Book singles out Tvet as the key towards solving high unemployment rate

Kisii National Polytechnic

A Kisii National Polytechnic student uses a tyre changing machine.

Photo credit: Ondari Ogega | Nation Media Group

What you need to know:

  • Authors address how Tvet provides solutions for the country’s major issues, especially the Big Four agenda.
  • Book advices Tvet managers to do a market scan of the most preferred courses for the job market and offer them.

The skills gap in Kenya’s education sector calls for major reforms, reforms that will see youths in Technical and Vocational Education Training (Tvet) institutions trained in skills that enable self-employ or access to marketable jobs globally.

In a new book titled, How to make Tvet Work for Kenya, CAP Youth Empowerment Institute executive director, Ndung’u Kahihu, Dr Nalini Gangadharan and Prof Charles Ondieki, say the Tvet sector is a key industry that could help solve the high employment rate in the country.

According to the authors, a functioning, dynamic and responsive Tvet system is able to predict the massive need for skills in sectors such as food production and infrastructure development and quickly organise itself to offer them.

Millions of Kenya’s youth remain unemployed despite possessing skills and knowledge through training in colleges and universities. According to the 2019 National Census, Kenya had a population of 47.5 million people with 14 million of them being youths aged between 18 and 35 years.

“Unfortunately, there are many indications that Kenya is failing to harness this valuable generational resource to drive national economic and social development. For instance, some reports have shown that as much as 34 percent of Kenya’s youth, aged between 15 and 35 years, are either unemployed or under-employed. That is a massive waste of human talent,” reads an extract from the book.

Speaking during its launch a week ago, Mr Ndung’u said his organisation has, in the last 10 years, carried out an experiment to show that it is possible to reform the Tvet sector and achieve a system of training that produces graduates who the industry will be willing to hire.

“So this book is a challenge, what if we could enrol five million young people with skills and aptitude that employers actually want to employ? What if we could equip young people with skills to build the businesses that would solve the problems that we have today?” he posed.

The authors address how Tvet provides solutions for the country’s major issues, especially the Big Four agenda, curriculum designs that need to be implemented in the institutions and share ideas for sustaining the Tvet sector.

The Tvet training in the country has had its share of challenges as many colleges and universities that were previously set up to exclusively offer technical courses slowly drifted toward offering academic, mostly theoretical programmes that were cheaper and easier to do.

Kisii National Polytechnic

An electrical engineering student is taken through a practical lesson at Kisii National Polytechnic.

Photo credit: Ondari Ogega | Nation Media Group

“Village polytechnics were also largely ignored and the dream of having one in every village abandoned, technical high schools were converted into colleges that could offer any course, and national polytechnics became universities,” the authors observe.

They argue that over the years, government investment priorities shifted from technical education to basic and university education. The free education programmes also created a massive learning wave, which, under better conditions would have offered a pipeline to technical skills training had the TVET system not been dismantled at about the same time.

The book argues that these policies have negatively affected the country and led to low number of students joining technical training in the country. In response, the system tried to cope with these numbers through a massive expansion in college and university programmes.

“By 2015, Kenya was enrolling more young men and women into these university programmes than in all TVET programmes combined,” reads the book.

The government has invested heavily in the Tvet sector since 2017 and has since introduced the CBET whose purpose is to give effect to the Tvet sector reforms and investment by changing the way technical skills design, delivery and assessment are done. The authors have also called for a change of attitude and perceptions of the public towards Tvet.

“This could start by creating opportunities through recognition and exposure to celebrate Tvet achievements at different levels.”

On gender disparity in Tvet enrolment, the book reveals that more men join the sector than women. According to Ministry of Education data, only 44 per cent of the total enrolment are female. Many of those who report also end up dropping out at a much higher rate than their male counterparts.

“Even when they complete training, many young women end up facing such barriers as market hostility in a society that still perceives technical education as a male domain,” reads the book.

The book advices Tvet managers to do a market scan of the most preferred courses for the job market and offer them.