For a long time, a white-collar job has been most parents’ dream for their children, and the aspiration of young people the world over.
In schools, pupils are urged to work extra hard to secure a job in order to make a living in professions such as medicine, banking, aviation, and law, just to name a few.
Typically performed in an office environment involving clerical, administrative, or managerial duties, these jobs have been for a long time perceived as prestigious and well-paying.
As a result, thousands of graduates are churned out by our educational institutions, with only a small percentage being absorbed into the job market. The evident skills mismatch has seen unemployment rates continue to soar among the youth, leading to a frustrated, desperate lot that turns to vices such as crime and drugs.
On the other hand, the technical and vocational industry has experienced a shortage of skilled human resources resulting in increased demand for trained workers.
According to the International Labor Organization, an estimated 66 percent of employment in sub-Saharan Africa is in the informal sector. Indeed, recent statistics from the Kenya National Bureau show that in 2019, the Kenyan economy created 843,000 new jobs in the informal sector while the formal sector created 61,800 jobs in comparison.
This has led to the realization of the potential of Technical and Vocational Education Training to transform the socio-economic landscape of the country and ensure that the youth have the right skills to contribute to economic growth.
Indeed, there is a need for emphasis on relevant skills-based training not only for the attainment of individual, community, and the country’s socio-economic development but also the creation of skilled innovators who can come up with timely solutions to societal challenges.
Though these fields have existed for a long time, most workers in the informal sector have until recently been learning their skills on the job in the informal sector rather than in the formal TVET sector. However, recent initiatives and investments made by both the government and private sector have changed this, with investments in human resources and quality learning resources leading to an increase in quality of training, and subsequently, highly trained graduates.
An analysis by the Higher Education Loans Board shows that employability for people with TVET training is at 96 percent, while among those with a university degree stands at 40 percent.
It is no wonder the private sector is has been investing more in the TVET sector in recent times. Companies like Safaricom have risen to the challenge, and recently announced a partnership with Zizi Afrique and TVET institutions towards training more than 1000 youth. GIZ and the Kenya Association of Manufacturers have also partnered to improve access to technical and vocational and economic jobs for the youth through industrial internships and refresher course training to industrial employees.
Kenya Breweries Limited, on the other hand, runs Heshima, entrepreneurship and vocational training program targeting youth and women who are at risk of falling prey to illicit brew consumption and production. Not only does the program equip students with practical skills that enable them to earn a decent living through productive and dignified work, but it also ensures they keep off the brewing and consumption of illegal brews.
Through such programs, the youth have an opportunity to leverage their talents and capabilities, utilizing them to improve their standards of living and provide services to their communities. Moreover, by working as artisans in the manufacturing, health, housing, food security, and extractive sectors, the existing skills mismatch will be sufficiently addressed, boosting economic growth. Most importantly, innovations by TVET students and graduates will go a long way in providing solutions necessary for development. There is, therefore, a critical need, while providing career guidance to students and young people, to place special emphasis on pursuing careers in the TVET sector.
It is, therefore, our collective responsibility as a society to change our mindset towards blue-collar jobs. While the Ministry of Education and TVETA have a responsibility to ensure consistent updating of the curriculum so as to match the skills set required in the industry, training institutions and polytechnics are to ensure that they perfectly comply with the set rules and regulations.
Corporates have a role to play too in supporting the TVET sector through facilitating training, sponsoring programs, offering research grants, partnering with the TVET institutions to provide industry knowledge and availing internship and job opportunities to TVET graduates.
Indeed, our youth possess immense talent and energy that can be pressed into service to promote livelihoods and grow the economy. TVET offers the opportunity, let’s grab it together and secure the days ahead of us.
Written by Fredrick Kasina
CEO and Co-Founder Africa Initiative for Rural Development (AiRD),