Transfer of crucial skills among SGR staff timely

Monday, November 25th, 2019 00:00 |
SGR train at Mombasa terminus. Photo/Courtesy

Olivia Mengich       

The changing landscape of the railway transport industry poses significant human resource challenges. For this reason, operators must develop knowledge-transfer best practices to ensure vital skills are retained within the industry. 

For Madaraka Express, and by extension Kenya Railways, having a process in place to transfer skills from seasoned Chinese employees to Kenyans will help the operator implement succession planning and provide ongoing training to prepare the workforce to adapt to change brought about by new technologies.

In business, knowledge transfer has now become a common topic in mergers and acquisitions. It focuses on transferring technological platform, market experience, managerial expertise, advanced corporate culture and other intellectual capital that can improve the companies’ competence.

To remain competitive and deliver quality service, Africa Star Railway Operations Company (Afristar), which operates Madaraka Express, has designed various training programmes aimed at developing standardised competencies for the various cadres of staff. 

Suffice it to say that railway operations and maintenance are knowledge-intensive and dependent on technical skills transfer.

To achieve the 90 per cent transition goal, the company conducts monthly practical and theoretical training exercises planned to cultivate specific skills and improve the efficiency of the Standard Gauge Railway (SGR). 

Following the monthly quantified training exercises, employees are assessed using methods tailored to the relevant competency standards.

Kenyans have been gaining skills to enable them to operate and maintain rolling stock, locomotive, dispatch, track, communication and signalling systems, freight and passenger services.

Training in these areas is streamlined to efficiently develop relevant skill sets that will empower Kenyans to take over SGR operations and maintenance. 

So far, 79 Afristar employees have gained from educational opportunities in China. In 2019, 55 staff travelled to China, sponsored by the Chinese Ministry of Commerce. Afristar staff selected for training in China are high performing employees who show leadership potential. They study at leading rail-oriented institutions and the courses are taught by experts. 

The existence of strong Sino-Kenyan relations has ensured that training in China remains a successful undertaking.  

Another example is the excellent customer service that Madaraka Express passengers receive, the result of the training of service crew in China. 

Following the successful skill transfer exercises, there are currently over 200 Kenyans in leadership positions, ranging from team leaders to management roles. 

Indeed, the transition of SGR operations, currently at nearly 80 per cent, is a direct result of professional development opportunities available to staff.

The graduation of 11 locomotive drivers from Senior Assistant to Junior Locomotive Drivers during the second Madaraka Express anniversary is an example of the ongoing skills transfer. 

Currently, 15 Kenyan Junior Locomotive Drivers steer passenger, freight and shunting locomotives along with the Mombasa-Nairobi SGR network. The transition to fully Kenyan SGR operations is on track. —The writer is the deputy manager, corporate affairs, Africa Star Railway Operations Company

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