A Korean institute has signed an agreement with a Kenyan University to train thousands of youths on various maritime courses.
The pact signed between Korea Institute of Maritime and Fisheries Technology (KIMFT) and The Pioneer International University, will see thousands of trained Kenyans get jobs in the Korean Maritime industry.
Signing the pact at Pioneer University Murang’a branch, on Saturday, KIMFT president Prof Park Jinsoo said they are seeking to train more than 400, 000 Kenyans on both short- and long-term courses.
According to the Korean Maritime industry, Jinsoo said there was a shortage of seafarers among other maritime workers noting that the training will see thousands of Kenyans secure jobs in his country.
South Korea with a population of over 51 million people in the recent past has been struggling with chronic shortages of skilled workers in blue-collar jobs as most Koreans prefer white-collar jobs.
The professor noted that there are many possibilities and opportunities for Kenya to work together with Korea in terms of the Maritime industry.
According to Korean government statistics, the count of national seafarers plummeted from 58,818 in 2000 to 38,758 in 2010 and further declined to 31,867 last year.
This represents a nearly 50 percent decrease over 22 years with Jinsoo adding that the national seafarer population is aging, with 44 percent being 60 or older.
He said South Korea needs qualified workers and that through the partnership, Kenyans will be trained and helped to get jobs in the Korean maritime and shipping industry.
In Korea, Jinsoo noted, seafarers have a considerable turnover rate, as 78 percent of graduates from maritime colleges, universities, or vocational schools have transitioned to land-based jobs within five years.
“In efforts to address the decreasing number of seafarers in Korea, the government is seeking to hire more than 400,000 Kenyans trained in the sector.” Added the professor.
Jinsoo observed that South Korea was one of the poorest countries in the world decades ago but managed to rise to a middle-level economy in the 1990s.
“This partnership will provide a chance for my country to share its experiences with the university and the Kenyan government for the benefit of Kenyans.” He added.
Pioneer International University’s vice chancellor Prof Gideon Maina said the partnership stemmed from his visit to the Asian country last month on a benchmarking tour on the blue economy.
Maina divulged that during his visit, he met members of the Korean Ship Owners Association which brings together over 300 ships.
“The chairperson gave me an assurance that the association will be recruiting trained Kenyans for the next five years,” He said.
Maina noted, “our university has been offering a short Standards of Training, Certification, and Watch-keeping (STCW) course in its Murang’a campus that is required for anybody seeking employment in a yacht or ship.”
He explained the course that lasts about seven days is globally administered and ensures a lateral standard of training is achieved across all countries, and is approved by the International Maritime Organization (IMO).
Maina revealed that Pioneer International University graduates about 10 students each week for the short course.
“As such, the university is now planning to roll out a Bachelor of Science in Maritime Engineering and Bachelor of Science in Maritime Transport next year.” He further said.
On his part, Pioneer International University Chancellor Dr. Peter Munga called upon young Kenyans to take up the opportunities and break the vicious cycle of poverty in many families noting that the starting salary is over Sh.100, 000 in low cadre jobs such as security guards in the maritime sector.
He said that it is his expectation that the partnership will also bring the transformation of Pioneer International University being the only private university training on maritime courses in the country
Munga added that the university is venturing into a course that no other private university in the East African region has charted, especially in training maritime engineers.
“Pioneer University also plans to start offering a Korean language course to ensure those who access jobs in the Asian country are able to easily adapt.” Noted the Chancellor.
By Bernard Munyao