Employable skills key ingredient for Big 4

President Uhuru Kenyatta inspects the Nairobi - Naivasha Standard Gauge Railway (Phase 2A) Project at DK2 Project Site, Nairobi County. [File, Standard]

The President’s Speech during the 54th Jamhuri Day Celebrations on 12th December 2017 elaborated the specific agenda and measures the Jubilee administration will focus on and dedicate energy, time and resources over the next 5 years.

This agenda is termed as “the Big 4” and it include: food security, affordable housing, manufacturing and universal healthcare for accelerated social-economic transformation, increased job creation and improved quality of life for all Kenyans.

The realization of the Big 4 agenda will largely depend on an efficient, competitive and adaptive human capital that can meet the demands of a rapidly industrializing economy. Moreover, the enhancement of the industry-specific skills coupled with adequate labour market information will be critical as we embark in the implementation of the Big 4 Agenda.

Cost-effective methods

The Ministry of Labour, therefore, has prioritised enhancement of industry-specific trainings to bridge performance skills gaps between the graduates and employment opportunities available. As a result, there will be adequate supply of productive labour force coupled with a reduction in skills mismatch, easing the implementation of the Big 4 agenda.

Enhancement of industry-specific skills will be anchored on sustainable and cost effective methods for reforming and funding sector specific training, recognition of skills, quality assurance, assessment and certification through a positive relationship and collaboration model supportive of a multi-stakeholder ecosystem.

To achieve this, the Ministry of Labour and Social Protection through the State Department for Labour has, therefore, laid the legislative and institutional framework to steer the country towards the achievement of the Big 4 agenda and the aspiration of the Vision 2030 through the enhancement of industry-specific skills.

Part of the reforms include but not limited to the transformation of National Industrial Training Authority (NITA); implementation of the National Industrial Training and Attachment Policy, and the National Employment Act, 2016.

So far, some 207,000 persons were tested and certified through competency based Government Trade Tests on various industrial-specific skills between 2014 and 2018; with the number expected to rise to 450,000 by 2022. Fifteen training and testing standards and six Occupational Qualification Competence Standards (OQCS) were developed to enhance industry-specific skills. Time taken to issue the Trade Test Certificates has been reduced from 6 to 4 months after completion of the test.

Through the industrial attachment programme, the ministry placed 51,029 trainees from 202 tertiary institutions on industrial attachment in 436 registered employers to gain hands-on experience in a working environment. The resultant effect will be improved employable skills necessary for the Big 4 achievement.

Something for the youth

Moreover, the ministry with the help of the World Bank designed the Kenya Youth Employment and Opportunities Project (KYEOP). The project seeks to increase employment and earning opportunities for 280,000 youth. Of the total number of youth beneficiaries, 70,000 will undergo skills enhancement to improve their employability.

KYEOP further supports development and review of at least 50 demand-driven competence standards that will open up job specific skills training for each of the big 4agenda components focused on the informal sector. The project will ensure provision of timely and relevant information on the labour market and career prospects for the youth to enhance their exposure and employability.

The National Employment Authority Act, 2016 provides the institutional framework for employment promotion and management in the country. Notable areas of interest include: monitoring employment trends, skill gaps and mismatch in the labour market; labour migration management; and administration of foreign employment.

This will ensure the excess labour in our economy is exported through agreed institutional arrangements.

What we plan to do

In the next five years; the ministry will facilitate provision of adequate, relevant and portable skills for productivity enhancement and competitiveness; mainstream the informal sector in the industry training; enhance industrial-institution linkages; and expand capacity of the industrial training institutions.

While skills development remains a key focus area for the ministry, labour market efficiency is equally important. We therefore support and promote harmonious labour-employer relations and continuous improvement in labour productivity.

We would like to encourage more manufacturing businesses to partner with the National Productivity Centre to introduce lean manufacturing practices in their operation so as to reduce cost of production and remain competitive.

Dr Mohamed, CBS, is the PS, State Department for Labour, Ministry of Labour and Social Protection.  

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