In most political or economic discussions these times, the words ‘jobs’ and ‘skills’ are among the most recurrent. They express one of the most pressing socio-economic demands in Kenya today.
Specifically, in respect of technical prowess, the country is engaged in various catch-up efforts to deliver skills at all levels (degree, tertiary, and basic) to meet urgent demands of our expanding economy.
Last week, at a bi-annual meeting for technical skills stakeholders, organised by the Skills for Oil and Gas Africa (Soga) it was evident that donors, business and NGOs continue to play a critical role in supplementing government efforts in skills development and jobs creation.
The Soga project, which focuses on skills development in the emergent oil and gas areas, is funded by the British, Germany and Norwegian donor agencies in conjunction with upstream investors Tullow Oil and Shell, and has partnerships with many NGOs and business foundations.
Over the past three years, the Soga project has partnered with the Technical University of Kenya and Technical University of Mombasa to create the capacity to train trainers in competency-based technical training.
And jointly with various technical and vocational education and training (TVET) stakeholders, it has stewarded the writing of curriculum for welding, mechanical and maintenance, control and instrumentation courses.
These have been approved by Curriculum Development, Assessment and Certification Council.
A number of challenges continue to hinder TVET programmes in Kenya. On top is the inability by students to pay their way through the training institutions.
Secondly, the absence of a sustainable internship programme to provide the much needed hands-on training is undermining the quality and extent of technical training.
At the meeting, the key-note speaker Petroleum PS Andrew Kamau, said the government is working on reforming and expanding the Higher Education Loans Board (Helb) to enhance funding for TVET students.
In respect of internships, he asked the private sector to develop linkages with the technical training providers. In respect of oil and gas, technical skills and employment are an integral part of local content regulatory requirements.
At the meeting, what caught my attention and interest is the partnership between Soga and an NGO called CAP Youth Empowerment Institute (CAP-YEI).
Based on a simple but very effective and tested Basic Employability Skills Training (BEST) model, CAP-YEI focuses on providing skills training and support for vulnerable youth in Kenya.
Based on an experiential nine steps, the BEST model is not about the grandiose career development, but provides the vulnerable youth of Kenya with livelihood entry support and earning opportunities in their localities.
BEST works by linking skills providers to skills consumers and has a strong emphasis on life skills such as enterprise.
This basic skills training programme will usually seek to be hosted in an existing TVET or vocational training centre (VTC), and today there are 17 such hosted BEST programmes, with an 85 per cent success rate in securing jobs.
The basic training offered varies with locality and skills demand. In respect of the SOGA-CAP-YEI partnership, there are three training centres at Lodwar, Lamu and Kwale which are all associated directly or indirectly with extraction activities. Here basic training includes construction, electrical, plumbing, security, hospitality, automotive and ‘boda-boda’ skills. Average participation in the three locations has been approaching 50-50 gender parity.
Basic and vocational training is devolved to counties, and it is hoped that the counties will develop effective VTC programmes with sufficient capacity and budgets.
According to SOGA, the Lamu VTC programme has been successful because county government has prioritised basic skills training in keeping with local demands.
Technical skills and training in Kenya are very critical for a progressive economy especially in the productive sectors of manufacturing, extractives, and agriculture.
It takes a seamless coordination between all players- government, the private sector, and training institutions to effectively and efficiently make it happen.
Strategic and expert support from donors and NGOs should ideally be adding value to already well formulated, coordinated and funded TVET and basic skills training systems. I believe a lot has and continues to happen in these areas.