New dawn for 'jua kali' workers without papers

Kenya National Federation of Jua Kali Associations CEO Richard Muteti with a section graduands during Kenya National Qualifications Authority (KNQA) RPL Policy launch at KICC, Nairobi on March 22, 2024. [Elvis Ogina, Standard]

Kenyans who have attained informal training over the years but do not have certificates have new hope after a new policy to recognise their skills was launched.

Deputy President Rigathi Gachagua launched the Recognition of Prior Learning (RPL) policy that will now allow these workers secure formal jobs in government and private sector, and rise through the ranks.

Yesterday, Mr Gachagua said the doors are now open to empower skilled workers who for a long time have been sidelined for lack of academic qualifications.

“We have denied these people services because they lack papers. We have those who have papers but lack competencies,” he said.

The DP challenged traditional hiring practices, calling on employers to prioritise skills over academic qualifications.

He spoke as the first cohort of 800 candidates who graduated under the RPL policy.

The policy framework seeks to bridge the gap between education qualification and hard-earned skills; it seeks to promote inclusivity within the workforce.

The inauguration now opens doors to thousands of other skilled workers who lack formal education to mainstream their qualification by acquiring certification.

Kenya National Qualifications Authority (KNQA) acting Director General Alice Kande said the policy and guidelines will provide standards of assessing and certifying the skills and competencies acquired through experience.

“Let that competencies be recognised in a formal way, worldwide. You will have an opportunity to scale up to achieve your full potential,” Dr Kande said.

Gachagua said employers should consider experience and skills as well as education.

“Some of these people know how to manage themselves and do their work efficiently than those who claim to be having many academic papers,” he stated.

This recognition will empower individuals to participate in various economic opportunities and level the playing field.

This will include Jua kali artisans, mechanics, technicians, plumbers, and tailors who possess remarkable skills acquired through their work experiences. Yet, their skills often go undocumented, unappreciated, and neglected.

The policy will set stage for a functional and credible system for recognition of knowledge, skills and competencies that have been acquired through practical work but which are not supported by corresponding academic qualifications.

Education Cabinet Secretary Ezekiel Machogu said the policy will act as a conduit for transitioning and will facilitate smoother transitions between education and the job market.

Some of the cohort members who graduated under the RPL policy. [Courtesy, X]

“Today marks a great day for the people with skills in this country; opportunities are now going to open not only in this country but beyond because they are not just to going to work here with the kind of certificate they will get an opportunity to work in other countries,” Machogu said.

A total of 1,834 candidates had submitted applications for assessment and the first cohort managed to meet the requirement within the provided timelines, the CS noted.

Machogu revealed that out of the applicants, 65 per cent were male and 35 per cent were female.

“We have made the process of application and assessment easier and flexible so that so that they don’t have to go to any institution but the assessors will go where they are working,” the CS said.

Esther Muoria, Principal Secretary, Technical Vocational Education and Training said the policy will provide alternative progression and admission to education.

She further emphasised that development of skills stands as the single most important need for graduates to bridge the mismatch between training and job market demands.

“We are twinning our students to the industry so that they are in class for a brief period and in the industry most of the time,” Muoria said.

“For a country to go to where we want to take Kenya we require four Ms; Manpower, Money, Market and Machinery,” he added.

She noted that the implementation of RPL policy will greatly contribute to improved employability, labour mobility, lifelong learning, social inclusivity, self-esteem, and increased productivity.

Kericho governor on behalf of the Council of Governors indicated that the county bosses will provide requisite support to the RPL policy.

On his part, Housing and Urban Development PS Charles Hinga noted that the policy comes at a time when demand for skilled jobs is high and will go a long way in creating jobs for the graduates.

“The State Department of housing is where the opportunities lie, we have 103,000 housing units across the whole country. One unit requires two to three direct jobs and about five indirect jobs,” he said.