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Assembly call for commercialization of TVET innovations

The County Assembly of Nakuru has called for commercialization of innovations and research by Technical and Vocational Education and Training (TVET) institutes to enable them tap their full potential in income generating activities.

The Assembly has asked Governor Susan Kihika to oversee formulation of proper policies and guidelines that will help TVETs operated by the County Government create endowment funds that will provide the institutions with funds to ramp up their research facilities and also invest in the market for additional revenue generation.

Nominated Member of County Assembly Ms Doreen Jebiwwot said the devolved unit’s administration should consider sourcing for grants and sponsorship for top innovators in TVETs to fund inventions.

While contributing to a debate on the Governor’s address which   made to the Assembly last week, Ms. Jebiwwot noted that vocational training was the central pillar of youth employment and added that sustainable enterprise development needed to ensure Kenya becomes a middle-income earner by 2030.

“Commercializing of research is a common practice in most parts of the world, where the private sector partners with universities to develop innovations in sectors such as medicine and engineering, earning technical training institutes and universities extra revenue.

Ms. Jebiwwot cited Oxford University which inked a deal with AstraZeneca Plc, a British-Swedish multinational pharmaceutical and biotechnology two years ago to produce the AstraZeneca/Oxford vaccine following the outbreak of the Coronavirus.

She stated that the county government should initiate partnerships with the private sector to help sponsor top innovators.

TVETs, she added, must be facilitated to create links between learners and industry players to enable them to advance their innovative ideas and get industrial exposure.

“Proper policies and guidelines will help TVETs undertake quality research because through such initiatives, students will tackle challenges like joblessness, illnesses and drought among others. Partnerships with industry players are key in unlocking the innovation potential of many learners in the country,” she said.

During the afternoon session chaired by County Speaker Mr. Joel Karuri Maina, Jebiwwot indicated that TVETs should put in place Innovation Entrepreneurship and Technology Hubs, to mentor and incubate innovators.

Shabab MCA Mr. Macharia Wathiai said towards inculcating a research culture in TVET institutions there was need to promote innovations to offer local solutions. Science, technology, and innovation he observed should be prioritized, promoted, and entrenched in the national production system.

“We need to improve the perception of TVET institutions and redeem their reputations as the ideal option for the youth to gain a meaningful education,” Wathiai said.

He underscored the importance of partnerships between TVETs and Youth Polytechnics with private companies towards equipping students with hands-on skills in an industry setting during their time of study.

This he said would bridge skills gaps among TVET graduates by ensuring that students spend at least 50 percent of their training working with relevant industries.

“We need to explore a model where students are subjected to combination of theory and practical training, in a real-life work environment through an interchange of training at a TVET institute and in a company,”

Mr Wathiai pointed out that close links between enterprises and training centres have been at the core of Western World’s economic success since the 19th century.

He observed that building up such a TVET ecosystem in Kenya can provide concrete job opportunities for young Kenyans as well.

The county has 24 youth polytechnics spread across the 11 sub counties. According to the Technical Vocational Education and Training Authority (TVETA), there are two accredited public TVET institutions in the county- the Dairy Training Institute in Naivasha and the Rift Valley Institute of Science and Technology in Njoro and a total of 18 accredited private TVET institutions.

In his remarks Baruti Ward MCA Ben Kirui noted that 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.

He emphasized that an effective Technical and Vocational Education Training (TVET) system will play a key role in achievement of the Big Four Government agenda and Vision 2030.

Mr. Kirui stated that the world over the labour market was transiting from theoretical expertise to practical-based skills adding that a growing number of Kenyans with good academic qualifications were unemployed because of a mismatch of skills and career choices.

He however expressed optimism the situation was steadily improving as the national government’s initiative to invest in new equipment, modern technologies and infrastructure and qualified training staff was paying off as student enrolments in TVETs had increased.

Data from the Kenya National Bureau of Statistics (KNBS) shows enrolment of students in national polytechnics, public technical and vocational colleges increased by 4.8 percent to 451,205 in 2020 a sign that the government’s efforts to grow enrolment in the institutions is bearing fruit. The number of TVET institutions increased by 7.5 percent to 2,301 in 2020.

Mau Narok MCA Mr. Silas Ndegwa challenged parents to champion (TVET) courses to help their children acquire relevant skills favourable to the local and international labour markets adding that technical training plays a vital role in strengthening the country’s economy.

He indicated that parents should now focus more on courses offered in vocational training centres and argued that technical and vocational training holds the answer to economic challenges such as unemployment.

“The strength and future of a country’s economy depends on two major factors, skills of its manpower and production which comes from it. This can only be achieved through TVET, as it is the masterplan to alleviate poverty and usher in growth,” he said.

By Anne Mwale

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