Revitalizing Technical and Vocational Training in Kenya

Revitalizing Technical and Vocational Training in Kenya

Technical and Vocational Education and Training (TVET) constitutes any form of education, training and learning activity leading to the acquisition of practical knowledge, understanding and skills relevant for gainful economic engagement, both formal and informal. A quality and relevant TVET system is, therefore, critical for national economic growth and global competitiveness as well as holding a strategic position in effective implementation of Vision 2030 and the “Big Four” Agenda.

TVET dates to 1967 with the registration of the Kenya Polytechnic as a post-secondary education institution. Established by the Ministry of Education, its principle mandate was to offer training largely in the technical fields but later introduced social skills to complement technical knowledge with the practical society needs. With the increase in demand for technical skills, more technical colleges were established. They were run by the government, private sector, Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs), Faith-Based Organizations (FBOs) and other stakeholders through formal and informal training models.

This notwithstanding, the quality of TVET and its programmes have been negatively profiled. Most young people disregard technical and vocational education as they view it to be for low academic performers and lacking a clear framework of education advancement, therefore, leading to blue-collar jobs that are mostly menial. To change these social perspectives and unlock the potential of technical and vocational education in the country, the Ministry of Education has embarked on sector reforms and frequent campaigns to turn around the potential learners’ perspectives. Just like Finland, whose curriculum is structured to guarantee learners access to university and lifelong learning components, the government can focus on the same to ensure that learners proceed to further their studies.

To ensure reforms to revitalize the TVET sub-sector are achieved, the Government, through the Ministry of Education, has created and empowered various bodies. Recent reforms are intended to improve the curriculum, financing and quality of delivery in the sector. The Technical and Vocational Education and Training Authority (TVETA) was established under TVET Act No. 29 of 2013 with a mandate to regulate and coordinate training in the country through licensing, registration and accreditation of programs, institutions and trainers. In 2018, TVETA unveiled its new strategic plan for the period 2018-2022, which presents a renewed foundation towards achieving a modern and labour market-responsive TVET system for Kenya. The TVET Funding Board oversees disbursement of funds to TVET institutions while the Curriculum Development, Assessment and Certification Council addresses issues on syllabuses for the training institutions, examination, assessment and competence certification.

Further, the implementation of a Competence-Based Education and Training (CBET) curriculum is expected to allow for flexibility and responsiveness to the changing needs of the labour market. The CBET curriculum graduates will undertake structured and supervised practical activities in industry environment, which is expected to strengthen the link between skills learnt and the needs of the labour market. However, potential implementation challenges include inadequate and outdated physical infrastructure and equipment to support quality delivery of the curriculum requirement as well as lack of qualified trained professionals and managers familiar with the changing technological innovations required for effective delivery of the proposed curriculum. Therefore, fast tracking training of the current instructors as well as hiring additional qualified teaching personnel is essential for effective and efficient delivery of the CBET curriculum.

Other government interventions include increased public spending on technical education and training that averaged 4.2 per cent of total education spending between 2012/13-2018/19 (Figure 1a below). The budget increase in 2017/18 and 2018/19 is intended to facilitate recruitment and of training instructors, creation of new training institutes, ensuring that TVETA is certified, payment of capitation grants and assessing the development of the new curriculum. Moreover, all students joining TVET through Kenya Universities and Colleges Placement Service (KUCCPS) are eligible to Ksh 30,000 bursary each year and a government loan through Higher Education Loans Board (HELB) amounting to Ksh 40,000 per year. Part of the loan goes towards payment of tuition fee while part of it is given to the beneficiary student for upkeep. Further, beginning 1st July 2018, the TVET academic year fees reduced by 30 per cent from Ksh 92,000 to Ksh 56,420.

This notwithstanding, more funding is required given that the technical courses offered by the institutions are capital intensive and require high technology equipment and skilled trainers. Introduction of training levy for private sector and public partnerships to support skills development in Kenya has not been successful. Some East Asia countries such as Malaysia, Singapore and South Korea have successfully adopted policies that allow the government to collect revenue from firms and thereafter the firms can use these funds to train their workers. Although Kenya has a mandatory training levy of Ksh 50 per employee, most industries are not keen to register with Directorate of Industrial Training (DIT) and National Industrial Training Authority (NITA) since they view the levy as a tax. Moreover, most of the firms do not understand the process of seeking authority to train and thereafter seek reimbursement.

Figure 1a: TVET Financing Trend (Ksh), (2012-2018)  
Source:  Ministry of Education          


Figure 1b: TVET Enrolment Trend Source: Economic Survey, 2018 

The TVET has recorded remarkable upward trend in the enrolment rate over the last five years. According to the Kenya National Bureau of Statistics (KNBS), student enrollment in TVET doubled from 127,691 in 2012 to 275,139 in 2017 (Figure 1b). Male enrollment increased from 68,386 in 2012 to 125,291 in 2017 whereas female enrollment increased from 45,452 in 2012 to 101,356 in 2017. Furthermore, during the same period, the number of staff improved tremendously, and the trainers are now under a new scheme in the Public Service Commission. This is a measure by the Ministry of Education to improve the trainers’ professionalism, work environment and morale.
While the enrolment rate has increased, the number of female learners enrolling for Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics (STEM) subjects remains consistently low. According to the KNBS Statistical Abstract 2017, there has been an upward trend in registration of the Kenya Certificate of Secondary Education (KCSE) of the STEM subjects but still the number of female students is still much lower. For instance, the total number of female students undertaking science subjects such as physics in KCSE in 2016 were 43,186 while male students were 106,604. In addition, in 2016, subjects such as building and construction had 9 female and 223 male students; power mechanics had 4 female and 158 male students; and computer studies had 5,403 female and 7,551 male students.

