Equip TVETs to produce market-relevant labour force
By Vollan Ochieng
Quality education is fundamental for development of any society. It is not possible to attain sustainable economic development without adequate investment in human capital.
Each year, about a million youth join the labour market in Kenya with different skills sets at varied levels of expertise. This means Kenya needs to create a million new jobs annually to meet this demand. Other than the existing educational training in tertiary or post-secondary education, there is need for adequate training and value addition for youth skills. The advent of Competency Based Education and Training curriculum in the Technical and Vocational Education and Training (TVET) provides a perfect avenue for adding value to vocational education and produce a market-relevant labour force.
Recently, the government launched its Big Four agenda on improving food security, boosting manufacturing, attaining universal health coverage and affordable housing to facilitate economic growth. But does our TVET system and structures have what it takes—material and human capital—to actualise these ambitious goals? What can be done differently to enable Kenya be at par with the Asian tigers whose economies were at par with Kenya’s at independence? One answer is definitely well-developed human capital.
Unfortunately, the situation of Kenya’s TVET institutions is wanting and far from meeting requisite learners’ skills. For the institutions to churn out skilled graduates, there is need for multi-pronged approach. The efforts should not start and end with curriculum review but should extend to the stakeholders who directly benefit from or implement the curriculum – the students, instructors, the institutions and employers.
To start with, there is need for a re-energised marketing campaign to not only raise awareness on the TVET education and courses offered, but also to improve image and perception of the institutions among learners and parents. Currently, TVET institutions are perceived as a training ground for “failures” who miss out slots in university. Majority of instructors in country’s TVET institutions have undergraduate qualifications, with an insignificant number having doctoral qualifications. This situation paints a picture of shallow knowledge base in these institutions. How can this perception be improved? Uptake of TVET graduates in the job market can help inspire potential learners.
Institutions also ought to recruit skilled instructors to enhance quality of training.
Secondly, there is an urgent need for refresher training and/or pre-service training of instructors to align their skill-sets with new curriculum provisions. This should apply to both in-service instructors and those yet to join the teaching profession. In fact, instructors should go through a mandatory in-service training to acquire action and results-oriented skills’ delivery approach. It cannot be assumed that by virtue of being trainers, instructors are adequately-prepared to impart skills.
Thirdly, TVET institutions need to be well-resourced,in terms of staffing and equipment. Rather than having more institutions as proposed, the policy-makers could first improve the infrastructure of existing ones with focus on quality training. Productivity or performance should be the yardstick for educational attainment instead of course completion or time taken in an institution.
The institutions could prioritise assessment and awarding of certification for skills based on students’ competencies to undertake a task rather than satisfaction of course duration.
Education enhances individual’s understanding of both self and environment, with corresponding improved creativity and productivity that advances technological and entrepreneurial development.
In Kenyan context, for the Big Four agenda are to be achieved and sustained, there is need for comprehensive adoption and implementation of the three action points in TVET institutions’ education to bridge the existing skills—technical, and academic—inadequacies.
—The writer is a research officer at the African Population and Health Research Center