Technical and Vocational Training are Vital - By Dr. Aron Datta. Published on The Daily Nation on Wednesday, June 25, 2014
On June 10, you published a thought-provoking article by a Mr Wilson Mutuma in which he argued that the country needs to focus more on tertiary education to get the skilled manpower required to fulfill the objectives of Vision 2030.
According to the blueprint, “the economic, social and political pillars are anchored on science, technology and innovation”.
But contrary to the premise on which Mr Mutuma makes his arguments, even in the past, several international agencies have been working on developing vocational education in Kenya and other parts of the developing world.
In 2004, a study titled Skills Development in Sub-Saharan Africa was conducted by the World Bank on Technical and Vocational Education and Training (TVET), whose broad objective was to fight unemployment.
International donors supported TVET in the 1990s. French assistance to African countries in 2000 alone was $30 million. The Danish International Development Agency assisted with $120 million. The Swiss Government spent $50 million, while the African Development Bank helped with technical assistance.
But the donors later shifted support from projects to programmes, ostensibly because “too many development initiatives were failing shortly after the implementation phase”.
Based on the experiences of 19 countries, including three in Africa, a document titled Vocational Education and Training Reform examined the difficulties faced in implementing the vocational training policies.
Among the themes highlighted was “mismatch between training and jobs”. It was felt that there was a strong need to link training and employment by combining practical skills with conceptual understanding.
"HOTBED FOR INNOVATION"
There is no doubt that middle level vocational training colleges are badly required in Kenya. However, we need to understand the reason for the high levels of unemployment, even among vocationally trained people.
On various forums, employers and manufacturers complain of the quality of such graduates.
According to the web page of the Government of Netherlands, they are attempting to close the gap between education and industry. “Education should be a hotbed for innovation and ambitious enterprise.”
One in eight persons working in The Netherlands is an entrepreneur. Among the steps taken to link education to the needs of enterprise, is incorporating entrepreneurship in the curriculum. Students with negotiating skills and with an insight in the markets are likely to succeed in businesses.
Today, technology is changing fast. Even if the best know-how is imparted to students, it becomes outdated soon. There is a need to inculcate an attitude of continuous learning.
It is good to know how other countries are tackling these issues. But we have our own peculiarities and we have to find out what works best for us.
We need to find out what the potential employers are looking for and what entrepreneurship skills are relevant today. We can, then, adjust the curricula at different levels.
Dr Datta is a lecturer at Technical University of Kenya, Nairobi (firstname.lastname@example.org)