Education and training are considered fundamental to the social transformation envisaged under the social pillar of the Kenya Vision 2030. In this context, the Kenyan and German governments have initiated the Kenyan-German Technical and Vocational Education and Training (TVET) Initiative (KGTI) to boost youth employment through high-quality technical and vocational training for Kenyan youth.
- SDG: #4, #8, #9, #17
- COUNTRIES: Kenya
- DONOR: KFW Development Bank
- CLIENT: KFW
- CONTRACT VALUE: EUR 3,657,280
- DURATION: 09.09.20 - 30.09.24
Technical training in Kenya: from negative perceptions to a booming sector
Education and training are fundamental to social transformation envisaged in the Kenya Vision 2030, a vehicle for accelerating transformation of the country into a rapidly industrialising middle-income nation. In this context, over five years ago, the Kenyan and German governments initiated the Kenyan-German Technical and Vocational Education and Training (TVET) Initiative (KGTI) to boost youth employment through high-quality technical and vocational training for Kenyan youths. KGTI has many components implemented by different actors, one of which is focused on transforming three TVET institutes into Centres of Excellence (CoE). NIRAS takes the lead on this four-year €23-million pilot project (CoE for Cooperative Training), which involves school construction and procurement of equipment, training and scholarships as well as engagement of the private sector. The goal is to support Kenyan youth in successfully completing market-responsive training at these newly established CoE that specialise in cooperative vocational education.
CoE for Cooperative Training is adopting to a large extent the dual training model from Germany and applying it in Kenya where 50% of the diploma course is trained in the industry and 50% at the technical training colleges. As management consultant for Phase 1, NIRAS is supporting the Ministry of Education in the implementation of this project in three TVET colleges, each focussed on a unique occupation: Thika Technical Training Institute (TTI) will be a CoE for automotive bodybuilding and welding, Nairobi TTI will cover automotive mechatronics, and Kiambu Institute of Science and Technology will focus on industrial mechatronics.
NIRAS takes the lead on this four-year €23-million pilot project (CoE for Cooperative Training). The goal is to support Kenyan youth in successfully completing market-responsive training at these newly established CoE that specialise in cooperative vocational education.
Of the diploma course is trained in the industry
At the technical training colleges
A long history of vocational education
Formal skills training in Kenya dates back to 1924 when the Native Industrial Training Deport was established at Kabete in Nairobi. Later, Catholic missionaries established trade schools in Kaiboi and Mawego, followed by the Government establishment of Thika, Meru, Machakos and Sigalagala technical secondary schools, which offered 2-year post-primary artisan training. Following independence, these became national technical secondary schools and – in 1985 – were upgraded to TTIs under the 8-4-4 system of education.
While strong on skills training at the primary level, this system failed to give the same degree of recognition or importance to the tertiary level. In addition, during the 1980s, the mushrooming of colleges offering lower quality training went unregulated. As a result, the TVET sector was seen as a back-up option for those who did not make it to university rather than as a pathway to skills acquisition. This meant less funding and a poor public image for the sector, which inadvertently led to reduced demand for TVET institutions among trainees.
The promise of technical training
Europe and the United States have traditionally invested heavily in technical training and are currently leading the way in TVET both for industrialisation and skills for the future. Norway, Switzerland, Germany, and Finland in particular prioritise technical training due to its impact on employment rates and contribution to the economy. In Switzerland, on-the job training and securing employability is considered a “gold standard.”
Kenya has taken note of these developments. Following the 2010 promulgation of its Constitution, the Kenyan Government started the journey of reforming the sector and a regulator Technical and Vocational Education and Training Authority (TVETA) was created leading to the TVET Act of 2013 that guided reforms and legislation and acknowledged TVET’s role as the next frontier for job creation, entrepreneurship, and economic take-off. To prepare for rapid industrialisation and national development as part of its Vision 2030, Kenya has committed to apply effective human resource development strategies to train and modernise its technical workforce.
As a result, the TVET sector in Kenya is growing rapidly. Currently, there are two technical universities and ten national polytechnics. The country has a target of constructing and opening at least one TTI in each of the 290 constituencies, of which 200 are already constructed and being equipped with modern training equipment. The Kenya Universities and Colleges Central Placement Service (KUCCPS) is now centralising and coordinating enrolment of trainees to TVET colleges by giving these colleges the same level of prestige and acknowledgement accorded to universities. For each student enrolled, TTIs receive Kes 26,000 (about €189) per year in government funding. On the other hand, vocational technical centres (VTCs) which are lower level colleges at the ward level mainly providing trade courses are not accredited at the same level and hence receive lower annual subsidies of Kes 15,000 (about €109) per student. With 3,000 new trainees being onboarded, there has never been a better time for TVET in the country.
Currently, there are two technical universities and ten national polytechnics. The country has a target of constructing and opening at least one TTI in each of the 290 constituencies, of which 200 are already constructed and being equipped with modern training equipment.
TTIs government funding per year
VTCs receive lower annual subsidies
The TVET sector has numerous benefits for Kenya as outlined below:
- Cost-efficiency. TVET institutions are known to be less expensive than attending a college or university and provide greater access to education to lower income groups
- Specialised programmes. In collaboration with the private sector, TVET institutions can design tailor-made customized programmes that meet the needs of industry, for instance, tailored training to cover a new skill or upgraded machinery.
