No ‘fundi’: Firms step in to fill skills gap

Workers at the construction site for the Sh 6 billion Kakamega Teaching and Referral Hospital
There are only 460,000 registered skilled workforce in the construction industry.

This against a demand of more than 2 million required for the governmnet agenda on housing to become a reality. This is according to the National Construction Authority (NCA).

In 2016 when a red flag was raised, The African Development Bank reported that there was a 75 per cent skills gap. It is the looming crisis that has pushed manufacturers and bodies like NCA into the training arena.

Granted, there are questions as to whether a firm teaching artisans solely on the use of their products can claim to have properly ‘trained’ them.

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“Before we joined in hands with other stakeholders there was a serious problem in the industry relating to capacity in skilled workforce. Even now, 84 per cent of those that are working in the construction industry as masons, carpenters and other discipline have no credentials although they are good at their work,” says Architect Daniel Manduku National Construction Authority’s CEO (pictured).

According to Manduku, before they took over the initiatives, the mismatch in the sector had started becoming evident.

The traditional curriculum was not catering for emerging skills like tiles fixers and joinery experts among other new opportunities that came into the market with the standard Gauge Railways phase one, and, once again, the phase two is set to start with new job opportunities.

“Before we began the training and accreditation programmes, the industry was way ahead of the existing traditional curriculum. This is why we developed frameworks to fill the gap in the market,” Manduku says.

Savannah Cement Limited Managing Director Ronald Ndegwa says by the time they were coming in to boost the sector, devolution was creating millions of opportunities in real estate.

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There was also an increasing number of middle class individuals looking for decent housing who required with the industry being coupled with a housing deficit in major cities due to urban rural migration.

By December 2017, gains were already being reported by stakeholders who have been taking part in training programs.

National Construction Authority, who partnered with TVET in trainings for the unskilled labour force which is already making the big chunk of those working in the industry, while also accrediting contractors and trainees alongside other stakeholders are now reporting of a boost as opportunities from the housing front and the SGR become a reality.

“We have been holding a continuous training for contractors, site supervisors and construction workers across the country aimed at building capacity for improved performance and skilled workforce in the industry,” says Manduku.

In partnership with Technical and Vocational Education and Training (TVET), they have trained over 19,000 contractors and 15,000 skilled workers so far.

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Cement manufacturing companies are among those holding training programmes.

In December 2017 alone, Athi River based Savannah Cement accredited 100 masons in partnership with the National Construction Authority.

“We are creating a platform for contractors to learn on cement manufacturing and also help in enhancing their skills in the industry,” said Ronald Ndegwa.

According to Ndegwa, Savannah Cement in partnership with Kenya Master Federation of Builders is also in a plan to ensure they train over 2,000 skilled work-forces specifically in the building industry in the coming months.

Also among those in the intensified training is Arc Skills, an organisation that has also beefed up its efforts to boost the industry’s professionalism.

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Stephen Kimenye, Arc Skills program manager says that since they started the program to train masons, electricians, plumbers, tiling specialist, plasters and painters, their blended learning model ‘TVET ON SITE’ has seen more than 1,000 skilled workforce injected into the industry.

“Actis programme (Phase 1) saw 300 youth from the Garden City environs being equipped with employable skills in our first initiative,” Kimenye says. In the next five years, Arc Skills plans to have trained more than 10,000 skilled professionals, including tile fixers, masons and joinery experts while equipping them with international and local accreditation.

“In 2017 alone, we trained 1,000 professionals and facilitated their accreditation. This year, we will double the number,” Kimenye says. Also, TVET, which trains industry professionals, has reported growth in the number of admissions.

Since 2015, according to Kenya National Bureau of statistics 2017 economic survey report, the number of National Polytechnics has increased from three in 2015 to 11 in 2016.

KNBS’s report indicates that eight Technical and Vocational Colleges were elevated into National Polytechnic status.

The number of universities offering technical training increase from 23 in 2015 to 30 in 2016.

Enrollment in the TVET institutions also grew by 32.1 per cent from 153,314 in 2015 to 202,556 in 2016.

According to KNBS report, employment in the real estate and construction industry has also improved tremendously where most of this skilled workforce is being absorbed after training. Employment in the informal sector, where according to the report, real estate and construction sector lie stood at 13.3 million in the review period.

The informal sector recorded an additional 747.3 thousand jobs, which constituted 89.7 per cent of all new jobs in 2016.

Casual employment registered a 7.9 per cent growth with the proportion of casuals to total employees rising from 21.8 per cent in 2015 to 22.8 per cent in 2016.

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