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Kenya shows shift in training for job market

graduation

A graduation ceremony at Technical University of Mombasa. PHOTO | LABAN WALLOGA

Student enrolment in technical vocational colleges jumped 35.8 per cent in 2017, a new survey showed, tracking a national policy shift in training for the job market.

The government has adopted a deliberate policy to grow Technical Vocational and Education Training (TVET) following a shortage of graduates with technical skills.

The Economic Survey 2018 showed that student enrolment in TVET institutions increased from 202,556 in 2016 to 275,139 in 2017, coinciding with a 50.9 per cent rise in the registration of more of TVET institutions from 1,300 in 2016 to 1,962 last year.

“During the review period, enrolment in national polytechnics and technical universities grew by 31.4 per cent from 39,915 in 2016 to 48,492. At the same time, enrolment in vocational training colleges rose by 29.1 per cent from 80,905 in 2016 to 104,441,” the Kenya National Bureau of Statistics (KNBS) said.

This came as student enrolment in universities dipped 7.7 per cent over a similar period. The decline in university enrolment from 564,507 students in academic year 2016/17 to 520,893 in 2017/18, was mainly caused by reduction in the number of candidates who met the minimum university entry requirements.

The number of qualified students who attained C+ and above from 2017 KCSE examination were 70,073.

The government, in its move to enroll more than 3.1 million youths in technical colleges, has deliberately increased development expenditure for state department of vocational and technical training from Sh4.8 billion in 2016/17 to Sh16.5 billion in 2017/18.

KNBS data shows that all bursary applications from TVET institutions in the academic year 2013/14, 2014/15 and 2015/16 were all successful.

For instance, in 2013/14, all the 3,996 bursary applicants in TVET institutions were all awarded, amounting to a total of Sh.51 million. The number of applicants increased in the year 2014/15 to 7,602 who were also all awarded.

The number of bursary applicants from TVET institution more than doubled from 15,330 in 2015/16 to 34,383 in 2016/17, while the number of beneficiaries increased to 15,701 in the same period.

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The amount of bursary awarded also declined from Sh.125 million in 2015/16 to Sh120.8 million in 2016/17.

Kenya is currently grappling with a skills gap in its workforce amid debate on the country’s long focus on theoretical university education, ignoring the key contribution of technical training colleges.

Several sectors such as construction are already feeling the heat of technical skill shortages. Indicatively, the wage bill for large-scale building contractors nearly doubled in the five years to 2016, pointing to a labour crunch amid a boom in real estate and mega infrastructure projects.

Compensation for workers in the building industry grew to Sh16.87 billion in 2016 from Sh8.84 billion in 2012 — a 90.8 per cent jump, data by the KNBS shows.

Despite the sharp rise in the wage bill, the number of contractors engaged in the building industry, however, grew at a much slower pace over the period — a sign of a huge scramble for this category of workers.

In 2016, some 148,022 contractors were involved in the building industry, up from 106,114 in 2012, according to the KNBS data.

The demand was highest for general trade contractors who benefited both in terms of hiring and compensation. By 2016 there were 117,239 general contractors working in the building industry compared to 84,046 in 2012. This was against 30,738 specialised contractors engaged in 2016, up from 22,068 in 2012.

Several of Kenya’s development partners including the Africa Development Bank (AfDB) have recently launched financing programmes to help shift emphasis towards technical vocational education and training in a bid to develop mid-level skills of technicians and artisans for current and emerging labour markets in both Kenya and the region.

Enrolment in such TVET programmes targets post-primary and secondary school graduates in the 15 and 30-year-age bracket and will include apprenticeship programmes and training focused on developing skills needed in infrastructure such as roads, energy, water and ICT.