Kenya has about 500 youth polytechnics in total and is ambitiously pursuing a policy that will see setting up of at least one polytechnic in each county in an effort to train more artisans. While it is ambitious the policy might well be misguided as the Technical Vocational Educational Training Systems (TVETS) in Kenya are mostly supply driven and strained in resources and expertise. The move might only serve to replicate institutions that are ill equipped, blind to market status quo and costly to the taxpayer.
During a round table meeting organized by the Institute of Economic Affairs and Fredrich Ebert Stiftung, to unpack the German version of TVETS, a lot of valuable lessons were revealed. The German Dual system that is carried out through a definite co-ordination between government and private firms is accredited for very low unemployment rate among German youth and a sustainable TVETS that continues to bring out fully backed competent artisan.
There is need therefore to involve the demand side into the equation. The current situation where curriculum is not complimentary but a tag-along feature of training is producing artisans who are irrelevant to the job market. The specificity of competences should be developed through a co-ordination of all stakeholders with the industry owners at the forefront as they know the peculiar traits they demand off their employees. In Germany, competences are not based on inputs and time such as the years of learning or hours of lectures, but on certification done by the industry. In Germany, experts come together to decide what they consider as competence and the curriculum is tailored to become an instrument in attaining the competencies. The curriculum is revised regularly creating new occupations and ejecting others in responsiveness to the job market. This should inform our own system where there are splinters of institutions and authorities that are responsible for the curriculum and the industry is used vestigially to rubber stamp it.
Another important lesson is that the private sector must have skin in the game especially in terms of funding. While industry has kept away from training, citing costs and the threat of poaching by rival firm, this need not be the case. The German Dual System has proven that its is far less costly to train that assumed. The gross cost of training, less the returns from work (as the wage paid to a trainee is lower than a full time employee in the same level of activity), less the savings on recruitment (advertising, risk of recruiting the wrong person, induction and the cost of consulting hiring specialists) plus other benefits that cannot be monetized like reputation and loyalty outweighs the skeptism surrounding training.
Above all though it is important that we learn that there is no single solution and as Dr. Jutta Franz pointed out copy pasting the German system here isn’t either. More discourse around this is important to ensure that the education curriculum adequately prepares the student for work especially in vocational education and training in the development of a skillful workforce.