Let us fix the trainer to realise meaningful TVET reforms

Students on a practical lesson on how to properly cut cooper wire during refresher training course on refrigeration & air conditioning for women technicians in Kenya. [Wilberforce Okwiri, Standard]

There are several factors affecting the quality of Technical and Vocational Education and Training (TVET), particularly in generating workers with qualified knowledge and skills. The quality of trainers is the most salient factor. Trainers are the backbone of countries' economic development and therefore their professionalisation is widely regarded as a critical issue that affects the effectiveness of TVET in generating skilled workers. It is also widely agreed that the quality of any training system ultimately depends on the quality of interactions and relationships that occur between trainees and trainers. Therefore, the quality of trainers' training is crucial to determine the skills of future workforce.

UNESCO's 2015 recommendation concerning TVET recognises the crucial role of training staff in assuring quality and relevance, hence policies and frameworks should be developed to ensure qualified and high-quality staff, including instructors and trainers. The recommendation asks Member States to build the necessary institutional capacities to ensure the relevance of TVET to current and evolving needs in the world of work, nationally, regionally and internationally, including those implied by the transitions to green occupations, economies and societies.

Trainer training in most universities globally is delivered either through concurrent or consecutive models. In concurrence, one learns vocational disciplines, skills and pedagogy at the same time, while in consecutive model one completes training in technical or vocational discipline before vocational pedagogy. The latter has been gaining popularity globally as it gives opportunity to different cadres of professionals to train as trainers. Either way, it is important for trainers to have the right set of competencies and right work environment when delivering TVET-oriented programmes so that the trainees are provided with the right set of knowledge, skills and attitude required by the industry.

Many countries with successful TVET systems have very strong policy frameworks governing training and development of trainers. In Germany, a trainer is trained at a technical university or university of applied sciences at master degree in a specific technical field and also undergoes practical training in a company and a vocational school.

This will is followed by a probationary period of 12 to 24 months before qualifying. In addition, there is a clear framework for continuous professional development (CPD) for trainers to maintain and further develop their skills and competences.

In Singapore, trainers are trained both at the polytechnics and Institute of Technical Education using competency-based curriculum (CBC) and authentic learning approach using TPCK model (Technological, Pedagogical, Content, Working Knowledge) more less similar to German model emphasising on strong technical and vocational skills followed by pedagogical training and mentoring provided at a TVET institution.

In Brunei current policies and practices include the effort for ensuring high quality trainers, enhancing trainers' professional standards and improving the image as a first-choice profession. Indonesia is focusing on trainer certification programmes by stressing the importance of qualification and competency standards. Lao and Cambodia are focusing on raising their trainers' qualification to higher diploma and Bachelor's degree. Malaysia is addressing the complexity of various providers including establishing Malaysian Qualifications Agency and transforming trainers' competencies by including industrial experience and industry needs, creating policy guidelines to develop highly effective instructors, and promoting trainer capacity building programme by introducing a training levy.

Myanmar has introduced e-learning systems for trainers to further their education and training in accordance with National Qualification Standards and ASEAN Qualification Framework.

Although Kenya has a fairly comprehensive policy and legal frameworks that support the preparation of trainers both at university and other tertiary institutions, the implementation of the same has been a challenge. The frameworks provide for registration and licensing of trainers to ensure only those who are qualified are engaged. To actualise this, TVETA has developed a Trainer's Qualification and the Competence Standards Framework (TQCSF) to guide the training and development of trainers. The framework categorises the core human resource providers into instructor, trainer, developer trainer, manager trainer, and director in addition to assessor and verifier. Each of these categories have different roles to play in CBET implementation and therefore require different training approaches.

In addition to meeting initial requirements for registration and licensing, trainers shall be required to renew their training licence periodically with evidence of CPD as required by law. CPD programmes include keeping abreast with the development of new technology and industrial working methods, support with curriculum development, new qualifications, and training. It is also part of a lifelong education by applying the recognition of prior learning approach, allowing some trainers who already possess the knowledge and skills to gain a qualification without completing a standard training or course.

However, registration and licensing of trainers in Kenya is still at a slow pace as majority of those who are yet to register do not meet the requirements as per the TQCSF and the TVET Act of 2013. Many of those affected are in private institutions and vocational training centres where the trainers either do not have minimum qualifications or lack pedagogy. This is also the case among recently recruited trainers or professionals training in institutions in line ministries without pedagogy/andragogy. There is no doubt that this will not only affect the quality of training delivery but also the quality of workforce and must be addressed urgently.

Establishment of Kenya School of TVET is therefore very important in actualising reforms relating to development of high-quality trainers. These include implementation of TVET pedagogy/andragogy by establishing real industry working environment through collaboration and utilising the workplace as learning venue.