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Opinion and Analysis

Give technical schools right content in ongoing reforms

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Education secretary Fred Matiang’i: The government needs to convince Kenyans that technical skills can lead to promising careers and opportunities. PHOTO | FILE

Education secretary Fred Matiang’i: The government needs to convince Kenyans that technical skills can lead to promising careers and opportunities. PHOTO | FILE 

By GEORGE WACHIRA

Posted  Tuesday, January 10   2017 at  17:16

When the Kenya Certificate of Secondary Education (KCSE) examination results were announced, the concern was how many students were to miss university places.

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It was unfortunate that we missed an opportunity to emphasise career opportunities that are also available to the school leavers in technical colleges.

I guess this is because the majority of Kenyans still incorrectly believe that the natural progression to successful education is a university degree.

Technical skills are equally important, and indeed more job openings in Kenya are for technical diplomas than university degrees.

I need to acknowledge that the government has over the last four years systematically put in place most of the legal, regulatory and institutional framework necessary to facilitate effective development of technical skills.

The government now needs to transform the Kenyan mindset to accept that technical skills can lead to promising careers and opportunities.

Experience in technically successful countries has shown that an effective national technical and vocational skills development programme requires a strong symbiotic partnership between government agencies, academia and sector industries.

In my petroleum consultancy, I occasionally get involved in the development of capacity for oil and gas technical skills and this is how the other day I found myself attending the open day of the newly launched Eastlands College of Technology.

The college is located in the periphery of Nairobi’s Industrial Area and offers quality training in a number of technical skills including welding.

The institution is part of the notable brand of education institutions under the Strathmore Education Trust, which includes Strathmore University.

This college is an affirmation by the Trust that national education systems are incomplete without first-class technical and vocational training. It is also an example of the critical roles the academia play to nurture technical skills.

At the open day, the industry perspective on technical skills was best presented by Brian Muriuki, the country manager for Shell International Exploration and Production currently undertaking oil and gas exploration in the Kenyan coastal and offshore prospects.

He emphasised that demand for first-class oil and gas welders will be huge when the country embarks on commercialisation of oil and gas finds, especially during field development and pipeline construction.

He stressed that whereas local content regulations mandate oil companies to source skills local, these must be certified to international standards. If such skills are not available locally they shall inevitably be imported.

Mr Muriuki went further to say that experienced welders in the sector usually fetch much higher pay than graduate engineers.

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