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Why revamped TVET sector is cure to unemployment among youth

By Emma Seline Akinyi Okello | November 10th 2020
Emma Seline Akinyi Okello, maritime expert (PHOTO: Courtesy)

Recently, on Twitter, there was an interesting poll addressed to the young Kenyans on Twitter famously known as KOT. They were to choose between taking an MBA at Stanford University or a plumbing craft course at National Youth Service.

The question here is not necessarily about the two institutions Stanford or NYS, but that of the two courses one a trade and the other an art.

The responses elicited from the poll only shows to what extent Kenyans place trade courses compared to flashy courses offered by our local universities. Many trade courses have often been given a back seat considering the reputation they command in society.

The trade courses such as electrical, carpentry, masonry, metalwork amongst others have been let down by an ailing Technical and Vocational Education and Training (TVET) sector that has been slowly sending them limping towards their deathbeds.

The fact that the youth and in particular women from the marginalized and underrepresented groups in the society have been exposed to wide spread unemployment and consequently poverty has been as a result of a weak TVET framework. In relation to economic development, these groups often face limited access to opportunities and public services, inadequate legal standing, poor opportunities to contribute to value addition, low benefits, and a lack of recognition of the unique and valuable role they could play in society.

It is for this same reason that the Government is on a deliberate mission to put back TVET on a higher pedestal in its education policy and strategy on a mission to produce a critical mass of well-trained human resources to implement programmes and projects identified in Kenya's Vision 2030.

(TVET) is widely considered an important tool in strengthening the school-to-work transition, reducing poverty, and achieving economic growth. The architects of the Social Development Goals (SDGs) had wisdom in incorporating TVET into the sustainable goals under quality education which have since been overlooked.

Girls’ participation in TVET can substantially help to increase their labor force participation, but it must be gender-transformative. Too many times, girls and women in Kenya have been deprived of TVET opportunities to learn and acquire skills for higher-paying professional and occupational areas often associated with men. As a result, females have been pushed to fields of TVET study that fit their social and reproductive roles while keeping them in economically disadvantaged positions.

There must be also an opportunity to break through gender stereotypes and achieve gender equality in and through TVET. The realization of the full potential of the Blue Economy requires the effective inclusion of all societal groups, especially women, youth, local communities, and marginalized/underrepresented groups.

Many international agencies such as the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), the International Labour Organization (ILO), and the World Bank are advocating TVET as a lifelong learning instrument not only to strengthen the school-to-work transition but also to offer second chances to anyone at any time outside of formal education.    

There has been linear progress in the general educational attainment of girls and young women in Kenya, especially in attending school, and gender parity is almost achieved. But this improvement in girls’ and young women’s educational attainment is not reflected in the labor market and life outcomes.

The female labor force participation rate is very low compared with that of males. Where females are engaged in employment, it is mostly in the informal sector and in the occupations characterized as female.

Despite the improved access in school-level general education, access to TVET is very limited for both girls and boys. However, girls are proportionately less likely to enroll in nontraditional TVET programs outside of health-related courses.

The public expectation from the education system is that it should prepare young people in the best possible way for their introduction into the world of work.

However, the education system has not been able to offer people the right choices for their careers. Along with ensuring that all children complete basic education, attention has to slowly shift toward helping them transition into the formal economy. And, for this, more emphasis and investment in gender-transformative TVET would be beneficial.

Kenya should not miss the opportunity to capitalize on economic gains from its demographic structure. There is a large share of youth in the population, with more young women than men.

Therefore, Kenya must prepare its youth as a competitive and skilled workforce through appropriate policies and programs. Promoting young girls’ participation in TVET would be an ideal strategy. It would substantially contribute to the economy as well as reduce the gender gap by helping empower girls and women.

To this end, policies should focus on removing the barriers that limit girls’ educational choices and opportunities. Increasing investment in TVET and expanding TVET opportunities that target girls would particularly help them in their transition to work; nevertheless, it would benefit boys as well.

The situation shall not be any different in the maritime sector despite the world range of opportunities provided by the Blue economy framework.

The realization of the full potential of the Blue Economy requires the effective inclusion of all societal groups, especially women, youth, local communities, and marginalized/underrepresented groups.

The maritime sector should play an active role in strengthening the TVET institutions by providing internship opportunities and make the contribution of TVET attractive.

So as the dust settles on the debate, the grim reality remains that majority of Kenyans more so women will continue to shy away from the TVET opportunities as a result of lack of knowledge on their benefits. The TVET Authority, therefore, has a daunting task to rebrand the TVET industry in Kenya and cause a deliberate mind shift and perception towards the same by the Kenyan youth.

As we place the ultimate choice on Kenyans, the Government too has a significant role to ensure that the TVET industry is attractive and rewarding.

The writer is an expert and comments on Maritime sector.

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