LETTERS: Address reasons why youth aren’t joining TVET

Houses under construction in Solai
Houses under construction in Solai, Nakuru County. PHOTO | RICHARD MAOSI | NMG 

During the recently concluded Council of Governors (CoG) meeting held in Kirinyaga County, the Governors rightly observed that their role in the Jubilee’s ‘Big Four Agenda’ items has not been clearly defined.

This is despite the fact that they are receiving a huge allocation of funds from the national government. And with the important role the counties are expected to play in the country’s economic growth, there is a serious and urgent need to identify areas for collaboration between the two levels of government.

One of the critical areas that need focused attention by the two levels of government is the role of the Technical and Vocational Education and Training (TVET).

A recent study revealed that Kenya’s shortage of skilled masons, electricians, plumbers, painters and other construction workers is holding back projects at a time when the country needs to put up more houses and infrastructure.

There is a serious skills gap to be addressed. The need to increase the number of artisans exponentially should drive Kenya to create centres for specialization in TVET colleges. Also, there is need for the government and the industry to develop centres to supply relevant skills linked to specific sectors.

The implementation of the ‘Big Four’, once it takes shape, will bring a huge demand for technical skills in manufacturing and construction. This gap will only be filled with personnel trained by TVET institutions. It is commendable that TVET has in recent years recorded an impressive growth in the enrolment. Kenya National Bureau of Statistics (KNBS) data shows that enrollment in TVET doubled from 127,691 in 2012 to 275,139 in 2017.

Technical education

The government has also planned to increase accessibility of technical education to all eligible students at both the national and local level by setting up technical institutions in every constituency and vocational centres.

The biggest fear is whether this training will be aligned to the ‘Big Four’ labour needs. This calls for collaboration between the national and county government to carry out a skills inventory to ensure that TVETs train based on the needs of each county due to the varying comparative advantage of each. There is also the need by both levels of the government to allocate more resources to equip these institutions with the technical capacity needed to offer courses. If not properly equipped they will graduate a half-baked workforce.

The scope of funding for students taking the technical course should be expanded. The Higher Education Loans Board (HELB) is already doing this to students joining TVET through Kenya Universities and Colleges Placement Service (KUCCPS). They are eligible of Sh 30,000 and a Sh 40,000 loan.

Similar programmes can be adopted to other areas to make technical training affordable to all. There is also the need to review the Sh50 training fee levied on every employee.

Content of training

This levy is meant to offer training through the National Industrial Training Authority (NITA). There is need to consider reviewing the levy and widen the net. The private sector is also expected to play a significant role in the growth of the ‘Big Four’ and should equally have a role in determining the content of training for an effective linkage of technical training to the labour market.

The private sector contributes over 70 percent of formal employment but in some cases they struggle to find candidates due to a mismatch between the courses offered in TVET institutions and skills needs for the private sector. Germany has emphasised on classroom instruction taking 50 percent time with the rest being on the job-training environment.

For a long time, our education system has focused on formal education, paying little attention to imparting other skills that would not only transform the economy but also create jobs.

This system results in training so many people who cannot be absorbed in the economy, which is seeking to industrialise.

Education must respond to the times, prepare young people for the world of work, and cater for the youthful population’s need for employability, while also ensuring the production of skills and knowledge is aligned to Kenya’s resource endowments that include land, minerals, forest, energy, water, crops, and animals among others. We must not berate technical vocational education.

Raphael Obonyo, via email.