By Mical Imbukwa
Dr Dinah J.C Mwinzi, MBS, Principal Secretary State Department of Vocational and Technical Training
The unemployment rate being experienced among the young people in Kenya is around 40%, but how come there are a lot of jobs without takers? Many youth graduate yearly from universities and colleges but their skill sets don’t match the industry requirements.
One way of ensuring that the unemployment gap among the youth is bridged is by ensuring that the skills offered in institutions of higher learning are in line with the requirements in the industry. TVET (Technical & Vocational Education and Training), a flagship of vision 2030, was designed to take care of the skills challenge, which normally lead to unemployment cases.
The Hands on The Future National TVET Conference was held recently and according to Dr Dinah J.C Mwinzi, MBS, Principal Secretary State Department of Vocational and Technical Training, the main focus was on Access, Equity, Relevance, and quality of skills training from training providers TVET, and this cuts across public and private institutions. Generally, Linking Industry with Academia. A Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) was signed with KEPSA, KAM, Kenya Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Ministry of Education, TVET among others, and this was in line with apprenticeships, internships, attachments and sabbaticals to lecturers.
To this effect, government has increased resource to TVET institutions including loans to students so that there is wide access. This is something Dr Mwinzi says will increase the number of students going to TVET institutions because they will now be able to easily access loans and bursaries from the Higher Education Loans Board and even in situations where parents are not supporting the students to go to TVET because of biasness to degrees, the students can now make decisions on their own and with support from government, pursue courses of their choice. The allocation was increased from 500 million to 900 million.
“The government also in the recent past opened special needs institutions that were not there before, when there was not much focus on TVET. The institutions include, Karen for the deaf and physically challenged, Machakos for the blind, Sikri for all the other special needs, and last but not least, Nyangoma for special needs, “notes the PS
From 2013, there has been focus on TVET reforms, majorly, general reforms on education and this was supported by the World Bank among other development partners. The government’s commitment is such that, TVET institutions should be opened in every constituency, and so the government is committed to build one technical institute per constituency. So far there are 203 technical institutions, 60 being completed, 60 being operationalized, and 70 under construction. Among this institutions, the PS confirms that 66 have been accredited, and 70 are awaiting registration.
Skill wise, the government has put in place specialised agencies that will ensure that the country’s aspirations are met. “TVETA, which is a body for quality and relevance, regulates the sector (the training providers, the institutions, the students and the trainer) and ensures the standards are maintained. CDACC (Curriculum Development and Certification Council), on the other hand ensures that whatever curriculum we come up with, is TVET (competence, training, institution and assessment). This ensures that the requirements of industry in form of occupational standards are actually used to make the curriculum and ensure that whatever we teach, is the standards of industry. We have to bury the story of mismatch of skills, in our history,” she says. The government is moving from KNEC to CDACC where curriculum and assessment go hand in hand.
There will be an additional body known as Qualifications Authority, which will harmonize TVET’s qualifications, and put in descriptions of the national qualifications. The PS notes that this will ensure that the qualifications are recognized both in Kenya and globally. “This will enable us know how long a course is supposed to take, not in terms of years but contact hours, the trainer, contact with practicals like apprenticeship, attachments and internships. We devise exactly what the student will derive knowledge in, and for how long, because there is a process in learning that expects them to internalize issues. There is also a group learning which is very important and interaction with the real world. So far our qualifications are good” The document is still in the draft form and it is being taken through the necessary approvals, before it is published most probably this year.
The beauty with TVET according to Dr Mwinzi is that, the students easily moves from one stage to another because they have mastered competency and there is formative assessment. Competency in TVET is when a student can manipulate and use machinery and what is required for them to master. The student is therefore able to acquire the needed skills and also use the whole person. They don’t only rely on the teacher but also able to be creative on their own.
There is however something the PS wants people to note that will kill the bias that has and still is there, towards the TVET courses. “TVET is not for people who are not academically blessed, but for those who are technically oriented. Students are gifted differently. We have the cognitively oriented and the technically oriented. God in His own wisdom never made anybody a junk. He made people to have different capabilities that appeal to different things. There are people who are called think doers who think and do things later, and doer thinkers who do things first and think later. We are either of the two and we need to respect each of those and know that all of those combined, build a society.”
She adds that designer engineers are in most cases A students but the people who translate their designs into products are the technologists. The technologists even if they have PhDs, they are TVET because they are the ones who make a product from a design. This is why the engineering technology board has been registered so that the technologists can be recognized.
“The country currently has a shortage of electricians and plumbers with the right qualifications and in fact on our pipeline, there are only two engineers who can weld on a live pipeline, aged 58 and 59 and they will be retiring in the next two years. The country has to get specialists from Nigeria, Jordan, Philippine and other places yet our own people have no jobs because they lack the right skills,” she laments
She also points out that, Kenya also doesn’t have underwater welders and in case a ferry for any reason cracks, we have to wait for someone from the Philippine and they can quote any amount. “This department therefore wants to empower our own people so that we avoid importing manpower and it is therefore taking up the rare courses and training the TVET students on them.”
The close link between TVET and LIWA according to Dr Mwinzi, will help bridge the gaps and Kenya will even start exporting skills and manpower to neighboring countries reversing the usual norm of importing, and this will also help reduce the cost of labour. Kenya therefore needs to set the pace and maintain the standards. Currently, 78% of students in universities are doing humanities and only 28% are doing STEM courses. The system is imbalanced.
On the bright side, The Rift Valley Training Institute has expanded enormously because the whole of the East African Region, send their students to this institution. “It is our star institution with over 6000 students, and over 10,000 application every year. I am very happy that organization are starting to embrace the spirit of TVET, and this is demonstrated by wings to fly which send all their students, to TVET institutions,” notes the PS
Also for the first time, TTIs are able to export products made in Kenya to China through AVIC International. This is to demonstrate that when it comes to hands on skills, TVET take it. “We also have KTTC in Africa skills and training center and we have put in a lot of support for that. We are going to equip 134 TTIs very shortly with support from China and we are equipping another 33 with state of the art equipment with support from Africa Development Bank. We have the best smart classrooms in the world in our 10 national technical institutions and they can do simulations, something which has reduced the number of training material.
In the next 5 years, TVET hopes to produce industry ready graduates at O- levels and also wants to see its own human capacity built in the sense that all its products are processed to completion. “We also want to see that as we grow in the extractive industry, Oil, Gas, and all the other industries, we want to see our local content in terms of contractors, the work force, the employees and the management to be Kenyan. All in all, we want to have a legacy of nurturing our own and giving them an opportunity to express their creativity,” she notes
In a wrap, this is what the PS has to say;
“We are looking towards not discriminating anybody on the basis of what they gained, rather we want to see their capabilities. We should not use KCSE exams to condemn people, but rather to place them appropriately. That is why in the new structure, we want to place students according to their pathways. Last and most important, we should focus at looking for the positives in our country, rather than always the negatives.”