Involve market industry players to seal skill gaps, schools urged

Swiss Ambassador Valentin Zellweger (left) and TVET Director Joyce Mwale during a visit to Don Bosco Technical Institute in Karen, Nairobi, on March 2, 2023. [Silas Otieno, Standard]

A lack of linkage between vocational training institutions and industry could be a contributing factor to youth underemployment in the labour market.

The private sector contends that involving industry in the development of technical training curriculum could help to address the shortage of technical skills in the domestic and commercial sectors.

During a visit to Don Bosco Technical Institute in Karen, Nairobi, private sector leaders urged technical institutions to allow students to spend a large portion of their time gaining hands-on experience.

“We have to retrain even those who are having National Industrial Training Authority (NITA) certifications on the job. We want to make sure the training is strengthened so that what is coming out is what is required in the industry,” said Harish Bhanderi, of Atlas Plumbers and Builders, a mechanical engineering firm.

Don Bosco Technical Institute is training plumbers and electricians as part of a pilot programme supported by two Swiss institutions, the Hilti Foundation and Geberit International Sales AG, to engage the industry during training and provide learners with market-driven skills.

The PropelA Project was launched in November 2022 to provide young people with competitive skills for self-employment or construction jobs, to make vocational training more appealing to youth, and to address the shortage of required skills in the job market.

It is modelled on the Swiss dual learning approach where training institutions and the private sector co-create a curriculum for technical training.

Trainees spend 25 per cent of their time in class and 75 per cent gaining hands-on experience in the localised model. 

“We are excited about this programme because it is the first time we are seeing that the private sector can address the shortage of skill in the industry particularly the gaps in training between what is coming out of schools and what we need in the market,” said Bhanderi.

He said involving the industry leaders early in the formulation of the curriculum enables them to direct what is needed in training in regard to the evolving technologies and equips the youth with market-driven skills.

Further, he said the disconnect between the industry and schools has watered down the value of certifications of the graduates from technical institutions owing to skill-gap when joining the job market.

Plumbing, according to Bhanderi, is one of the courses that has struggled with youth enrollment.

The collaboration between technical institutions and industry also provides trainees with on-site mentor training.

“Involving the industry would ensure what students learn in class is practised in the industry on-site in the consecutive weeks,” said Bhanderi.

Lillian Ndegwa, the Country Director of Swisscontact, said the programme offers a practical solution to Kenya's youth unemployment problem.