The construction and equipping of 130 technical institutes across the country are almost complete and education programmes would soon be rolled out, Deputy President William Ruto has said.
The construction projects which started two years ago at the end will have consumed Sh5.3billion as the government moves to encourage youths to join the institutions for technical skills.
“The prioritization of the development of technical and vocational training is aimed at meeting the needs of Kenyan youth in the job market,” said Mr Ruto.
At the moment there are 50 technical institutes with a capacity of 50,000 but the update has been poor with about 12,000 applying to join the institutions last year.
Mr Ruto said there was shortage of skilled Kenyans and Africans in general to move up the value chain and those who had, it did not match the opportunities in the market.
“These are not, of course, the only hindrances, but they are problems we must solve if we are to prosper,” said the Deputy President.
He said the county has put in place a number of strategies to strengthen the infrastructure and systems for technical and vocational education in the country.
Speaking during the official opening of the 4th partnership for Skills in Applied Sciences, Engineering and Technology (PASET) forum at Safari Park Hotel on Wednesday, Mr Ruto said prioritising technical education remains key to attaining the development needs of the country.
“We, for our part, upon assessing our development needs, and in the spirit of reaching out to our youth, believe it is right to prioritize technical and vocational training,” said Mr Ruto.
The project is an initiative of the World Bank, together with China, Korea, Japan, India and Brazil and nine African countries.
Since its inception in 2013, the organisation has held similar meetings in Ethiopia, Rwanda, and Senegal.
Mr Ruto said Kenya has also developed a competency-based education and training approach;improved infrastructure and training equipment in TVET Institutions; and integrated ICT and Technology in technical and vocational education and training.
“This is only the beginning. We’re working with the World Bank to strengthen technical and vocational education and training in Kenya,” said Mr Ruto.
“In addition, university education as well as academic fields critical to our development agenda, has been considered for support under our partnership with the World Bank,” he added.
He said the project was set up to promote sustainable development and prosperity of participating nations.
“Right across Africa, we see that the continent is on the rise. Incomes are growing; conflicts are ending; Africa’s diligence and innovation is starting to find its proper reward,” said Mr Ruto.
“Kenya hasn’t been left behind: we can look back on a decade of steady growth, and an even longer history of expanding freedoms. But we have not yet achieved the prosperity that our people deserve — not in Kenya, and not in Africa,” he added.
He said a critical review of the academic programmes offered by our universities shows that there are many more opportunities for students to study the arts, humanities and the social sciences, than there are opportunities to study the applied sciences, engineering and technology.
“Both sides of that divide have much to contribute to our development, but an over-emphasis on one side clearly hinders our development,” he said.
He said the trend has deeply affected the employability of graduates, since the market is saturated with degree-level graduates, at the expense of middle level graduates that would have relevant skills and competencies.
“The paradox is that while there has been a great concern on the high percentage of unemployed degree level graduates, there has also been concern about the limitations experienced by the labour market in identifying and employing an adequate number of middle-level skilled graduates to meet its demands,” said Mr Ruto.
Education Cabinet Secretary Fred Matiang’i said the government will continue to put more emphasis on the development of technical education.
Dr Matiang’i said the move by the Government to establish technical training institutes in every constituency was the only way to achieving the much-needed skills for the development of the country.
According to Higher Education Loans Board (HELB) Chief executive officer Charles Ringera, the perception that the TVET sector is for those who failed to go to university is a big issue which calls for a radical change in the narrative as a nation.
Moi University lecturer Okumu Bigambo observed that education is for knowledge empowerment not necessarily for employment.
“TVET is a viable area as it provides middle level knowledge, brains that can handle general issues, degrees are about super level of society,” said Dr Bigambo.
Education expert Andiwo Obondo said the change of strategy is important noting that the country needs technocrats who can run the economy.
However, he said equipping and retraining of technical teachers is critical for the success of the initiative.
“The government need to provide more scholarship and funding to students who wish to join TVET just the way it’s doing to university students,” said Mr Obondo.