- Practical experience. The skills training is practical even with limited or outdated equipment in some TTIs. When the sector was fragmented, some multinationals like Toyota Kenya and Coca Cola took their own initiative to open training centres, recruited diploma holders and put them through a 2-year in service training to upskill them. This training is now offered in partnership with TVET institutions through dual training programmes
- Flexibility. Training today at TVET institutions is modulated, meaning trainees do not have to study for three consecutive years as it is competency-based. This means the learning areas or the competence to be acquired for a specific skill is identified and the learner has to master the same by doing. Hence, students can select and learn the competencies they require for their work within a limited period and upgrade as necessary.
- Competency based. In 2013, the TVET act shifted training from objective to competency-based training, which better prepares learners for the real workplace. It focuses on what the learner “should do” at the end of the learning experience. The learning competence is carefully identified by industry sector boards, criteria and conditions for assessing learners are set, and learners’ progress through the instructional programme is recorded, forming part of the assessment.
- Rapid deployment. Due to the nature of practical training, TVET graduates are more easily employed as their training is tailored to the industry as opposed to their counterparts from universities
- Well-paying career opportunities. Some of the skills paying well today are covered in TTIs and include plumbing, welding, product engineers, technicians, and artisans in different fields especially in manufacturing, Information technology and automotive engineering
Still some way to go, but solutions being rolled out
Despite the above benefits, the TVET sector in Kenya still faces some critical challenges that need to be addressed in the ongoing reforms. Probably the most critical is inadequate financing resulting in poor infrastructure and learning materials. Due to limited government funds, most TVET institutions have outdated equipment and facilities, which are insufficient to train for 21st century skills and meet industry demands. The Kenyan Government is mobilising funds from development partners to fund the sector, and projects like CoE for Cooperative Training will make a big difference. The project is building state-of-the-art workshops for new occupations, procuring equipment and machinery for the workshops, upgrading ICT both for teaching and learning as well as school management, and building the capacity of trainers in three TTIs in Thika, Kiambu and Nairobi.
Although the TVET sector is booming and its image has improved, negative perceptions persist. More public awareness is needed to enable a mind shift for parents/guardians and learners to embrace TVET as a viable training pathway. The introduction of competency-based education and training, which emphasizes the acquisition of competencies to perform tasks required in a job, is aiding the change of perception. The CoE for Cooperative Training project is also tackling this challenge by focusing on the marketing and branding of the new CoEs for industrial mechatronics, automotive mechatronics, and autobody building and welding. The initiative aims to improve the image of both these professions and the TTIs that train for them, and a particular effort is being made to attract more young women to these courses. As part of this effort, the project team has developed program cards – marketing brochures for each occupation that includes the jobs and cooperating companies – marketing and branding plans for each TTI, and improved social media platforms to engage with young people making use videos from graduates and trainers.
Another critical challenge facing the industry is the low capacity of TVET trainers. Most have not had an opportunity for upskilling or industry exposure and are therefore not motivated to explore new skills. The recent rebranding of Kenya Technical Trainers' College to the Kenya School of TVET aims to ensure coordinated capacity building and upskilling of TVET trainers. In partnership with GIZ responsible for technical cooperation under CoE for Cooperative Training, trainers from the school (at least 12 per TTI) have undergone both pedagogical training on how to deliver competency-based education and training through the Delegation of German Industry and Commerce for Eastern Africa (AHK) as well as technical training through German companies and service providers. The project has partner schools in Germany and 24 trainers (8 trainers each from the 3 TTIs) have undergone a two-week training and exposure visit. In addition, these partner schools are sending experts to Kenya to continue with the training. The CoE for Cooperative Training project team also has occupation experts who will also build their capacity specifically in all the machines and equipment being procured to ensure sustainability.
The final hurdle facing the TVET sector is industry’s low participation in training. For many years, TVET trainees have gone for industrial attachment for only three months of their course, and the industry has not played a major role in their assessment or curriculum development. This perpetuates a skills mismatch between what the TTIs are training and what the industry needs, resulting in high unemployment rates. To address this, the CoE for Cooperative Training project has introduced dual training so trainees can seamlessly transition to becoming employees. The competency-based curriculum has been developed with the industry who provide the occupational standards. Each TTI has 8 to 15 cooperating companies with in-company trainers trained also by GIZ to handle the industry blocks. The industries are responsible for the full training and continuous assessment of their blocks.
The first cohort is due to graduate in April 2023 but most of the trainees are already booked by the cooperating companies. During the world Skills Day-Africa, an annual world skills competition for TVET institutions where they show case innovations like in robotics, pneumatics, amongst other technological innovations, three trainees from Kiambu Institute of Science and Technology (KIST) were ranked 3rd after emerging winners in Kenya. This is undoubtedly a proof of concept that dual training is the way to go.
This article is written by the Deputy Team Leader (Grace Karanja) and the Project Director (Florence Gatome) for the KFW TVET Project implemented by NIRAS Africa.
Read more about the Kenya TVET project