Nakuru County government has pumped over Sh2.5 billion into revamping vocational training centres and youth polytechnics in 11 sub-counties through conditional grants and support by the devolved unit.
Governor Lee Kinyanjui stated that his administration had recruited over 20 vocational training instructors and introduced modern courses such as entrepreneurship, Information Communication Technology, leatherwork, agribusiness, and accounting in its polytechnics to increase the efficiency and appeal of the vocational institutions.
He said his administration had set aside a further Sh164 million towards youth empowerment initiatives including upgrading facilities at the County’s Vocational Training Centres (VTCs) with the aim of meeting required standards and attracting more youth enrolment.
“Our goal is to have more young people enroll in various courses not offered professionally at the University level. Strengthening the collaborative linkages between the county government and the private sector is one of the most effective ways of driving the youth polytechnics and Technical Vocational Education Training Institutes (TVETs) agenda as students can be exposed to the real world of industry and business,” stated Mr. Kinyanjui.
The governor termed as detrimental the move to convert technical institutes and polytechnics into constituent university colleges or full- fledged universities, saying this was undermining technological development.
He said the devolved unit had entered into public-private partnerships with various industries and companies toward improving industrial attachment for both the trainees and the instructors so that they can learn, appreciate, and be updated about modern technology in industries.
Speaking at Kinamba Polytechnic in Biashara Ward within Naivasha Sub-County when he commissioned a solar-powered water supply system and delivered workshop machinery and furniture, Governor Kinyanjui said his administration is committed to equipping the youth with the necessary and right skills that can help fight the high rate of unemployment and take part in the national government’s Big Four agenda.
He revealed that Nakuru has 24 youth polytechnics spread across the county that offer various courses, with over 3,000 youth enrolled in various disciplines under tutelage of approximately 210 youth instructors.
“The infrastructure in these institutions has been undergoing massive improvement and expansion. Learning resources have also been increased, updated, and fully utilized.
Leadership and management of human and financial resources is being enhanced through continuous audit as well as robust capacity-building of the managers and the instructors,” noted Governor Kinyanjui.
He observed that the county government and its partners were supporting the youth polytechnics to initiate income-generating activities so that they become self-reliant and models of inculcating practical lessons in project management.
“For the country to realise its Big 4 agenda on food security, affordable housing, manufacturing and affordable healthcare, men and women must be equipped with the right skills. We are still exploring avenues of having a national polytechnic in Nakuru and establishing more digital centres to equip the youth with skills,” Kinyanjui said.
He urged the youth to enroll in polytechnics and technical vocational training institutions to acquire market-driven skills so that they can take part in the multi-million development projects available at industrial parks at Naivasha and Salgaa, and affordable housing and the dry port in Naivasha.
According to the Technical Vocational Education and Training Authority, there are two accredited public TVET institutions in the county. These are Dairy Training Institute in Naivasha and the Rift Valley Institute of Science and Technology in Njoro.
Mr. Kinyanjui said the devolved unit had also initiated building and staffing of additional Technical Vocational Education Training Institutes (TVETS) in Naivasha, Molo and Bahati sub-counties while working on collaborations to develop research and revitalize the textile industry in Nakuru County.
So far, the County government has embarked on an ambitious plan to establish information and communications technology innovation hubs in each of the 11 sub-counties by 2022. In collaboration with various partners, it has set up innovation hubs in Subukia and Kuresoi South sub-counties.
The Governor said his administration was working on a partnership with several private companies aimed at equipping students in the polytechnics and TVETs with hands-on skills in an industry setting during their time of study.
Mr. Kinyanjui indicated that the venture was geared towards bridging skills gap among TVET graduates by ensuring that students spend at least 50 percent of their training course working with relevant industries.
“We are exploring 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. Kinyanjui 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.
“I believe that building up such a TVET ecosystem in Kenya can provide concrete job opportunities for young Kenyans as well,” he observed.
The private sector, the Governor noted, 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 and the reality at industry.
The private sector, stated Mr. Kinyanjui, can partner with tertiary institutions to develop specialized short-term practical courses, for example, on entrepreneurship, to further sharpen graduates’ business skills.
“My administration is keen to forge partnerships with the private sector in areas of research with emphasis on the changing market environment and consumer trends. This will build a valuable knowledge base that private sector and the county government can leverage to improve technical training and solve real economic problems,” Governor Kinyanjui said.
He observed that the National Government had rolled out new technical and vocational courses as it began to implement the Competence-Based Education and Training (CBET) policy framework aimed at delivering industry responsive skills.
The governor emphasised 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.
“CBET concept entails the involvement of industry in all aspects of training. This will include development of occupational standards, training programmes, facilitation of training as well as assessment. We are keen on entrenching CBET in our systems,” said Mr. Kinyanjui.
He stated that the world over the labour market was transitioning 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 expressed concern that there was a growing shortage of technicians and artisans in the country and noted that in order to achieve the Kenya Vision 2030, the country needs 90,000 technicians and over 400,000 artisans to plug the current shortage.
“We boast of having an educated youth, whose glossy academic qualifications are a mismatch with practical industry needs. Our educational institutions are churning out more quantity surveyors, engineers and architects against a backdrop of a growing worrisome shortage of vocational skills and competencies such as plumbing, electrical installation, welding, brick laying, painting, carpentry, tailoring among others. If we go on like this we will start bringing in expatriate artisans and craftsmen,” Kinyanjui said.
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.
Mr. Kinyanjui 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 masterpiece to alleviate poverty and usher in growth,” he said.
By Anne Mwale and Mercy Syombua