Immense opportunities lie in vocational training

I attended a recent youth vocational training expo in Nairobi dubbed ‘Hands on the Future Kenya Skills Show – 2019’ organised by the Permanent Working Group (PWG) on TVET in Kenya.

The event sought to promote technical and vocational training and by extension change the youth’s mindset towards TVET opportunities. As I visited the stands, several questions ran through my mind, including whether a bias against vocational jobs is keeping our young people unemployed.

The burgeoning construction industry for example, is facing a shortage of skilled human resource due to the lack of skilled personnel, mainly plumbers, masons and painters.

This challenge is not uniquely Kenyan. Developed and developing countries alike are facing the same challenge when it comes to getting young people to enroll for vocational training programmes, as indicated on the ‘Youth Unemployment and Vocational Training’ paper submitted to the 2013 World Development Report.

Skills mismatch on the youth labour market has become a persistent and growing trend. Locally, the mismatch between the skills available and the market demand has become so bad that we have young people in employment who know the concepts and theories that apply to their jobs but cannot get their hands dirty.

Such challenges

On the other hand, we also have young people who have been forced to take up jobs they’re not trained in, just to make ends meet.  What this means is they’re entering the labour market at a disadvantage point. They do not have grounds to negotiate for better pay and subsequently end up unhappy and disgruntled at the workplace, negatively impacting output and quality of their work.

A country that has no technical skills ends up relying on foreign labour to meet the high demand for such jobs. Nonetheless, we have the hindsight advantage to learn from industrialized nations that have made real efforts to overcome such challenges; Germany for example, and borrow its model.

The efforts by the government to embrace the German dual training system which involves an extended mandatory industrial training will lead to a more skilled work force.

In this new system, all diploma and certificate TVET students will spend half of their learning in the field gaining practical experience from their respective field of study, and they will be scored on the same as per the Kenya National Qualifications Authority (KNQA) criteria.

Noting the productivity of the German workforce, our youth are set to get the best training as this programme is facilitated through the Delegation of German Industry and Commerce in Kenya (AHK) in partnership with our local industries and learning institutions. Our youth should take advantage of such opportunities as the skills they’re set to gain will be standardised by industry.

Collective responsibility

Additionally, last year the ministry introduced a master-plan that aims to raise training opportunities in TVET institutions to 3.1 million, up from the current 180,000. On their part, KNQA is also working with local stakeholders to domesticate the TVET curriculum and tailor it to local needs.

With an estimated gap of about 30,000 engineers, 90,000 technicians and 400,000 artisans, the plan seeks to address this shortage of mid-level technicians and artisans which is hampering the country’s economic growth.

It is our collective responsibility as a society to change our mindset towards blue collar jobs if we are to help our young people escape unemployment and identify other ways to make an income.

The achievement of the Government’s Big Four development agenda directly links to technical skills if it is to be achieved.

Manufacturing, health, housing and food security all need relevant artisans – all of whom should be sourced locally.

Kenya’s extractives sector, which covers oil, gas and mining, is now booming and comes with opportunities that the youth can seek to earn a living.

I challenge sector players to provide opportunities for the youth through facilitating training, setting aside jobs specifically for young people or even partnering with the TVET institutions to provide industry knowledge so the graduates have a higher chance at employment.

Ms Mwangi is the Managing Director of KCB [email protected]