The multifaceted challenges that await incoming IEK leadership

Prof. Eng. Christopher Maina Muriithi, Dean, School of Engineering and Technology. Murang'a University of Technology.[File, Standard]

With Thursday's Institution of Engineers of Kenya (IEK) elections, the stage is set for a crucial juncture in Kenya's engineering journey. The recent IEK presidential debate, graced by two prominent civil engineers, served as a poignant reminder of the pivotal role engineers play in shaping Kenya's infrastructure and economic landscape.

Yet, amid the technical fervor, a subtle yet significant shift was witnessed—a nod towards gender inclusivity at the highest echelons of IEK's leadership. However, the stark reality persists: Less than 10 female professors adorn Kenya's engineering academia. Despite this, there's a glimmer of progress with the recent addition of the first consulting mechanical lady engineer and thus making the total number of women consulting engineers to hit the 20th mark.

In 18 universities in Kenya, approximately 20,000 eager minds are honing their engineering prowess. Yet, the arithmetic of progress doesn't quite add up. With an ideal engineer-to-population ratio of 1:500 for industrialisation, Kenya finds itself with a stark disparity—currently, it stands at an approximate 1:15,7142. Crunching the numbers against Kenya's population of approximately 55,000,0003, the equation calls for urgent attention: How many years until we bridge this gap through rigorous five-year engineering programmes?

In this equation for progress, the Engineering Board of Kenya's (EBK) Graduate Engineer Internship Programme emerges as a catalyst. By fostering dynamic interactions between academia and industry, this programme not only bridges the theoretical-practical divide but also cultivates a breed of engineers ready to tackle real-world challenges head-on.

Kenya's trajectory towards international engineering standards, epitomised by its alignment with the Washington Accord, marks a commendable stride. Accrediting centres of excellence in engineering further burnishes this reputation, signaling the country's readiness to play on the global engineering stage.

Moreover, as IEK and the Institution of Engineering Technologists in Kenya (IET-K) converge under one State department, would-be synergies are poised to spark a new era of collaboration and innovation. This harmonisation suggests opening doors for bridging the gap between engineering technologists and engineers, ensuring a seamless career progression pathway.

This move not only enhances engineering regulation but also offers a platform for technologists to transition into full-fledged engineers, further enriching the engineering landscape. TVET emerges as a linchpin for Kenya's industrial prowess, sculpting a skilled workforce tailored to the needs of a burgeoning economy, further underpinning the need for IEK, IET-K, and the TVET industry to form strong ties in skills development for industrialisation.

In the midst of successes, the incoming IEK leadership faces multifaceted challenges. One crucial challenge is the need to accommodate graduate engineers, who currently do not have voting rights, within IEK. This group represents a significant portion of the engineering workforce and their inclusion is crucial for a more representative and inclusive institution.

This will likely necessitate a constitutional review to broaden representation at the leadership helm, ensuring that all voices within the engineering community are heard.

Additionally, there is a need to revamp the welfare arm of IEK to strengthen its negotiation power for better remuneration of engineers. This is crucial in ensuring that engineers are fairly compensated for their skills and expertise, ultimately enhancing the attractiveness of the profession and retaining top talent.

Furthermore, the incoming leadership must work to strengthen ties between industry and academia to enhance quick absorption of graduate engineers into the marketplace. This will require proactive engagement with both sectors to align engineering education with industry needs, ensuring that graduates are equipped with the skills and knowledge required to excel in the field.

Lastly, there is a need to address the challenge of the engineer-to-population ratio, which
currently stands at approximately 1:15,714.

Prof (Eng) Muriithi, Dean, School of Engineering and Technology, Murang’a University of Technology, is aspiring IEK Ordinary Council Member