In the recent decade, the job market has significantly changed with employers desiring more than educational qualification for entry level workers. This can attributed to local and global trends and technologies that shape how businesses are run. The result of this is, a job market swamped with academically qualified graduates who have little to no understanding of the industry needs.
Every year, more than a million graduates from tertiary institutions in Kenya flood the job market. Despite so, the Kenya National Bureau and Statistics puts unemployment rate at 10.4%. A report done by the Aga Khan University East Africa Institute adds that youth leaving tertiary institutions and universities lack soft skills which creates a mismatch between their education and the job market. Employers have opted to either train the new workers or employ intermediate staff with some years of experience to meet the inadequacy.
The Kenyan education system has hit milestones since the country’s independence. We have evolved from book smart success to skill smart success as well. Learning from the past, we have discovered that informal jobs are as important as the white collared jobs. The two are co-dependent and are vital in growing the economy. A combination of skills and papers have proved to be more sought after by employers. Unfortunately, graduates are job hunting with either of the pair and not the two.
The Ministry of Education through the Technical and Vocational Education and Training (TVET) is addressing this challenge through one of its core mandate of developing a comprehensive curriculum. This is under the TVET Curriculum Development Assessment and Certification (CDACC), a corporate body established under the Technical and Vocational Education and Training (TVET) Act, No. 29 of 2013. The curricula developed embraces competency Based Education Training (CBET) system that ensures knowledge, skills and attitudes are implemented in the learning process.
The curriculum development process for CDACC can take a Training Needs and Assessment (TNA) report approach or an adapted occupational standards approach. In the TNA approach, the report informs the job analysis experts selected by the committee on the reality of the job market. This is to mean, the students that enroll in accredited CDACC courses are taught what is in line with the job market and as per their employer’s needs. The adapted occupational standards uses Knowledge, skills and behaviors required by employers that is taken through the industry stakeholders for verification and validation. The students not only attain hard skills necessary for the workforce but also soft skills that are vital for their interaction in their respective workplace.
As of now, CDACC has approved over 400 level 3, 4, 5, and 6 curricula in various TVET institutions across the Country. In level 3, the students attain semi-skills whereas, in level 4, the education they receive ensures that the students are fully skilled and capable of supervisory responsibilities. At level 5, the students are not only highly skilled but also are trained for management. Additionally, in level 6, the students receive professional knowledge and are capable of high level management.
The students certified under the CDACC curricula are market ready for self-employment or employment. The accredited courses are tailor made to meet the employer and market needs taking into account the dynamic nature of the industry.
These efforts correspond with the Big Four agenda that highly demands skilled workforce in both formal and informal employment. Local production of materials and labour is also highly encouraged with an aim of achieving affordable housing, universal health care, food security and manufacturing.
Kenya has the tools and the means to become an economic and industry giant. This is because it boasts of 75% youthful population putting us at the peak of productivity. For Kenya this means we have adequate labor force to meet the demands of industries and supply both goods and services to local and international market. Knowing this, it’s no doubt that the youth are the ticket to getting us there. In the pursuit of economic supremacy, it is our duty to ensure that the training they receive should always be market-focused and practical. In so doing, the skills, abilities and the energy of the youth will be optimally used for the good of our Country.
It is also by prioritizing skilling and upskilling of the youth that we move towards vision 2030. Whether the youth have received education or not, acquiring the relevant skills to prepare them for the industry is paramount for their future and the future of this Country. It’s in those skills that they will be empowered to create wealth for themselves, create opportunities for others and grow the economy all while they generate creative solutions to everyday problems. These skills become an invaluable possession they live with for years to come.
In the past, the process of acquiring skills was long and expensive. Long in the sense that a course could take months or even years to complete. This defied the youth preference of getting fast results over a shorter period of time. More so, the courses were rigid making it hard for the students to engage in other income generative activities. Acquiring skills proved to be expensive where students as students were required to pay the full tuition fee to attain their certificates which proved to be strenuous on the students.
CDACC addresses these challenges by offering short term classes for the approved courses. Students can now choose to do one core unit of a chosen course and upon completion, are awarded a competence certificate. Not only is this affordable and convenient for them, the certificate verifies their skills allowing them to seek employment or venture out on their own. To achieve the National qualification certificate, they would be required to finish both the core units and common units. On the cost of acquiring the skills, CDACC has also made acquiring skills affordable where students get to pay for the units they are undertaking thus easing the financial strain.
A short course approved by CDACC is a game changer for youth or anyone entering the job market. Students are assured that what they are taught is exactly what the employers or the client needs. Despite having no experience, they know the industry well enough to maneuver around it. More so, they are confident that their skills are enough in the ever changing job market.
The author is the Chief Administrative Secretary, Ministry of Education
By Hon. Zack Kinuthia
Chief Administrative Secretary, Ministry of Education, Republic of Kenya, State Department of Vocational and Technical Training.