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TVETs told to commercialize innovations to generate income

State Department for Technical and Vocational Education and Training (TVET) Principal Secretary Esther Mworia has urged technical training institutions to embrace innovation as one way to boost skills development. (Stated that research holds the key to unlocking the country’s industrial potential)

Dr Mworia challenged Technical and Vocational Education and Training (TVET) institutes to commercialise innovations invented by their students and tutors to enable them tap their full potential generating revenue.

The PS said the national government will deploy 3,000 newly hired instructors to TVETs across the country adding that the state was crafting policies and guidelines to enable TVETs create endowment funds that will provide the institutions with money to ramp up their research facilities and also invest in the market for additional revenue.

She urged students and instructors at TVETs to forge powerful collaborations with the business sector to translate research findings into industrial resources to create wealth and jobs.

To achieve this, she said TVETs should deliberately march towards becoming the springboards of economic development in the country.

“Our TVETs need to play a more proactive role in supporting an innovation ecosystem, especially through recognition of innovation that can be patented.

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

Dr Mworia noted that the future of TVETs in the country was promising as the sector has embarked on various reforms, among them the establishment of the new Competence Based Education and Training (CBET) curriculum.

“The CBET curriculum is developed to respond to current labour market demands and quick evolution of technology to solve the issue of unemployment in the country. The government started by building the capacity of tutors at the Kenya Technical Training College (KTTC) so that they can be well equipped to roll out a massive pre-service and in-serving training programme for all trainers,” Dr Mworia said.

She urged TVET boards of governors to source for grants and sponsorship for top innovators in their respective institutions to fund inventions.

Speaking during the Rift Valley Institute of Science and Technology’s (RVIST) sixteenth graduation ceremony, the PS observed that TVETs carry a weighty responsibility as a catalyst for socio-economic development through the creation of new knowledge, research and innovation, incubation and entrepreneurship, and the eventual commercialisation of outputs emanating from these initiatives.

Dr Mworia said it is vital and urgent that Kenyan institutions endeavour to inculcate an entrepreneurial mindset among students to not only make them ready for the job market, but more importantly to catalyse a paradigm shift from seeking formal employment to being job-creators and employers by utilising their creative and innovative abilities.

During the ceremony that was held at RVIST’s main campus at Ngata in Rongai Sub-County 2,900 graduands were awarded with artisan, craft certificates, diplomas and higher national diplomas.

Acknowledging that science, technology and innovations are major drivers and enablers of social and economic transformation, the PS pointed out that applying knowledge and innovation is necessary to attain sustainable economic growth and competitiveness.

She said this reality is urgent in case of emerging challenges such as the Covid-19 pandemic and its adverse effects on the social and economic fabric of the country and negative impact of climate change.

Dr Mworia noted that research accelerates innovation adding that countries that embrace it have secured a favourable position in a knowledge-intensive, globally competitive marketplace.

The PS indicated that innovative technologies incubated in research labs and businesses should focus on the key sectors of the economy, among them agriculture, tourism, ICT, and manufacturing.

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,” Dr Mworia stressed.

She advised TVETs to put in place innovation entrepreneurship and technology hubs to mentor and incubate innovators.

The PS 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, she said, would bridge skills gap 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 a 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,” Mworia said.

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

RVIST Chief Principal  Sammy Chemoiwa said the institute had scaled up research and innovation to roll out solar and geothermal energy solutions for domestic, commercial and industrial needs.

He noted that renewable energy was a key pillar in supporting Africa’s economic development and digital transformation.

“We are envisioning a future where RVIST will be one of the industry leaders in the development and management of renewable energy projects in the region with a particular emphasis on Kenya, Uganda, and Tanzania,” noted Mr Chemoiwa.

Mr Chemoiwa 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 said 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 Jane Ngugi and Dennis Rasto

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