Companies should play key roles in the planning and design of Technical Vocational Education and Training (TVET) programmes. This will change the current one-sided narrative, that the only entrepreneurship and innovation worth noting is ICT sector related.
Devaluing of blue collar work is a mentality borne out of a contorted notion of education’s function in the society. The perceptions of boring old machines, dirty greasy overalls and smoke-filled factories have been sustained over time. The politics of national investments, value placed by corporates on college degrees, prestige bestowed upon white collar jobs, the ‘mystery’ of industry and assumed complexities of its functions have all greatly contributed to these myths.
The misconceptions lock out many young people from readily available economic opportunities. In manufacturing lies not only productive jobs, but a proven solution for the economic and social advancement for our country towards industrialisation.
One argument that propagates this view, is that manufacturing is fast becoming obsolete with services taking over its functions. Education has structured courses to ramp up the sector’s marketability. Potential graduates are trained to aspire to jobs in blue-chip companies at the expense of manufacturing jobs.
Manufacturing is not in competition with the services sector but it is its foundation and backbone. The relationship between the two is more than symbiotic because, the former is quite critical to the commercial innovation in the latter. Finland, which offers TVET, is ranked fifth in the World’s Most Innovative Economies according to Bloomberg’s 2017 Innovation Index.
Finland’s leadership in innovation is rooted in its commitment to manufacturing and investment in TVET. Their legislation reforms have allowed TVET Graduates to further their studies at University or applied sciences level and increased funding for the TVET institutions.
Kenya’s TVET ACT 2013 was designed to address the job skills issue and to ensure sustained enrollment ratio of 20% by 2030. The move by government will revamp our entire education system and make the lives of our youth better.
Legislation alone cannot address problems of perception and attitude. Industry needs to step in and demonstrate the worthiness of manufacturing jobs. Adoption of mentorship programmes will reshape the thinking around manufacturing sector. Industry needs to illuminate the tech-savvy aspect of manufacturing jobs. Some KAM members are already doing this through the association’s newly launched TVET programme in partnership with Government and GIZ.
The writer is the CEO of the Kenya Association of Manufacturers and the local representative for Global Compact Network in Kenya.