It is often said technical training is vital for the growth of the economy. However, the value of being competent in a specific skill does not currently reflect in the remuneration of technical workers, even though our national development strategies such as Vision 2030 and the Big Four agenda should and will be steered by technicians and technical experts.
Sectors that have been growing rapidly, such as manufacturing, require a skilled labour force to propel them to the next level and to adapt to rapidly changing technological trends. Thus, the relevance of technical training can no longer be underrated.
Looking at the recently launched Competency Based Education and Training (CBET) policy framework, it is clear that the Technical and Vocational Education and Training (TVET) paradigm shift has three main components: Industry, CBET curriculum and trainers. There must be a tripartite relationship with key stakeholders of each component for CBET to work.
The role of industry and the private sector is to ensure the sustainability of the policy, having provided the occupational standards for CBET’s curriculum development. In countries that have adopted CBET, more so African nations, industry still lags behind and is not actively involved in the curriculum’s implementation.
Industry players must sit at the table with policymakers and academia instead of being passive in the implementation process. As stipulated before students’ graduation, one must have been exposed to industry and have done an industrial attachment. However, this is not always the case as many young graduates find themselves without industrial expertise, with no firm ready to absorb them. It is therefore imperative for industry to become active and take up its role in realising CBET.
This brings me to the question of implementers. Are our trainers at the technical training institutions (TTIs) well equipped to disseminate the relevant competencies to our youth? Training of trainers (ToT) thus become critical to the success of CBET and this must be addressed with urgency to ensure what must be done to prepare them adequately. ToT has a huge multiplier effect that this nation must appreciate.
With the ongoing infrastructure projects, it is needless to say that importing skilled labourers such as welders and plumbers cannot be the trend going forward. We must train our trainers to industrial grade levels so they can transfer these competencies to technical students in return. Trainers must be equipped with practical skills as opposed to theory.
CBET must be embedded in the curriculum right from the onset so that the mindset of the youth can be more positive about pursuing technical careers and blue collar jobs.
The CBET curriculum being demand-driven and market-oriented provides the youth, who form the nation’s huge demographic, with some hope amid the increasing unemployment rate. As opposed to using the conventional traditional approach of learning, which is not market-driven, CBET will greatly enhance practical skills development and activate the role of their application greatly.
However, the CBET curriculum depends heavily on advanced equipment to adapt to industrial trends globally. Kenya has 4,450 vocational training centres and 11 national polytechnics. The government has already built 60 new TVETs nationwide.
Various development partners are also in support of the government’s initiatives to equip TTIs with advanced technology and relevant equipment. We must therefore prioritise building the capacity of trainers first for them to be well versed in rolling out CBET, without any further ado.
In April the Ministry of Education, through the State Department of TVET, announced ambitious plans to enrol more than 3.1 million youths in technical colleges. It also announced additional support in financing technical education through the Higher Education Loans Board. The impact of these recent developments is already being felt as there is an increase of the influx of youth enrolling in TTIs. We must therefore play an active role in ensuring CBET achieves its desired objectives.