Driving the business community’s participation in skills training

by Tobias Alando

The ever-evolving trends in sectors such as manufacturing, technology, automation and climate change are changing the world of work, and together with it, the skills required to adapt and maintain a competitive edge. 

Skills are the building blocks of any country’s economy. They play a key role in transforming the world in which we live – they enhance employability and increase productivity. Investing in quality skills is known to have reverberating effects on various sectors, such as education, driving economic growth and attracting Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) due to an investment destination’s pool of talent. 

Unfortunately, countries across the world continue to struggle to bridge the divide between emerging trends in various economic sectors, including manufacturing and technology, and the required skills. Here in Kenya, manufacturers have raised concerns on the shortage of skills. There is a mismatch between graduates’ skills and market needs, which has led to high levels of unemployment and hampered local industry’s productivity. 

It is worth noting that Kenya has made strides to deal with the skills shortage. The concept of technical institution students undergoing skills training after completing their theoretical classes is slowly being modified to incorporate work-based learning. In this cooperative training model (also called dual training), a student spends half of their learning period in a training institution while the other half is spent undertaking mentorship in companies. 

Kenya Association of Manufacturers (KAM), in partnership with German Development Corporation and the Kenyan Government, has been implementing the Cooperative Training Programme in the country, since 2019. Under the project, students study in school for three months and work in a manufacturing plant for another three months on a rotational basis until they complete their study period. 

So far, we have worked with seven Technical and Vocational Education and Training (TVET) institutions in Nairobi, Kiambu, Kisumu, Kitale and Kisii counties, with 30 companies taking in at least 150 students as trainees. KAM has also facilitated knowledge transfer and capacity building of technical training institute staff through study tours and visits. 

Whereas Kenya has made strides in bridging the skills gap, challenges remain. For instance, the number of TVET institutions that are fully equipped and have sufficient training capacity is low. Therefore, they are not training students at an optimum level and are forced to outsource some services and equipment. This is attributed to the high cost of new technology, and machinery or equipment, which are not always locally available and need to be imported. Add to this, the cost of maintenance and training employees on new technologies. 

Resolving these challenges calls for more industry and knowledge-sharing sessions with the training institutes and the creation of a networking platform to sustain relations with the different stakeholders. Additionally, manufacturers and the service sector need to enhance collaboration in technology and innovation. 

We also urge the Government to support the implementation of the TVET Act 2013 that established the Technical Vocational and Educational Training Authority (TVETA). The Act seeks to promote access, equity, quality and relevance in TVET by regulating, inspecting, registering, accrediting and licensing institutions and programs. We also call on the Government to review the TVET Act to increase the number of Technical Training Institutes (TTIs) offering Dual Vocational Training. By doing this, more manufacturers shall actively participate in training students. 

Even as the Government continues to expand TVET institutions in the country, it ought to maximize on demand-driven skills, particularly those that shall increase our manufacturing capacity. It is also important that the Government employs additional trainers for the technical training institutes as the number of TVET students increases.  

At KAM, we are committed to championing the adoption and enhancement of TVET through policy advocacy and raising awareness among manufacturers and the general public.   

As a country, we must focus on designing and implementing TVET initiatives that tackle the challenges in accessing quality and relevant technical skills. It is only through this that we shall be able to increase the competitiveness and productivity of Kenya’s manufacturing sector, and compete on the regional, continental and international levels.  

The writer is the Ag. Chief Executive of Kenya Association of Manufacturers and can be reached at ceo@kam.co.ke

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