The numbers of students pursuing Technical and Vocational Education and Training (TVET) course has increased drastically over the past few years in Vihiga County.
Educationists say more learners now prefer technical training compared to courses offered in universities.
A spot check by The Standard in several TVET institutions across Western Kenya shows the desire of many students to acquire hands on sakills.
Friends College Kaimosi is among TVET institutions that have seen its student population double in just two years.
According to the institution's principal Michael Musuya, in 2020, the college had 2,000 students but the number has soared to well over 5,000.
“Politicians and chiefs have been of help, they have encouraged our high school leavers and other eligible candidates to take up technical courses that are not only affordable but also marketable than most managerial courses offered in universities," he said.
The college held its fourth graduation ceremony on Wednesday where 1,747 graduands were issued with higher diplomas, diplomas, certificates as well as craft and artisan qualifications.
Friends College Kaimosi managed the feat despite a huge wage bill resulting from tutors hired by the board. Besides, majority of the learners have huge fee balances.
The college administration now wants the government to increase capitation per student and release Higher Education Loans Board (Helb) funds on time to needy learners.
"Many of our trainers have unsettled salaries which curtails the smooth running of activities of the institution, " said Musuya who added their target was to increase enrollment to over 9,000 to attain the status of a national polytechnic.
During the graduation ceremony, Faith Anyoso, who graduated with a diploma in accountancy, said she chose the TVET institution despite having a choice to join university.
"I have gained skills that can allow me to start up my own business and achieve a lot," said Anyoso.
Sabatia and Ebukanga technical and vocational institutions in Vihiga have similarly recorded increased enrollment.
Sabatia has enrolled 3,100 learners this year up from 1870 in 2021 while Ebukanga has 2,010 trainees up from 1000 students two years ago.
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Learners have their tuition fees paid in full under the Vihiga county government capitation policy.
A total of Sh15, 000 capitation per learner is released every year to the institutions leading to a surge in enrollment from 2, 700 students in 2020 to 7,000 in 2023 across all the Vocational Training centers around Vihiga county.
The government plans to have each ward in the country host a TVET institution. The plan will be done under collaboration between counties and national governments and will deepen the access to TVET training.
According to TVET Vihiga county director John Sunguti, the county has 15 Vocational Training Centres on top of four Technical Vocational Colleges (TVC) based at the sub county level.
"We expect one more college at Luanda constituency as we set to achieve the national requirement of having each area with a TVET institutions," said Sunguti.
The county has employed 193 trainers in vocation training centres.
The TVET national director Tom Mulati said plans were underway to cluster TVET institutions in order to have a National Polytechnic in each county, Technical Vocational College in each sub-county and a Vocational Training Centre (VTC) in every ward.
"It is our dream that each will be developed to be a centre of excellence in one or two trade area with focus on skills required in regions where the institute is located," said Mulati during the graduation ceremony.
Ministry of Education reports show that most TVET institutions have been supported with value addition equipment to incorporate training with production.
Mulati acknowledged the challenges that some institutions go through but said the government had made great strides in stabilising the sector.
"Discussion are on going and how the best the government can help in capitation and Helb disbursement," he added.
He noted in order to increase access to the Kenyan youths, the government had increased the number of TVET institutions from 52 in 2013 to 238 currently.
He said majority of the insitutions towards making graduates get skills that can lead to self-employment and meeting the challenges arising from rapid technological advancement, education policy and labour market changes.