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How recognition of prior learning can help spur growth

By Jane Muigai-Kamphuis | November 21st 2021

Rift Valley Institute of Science and Technology graduates during the institution's  14th Graduation Ceremony on October 24, 2019.

Nothing defines anyone’s career than the confidence of knowing they can do a job well and their ability recognised and certified.  I’m a pilot and here’s my certificate. I’m a nurse and here’s my certificate. I’m an electrician and here’s my certificate.

But what about hundreds of thousands in the informal sector, jua kali, where a hairdresser, a welder, a chef has worked for years, and mastered their art, but no certificate for it?

Well, this is what many countries call – Recognition and Certification of the skills one possesses, or Recognition of Prior Learning (RPL). It means Recognition and Certification of Current Competence (RCCC). In Africa, only South Africa has a well developed RPL process in law and practice. In Kenya, the youth entering the job market are estimated at over 800,000 annually. Yet only 50,000 to 80,000 jobs exist in the formal sector. Automatically, the majority of youth land into the informal sector. Take construction for example – every jobless young man has been ‘’kwa mjengo’’.

A National Construction Authority study several years ago estimated at least 200,000 informal sector artisans at construction sites each day. Youth in the construction sector remain handymen and women for years. They learn new skills, practice them but no one assesses those skills or certifies them.

Most of them will remain in this state, while opportunities abound that can enable them broaden their knowledge and skills, and earn a better living.  According to The Toolkit iSkills (TTI), a social enterprise in Kenya, formalising the informal sector through skills assessment and certification is an urgent necessity for Kenya and other African countries. Importation of skilled labour for mega projects can be turned into labour for skilled Kenyan youth. Their age mates coming into the continent from other countries have a better card – their skills are respected, assessed and certified.

It’s time for Kenya and other African countries to embrace Recognition of Prior Learning (RPL) in word and deed. TTI which has been helping the youth upgrade their skills for seven years now, also says that there is lack of information on RPL, while lack of policies also compounds the problem. “The missing gap is a structured way for RPL uptake’, says Jane Muigai, Founder and Director TTI, ‘Theres is also a general lack of recognition by industrial stakeholders as a means of certification and accreditation of skills, locking out many individuals who have invested up to a certain degree’ adds Jane.

Kenya’s growth largely depends upon the effectiveness and quality of the country’s Human Resources Development system. The Vision 2030 and the Big 4 Agenda place great emphasis on the link between education and training and the labour market, to develop relevant and skilled workforce. These efforts notwithstanding, the country still faces a severe shortage of quality and relevantly skilled workforce, due to the mismatch between skills produced and labour market needs. There is also need for formal recognition of re-skilling and up-skilling among an already existing workforce.

The writer is Founder, Toolkit iSkills Ltd

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