The construction sector is one of the fastest-growing economic sectors in Kenya and is likely to become even more important in the future. Kenya has a young population; about 60% are between 18 and 35 years old. With a dynamic private sector, a growing middle class and increasing entrepreneurship, the demand for houses, business centres and infrastructure is constantly increasing. Both a dynamic private sector and a growing entrepreneurial middle class exist. However, there is a lack of skilled labour to meet this growing demand. The Technical and Vocational Education and Training system is undergoing a major overhaul and there is a shift towards workplace-based learning.
To learn about the Swiss model of dual VET and how it can be adapted to the Kenyan context, a distinguished delegation with representatives from the construction sector and Kenyan training institutions recently travelled to Switzerland. The CEOs and managing directors of electrical and plumbing engineering companies, as well as technical education institutes, were able to get a first-hand impression of the model in various presentations by Swiss industry associations, educational institutions and vocational schools, and during visits to SMEs and multinational companies (see pictures above). They gained important insights into how theory in school and in-company training can be combined and sustainably anchored in Kenya.
"We need qualified young people in Kenya because the country is growing right now and there are many construction sites. Both the will to learn and the need for tradespeople is very high. We are offering young people a chance to get out of poverty."
Mr Manminder Sing Jandu, CEO of Allied Plumbers Limited Kenya
Although a framework for apprenticeship training was recently adopted in Kenya, progress remains slow. As the industry has not been very involved in curriculum development, training centres are limited in their ability to tailor their offer to the needs of the market. In addition, trainers lack the pedagogical skills and professional experience to deliver relevant training. As a result, the skills of graduates do not yet meet the expectations of employers, and companies have difficulty finding well-qualified skilled workers.
This is where the recently launched project, which is currently still in its initial phase, comes in: A joint dual training concept of public and private partners with Kenyan and selected multinational companies is to lay the foundations for aspiring plumbers and electricians to acquire the qualifications that will make them sought-after professionals. The companies should be the ones responsible for defining which competencies are relevant for practising the profession of an electrician or plumbing technician. Most of the skills are taught on the job at the workplace, but they are substantiated with appropriate theory at school and practised together at the inter-company courses. This gives young workers access to jobs and allows them to earn a higher income. At the same time, employers will benefit from the services of better educated and more productive workers.
"My biggest difficulty so far has been to convince the industry people to take on an apprentice from our school. Now I have some know-how and can explain how and why these synergies are important. It makes my work a little easier."
Mr Patrick Maina Githinji, Project Manager/Deputy Principal Academic, Eastlands College of Technology, Nairobi
The Kenyan delegation was impressed by its visit to Swiss companies and schools and is positive about the future cooperation between employers and training institutions in Kenya. The next step is to develop a concrete Kenyan model for the implementation of dual vocational training for electricians and plumbing engineers with the local partners in order to start with the first apprenticeship training cycle as soon as possible.
The project to improve the vocational skills of young people in Kenya is financed by the Hilti Foundation. It is part of the Swisscontact Development Programme, which is co-financed by SDC (Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation, Federal Department of Foreign Affairs FDFA).