 Big Four Agenda

The implementation of the Big Four Agenda has potentially increased demand for technical skills. Key skills are required in manufacturing, textile/apparel/cotton industry, leather, agro-processing, construction, oil, mining and gas, iron and steel, Information communication and Technology (ICT), fish processing, blue economy, medical engineering and technology among others. Other skilled workers required include welders, technicians, heavy and light machine operators, engineers, masonry, technologists, artisans, pipefitters and plumbers. The guaranteed demand for the skills offered by TVETs will provide an incentive of employability in the job market upon completion of the course.

The engineering field is one of the fields of study that are key in achieving the envisaged industrialization to make Kenya a middle-income country by 2030.Low level of registration to the engineering boards pose challenges on enforcement of rules and regulations as well as identification of training needs for the engineering profession. Until 2015, the engineer technologists and technicians were not registered nor recognized by Engineering Board of Kenya (EBK), resulting in low enrollment to these courses , which steer the engineering industry. Having few technical individuals in the specialty undermines the sector’s ability to meet the market skills mix target of 1:3:12:60 for engineers, technologists, technicians and artisans. Streamlining the systems will, therefore, encourage more students to pursue the courses.

To improve accessibility of technical education to all eligible students at national and local level, the government plans to set up technical institutions in every constituency and vocational centres at the ward level. TVETA has so far accredited 980 public and private institutions, with over 250 more awaiting accreditation and 180 institutions recommended for improvement. The establishment of TVET institutions in counties will enhanceequity with respect to gender, persons with disability, minority and marginalized groups. Achieving education and training for all will ensure productive employment, which is vital for economic and social development as well as acting as a tool for productivity enhancement and poverty reduction, especially in the rural areas.

The country lacks a skills inventory system that would provide information on the labour market needs. As such, the strategy to design, develop and implement an ICT-based TVET Management Information System (MIS) and eventually link it to the labour MIS will create an enabling environment for TVET to thrive irrespective of the learners’ geographical location. Through a robust labour market information system, the country will achieve optimum utilization of available human resources. This information will also be useful in allocating resources to education and training institutions while responding to the needs of the labour market and demand driven training to fill existing gaps. The TVET Management Information System (MIS) would also consist available skills in the country and future skills needs while guiding planners on the labour market skills requirements.

There is need to incorporate technical training at all levels of learning to equip learners with the prospective skills for employability irrespective of the level of education. Despite decades of efforts to ensure that every child gets into the classroom, the number of potential learners out of school remains high, with one out every five children, adolescents and youth globally unable to acquire education. In Sub-Saharan Africa, one in every three children, adolescents and youths is out of school. In Kenya, the Net Enrollment Rate (NER) in primary school in 2017 was 91 per cent while it was 51 per cent in secondary school. This indicates that 9 per cent of official primary school-age pupils and 49 per cent of official secondary school age students are out of school. Therefore, availability of vocational education training at all levels will equip the school leavers or dropouts with skills required for effective participation in the labour market and increase the training opportunities for the large number of school leavers.

The private sector support in determining the content of training as well as providing the work space for training should be enhanced for effective linking of technical training to the labour market. Partnerships are essential in complementing delivery of quality education and technical training. The private sector contributes over 70 per cent of formal employment but companies across sectors struggle with finding candidates suitable for job vacancies since some courses offered in TVET institutions inadequately meet the skills needs for the private sector. Despite the shortfalls, private sector participation in TVET is still low due to weak linkages with the industry. A country such as Germany has managed to achieve industrial success through strong linkage with private sector. Their Dual Vocational and Education Training (Dual VET) system has been successful in releasing graduates with the skills necessary for the work environment by emphasizing on learners spending 50 per cent of the training time under classroom instruction and the other 50 per cent in on-job-training environment.

The government and the private sector need to support technical education programmes’ monitoring and evaluation through adequate funding to ensure that the objectives are adequately met.In the State Department of Technical Education and Training, the unit in charge of central planning and project monitoring (CPPMU) works in liaison with the TVET county directors to monitor and evaluate delivery of TVET. Monitoring and evaluation plays a key role in ensuring that there is good management, accountability, transparency and internal organizational learning and development. Due to inadequate funds, the CPPMU has not been able to achieve its mandate. For instance, they were only able to produce five monitoring and evaluation reports for the 2016/17 and 2017/18 period against a target of eight.

Finally, the government will need to explore international partnerships and exchange programmes in delivery of technical education and training. Although there are supporting partners such as German Society for International Cooperation Limited (GIZ), Swedish International Development Agency (SIDA), and China Phase II initiative on training of trainers and TTIs equipping, the sector requires massive human and capital investment. More partners can be attracted to support the sector with popularization of TVET programmes. This can be achieved through linking technical education delivery and industry, improvement of quality standards, and ensuring efficiency and effectiveness in management and utilization of available resources.

By: Mercy Matwere and Mary Mwami, Young Professionals, Social Sector Department

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