the Programmes Manager at the Media Council of Kenya

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