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Businesswoman opens Nakuru’s first-ever events organization academy (F) 

Hers is not only a story of resilience but a will to succeed and make a change in society.

Events planning and management have always given her immense pleasure and satisfaction.

She is the founder and director of Ashley’s Events Training Institute, an initiative that is currently equipping over 500 youth in Nakuru County with skills to develop their talents and enhance professionalism in organizing a host of events including bridal showers, birthday parties, corporate events, weddings as well as conferences.

Meet the 36-year-old Julie Chege, an entrepreneur, motivational speaker, event organizer, and public relations consultant all rolled into one.

According to Ms Chege the institute situated in the lush green environment within Njoro Township complemented with a beautifully manicured lawn seeks to convert young people into local, continental, and global event organizers through brand building and offering access to new physical and digital markets.

The trainees whose ages range between 19 to 33 years are taken through a development phase that includes public relations, interpersonal communication, brand image, marketing, financial management as well as event organization strategies.

“The goal is to enhance the technical expertise of the different stakeholders in the events organization economy in a bid to intensify the quality of services offered to clients in the industry and enable a robust ecosystem,” said the director.

Ms Chege further noted that despite the region’s vibrant events boom, the industry continues to punch below its weight amid a growing middle class that increasingly opens opportunities for an expanded clientele base.

She added “There aren’t many professional events people who can hold live events that meet the highest standards of quality, so the professionals usually referred to by people wishing to hold events are spread very thin and cannot handle all of them,”

Ms Chege expressed regret that the capacity to manage events is usually affected in terms of quality, particularly during festive seasons when there are so many.

The director who also founded Ashleys Events and Marketing Company 13 years ago pointed out that to be successful event organizers, the trainees are equipped with superior organizational skills and great interpersonal expertise.

Ashleys Events and Marketing Company specializes in the planning and execution of retreats, team-building activities, Kids’ fun activities, family fun fairs, schools/institutions fun days, weddings, and event decorations, among others.

She explained that Ashley’s Events Training Institute has prioritized effective communication, paying attention to detail and creativity and ‘thinking out of the box’ in its training manual.

“Most people who involve themselves in event organization lack marketing skills and access to markets. We take this craft thing for granted in Kenya because we see it all over the place. We don’t question whether they (event organizers) make enough money if they are getting anywhere at all, or if it’s a waste of time,” she said

She went on “People give themselves all sorts of titles and because we do not yet have controls in the events organization industry. In some cases, clients get swindled while event organizers churn out sub-standard work,”

Ashley’s Events Training Institute has also launched a Technical Vocational Education Training (TVET) wing that offers trade and craft courses in plumbing, electrical installation, leatherwork, computing, hairdressing, interior decorations, dressmaking and design, and masonry.

Ms Chege affirms that event planning is not a static job, as it requires one to always be on toes and ready to learn new concepts and trends of the market.

“Behind a great event is a great organizer who has spent countless hours planning and understanding the ins and outs of the event. This is paired with careful planning strategic thinking and attention to detail,” she affirmed

Ashleys Events and Marketing Company’s list of clients includes banks, industrial concerns involved in the manufacture of building materials, food stuffs and farms in puts, non-governmental organizations, learning institutions, private security firms, and parastatals among others.

“But the small events organizing career is growing fast with many unprofessional players coming in to offer services at very low cost and substandard services. We have no organization to oversee standards and this means clients hardly get what they deserve,” she said.

She added that companies should seek to establish the ability of a firm to handle their activity starting from a firm’s capacity, array of talent, and career history.

Rosemary Wangari, a tutor at the institute noted that since opportunities in the events organization industry have been the main challenge, resulting in stiff competition in the field, youth need to be equipped with the right knowledge and skills in events planning and management services to make them outstanding

“Events organization is not just about providing tents, seats and sound systems. As an event planner there are ways to do things perfectly and things you should never do,” Ms Wangari elaborated

She added “Event etiquette is important to ensure you do not overstep your boundaries or get a reputation for being unprofessional.

Ms Wangari explained that the trainees are being made aware of various traditions that differ between countries and cultures.

“For instance, did you know that in some countries there are different meanings to nodding and shaking your head? She poses

Ms Wangari indicated that Ashley’s Events Training Institute’s TVET wing had shifted to a demand-driven approach where extensive industry engagement determines much of the skills taught.

The workforce development and work-based learning programme at the TVET, she observed, serves as an exemplary model for aligning higher education with industry needs.

“Our model involves creating training programmes specifically designed to meet the unique needs of various industries. The training proves versatile, offered either at the employer’s site or at the college, allowing for flexibility and ensuring that the training is directly relevant to the specific needs of the business,”

Ms Wangari indicated that their TVET training model was addressing the growing need for advanced technical skills in the global workforce.

She added that leadership and professional development courses form another critical component of the institute’s training model adding that the courses are tailored to individuals looking to advance their career skills and prepare for leadership roles.

“The curriculum covers a range of skills essential for modern professionals, including problem-solving, project management, and effective communication,”

The tutor explained that training the program integrates academic learning with practical work experience, offering a unique educational approach. It provides students with essential skills by exposing them to real-life work situations, enhancing their practical abilities.

“We are working on arranged internships, apprenticeships, and co-op positions, that will enable students to gain real-world experience in their fields of study, rather than students searching endlessly for negligibly relevant attachments on their own,” she revealed

22-year-old Jecinter Ciana studying Electrical Installation at the institution was of the opinion that the youth must stop taking a back seat and be at the forefront in promoting TVET as a key ingredient for economic transformation and job creation.

Ms Ciana challenged parents to champion Technical and Vocational Education and Training (TVET) courses to help their children acquire relevant skills favourable to the local and international labour markets.

She observed that technical training plays a vital role in strengthening the country’s economy.

Ms Ciana said parents should now focus more on courses offered in vocational training centres.

Mr David Kinuthia, pursuing a hairdressing and cosmetology course at the TVET, argued that technical and vocational training answers economic challenges such as unemployment.

He affirmed that the strength and future of a country’s economy depends on two major factors, the skills of its manpower and the production that comes from it. This, he added, can only be achieved through TVET, as it is the masterpiece of alleviating poverty and ushering in growth.

Mr Kinuthia said the time had come for institutions to offer training that is relevant in the market.

“TVET trainers must equip students with skills which will address what is needed in the industries and the local market,” said Mr Kinuthia

He noted that TVET trainers must know the linkage between them and the industries so that both know what is needed in the market.

“Kenyan TVET must continually work to churn out students who have relevant skills to work in industries or can be self-employed after completing their courses,” said Kinuthia

He said this was in line with Vision 2030 to ensure Kenya becomes one of the best-industrialized countries.

Wamboi Kuria, studying interior design, indicated that TVETs need to ensure their students have multi-skills. She said the linkage between TVET institutions and the public and private sectors would ensure there was a connection in curriculum development and internship opportunities.

“The responsibility for equipping young individuals with the essential skills they need to thrive, addressing the youth unemployment, and ensuring social-economic stability within the nation lies primarily with the education sector, notably TVET,” stated Ms Kuria

However, she maintained that it is equally vital for companies and business membership organizations to play their role in the skill development of the country’s youths.

“Only by shaping TVETs in partnership, can we collectively cultivate a competitive and employable workforce. This effort is not just a responsibility but also a vital interest for both companies and the nation as a whole,” noted Ms Kuria.

While noting that TVET linkage plays a vital role in bridging the gap between education and employment she stated there was need to improve the perception of TVET institutions and redeem their reputations as the ideal option for the youth to gain a meaningful education.

 By Emily Kadzo and Dennis Rasto

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