Can TVET education produce market relevant labor force?

October 28, 2019

Quality education is fundamental for development. It is not possible to attain sustainable economic development without adequate investment in human capital. Each year, about one million youth join the labor market in Kenya with different skills sets at varied levels of expertise. This means Kenya needs to create a million new jobs annually to meet this demand. Other than the existing educational training in tertiary or post-secondary education, there is need for adequate training and value addition for youth skills.  The advent of technical and vocational education and training competency based education and training (TVET-CBET) curriculum portends a perfect avenue for adding value to TVET education, to produce a market relevant labor force.

Recently, the government launched its ‘Big Four’ development agenda – biased towards improving food security, boosting manufacturing, attaining universal health coverage, and setting up affordable housing to facilitate economic growth. But do the country TVET system and structures have what it takes – material and human capital – to actualize these ambitious goals? Better still, what can be done differently to enable Kenya be at par with the Asian tigers, whose economies were at par with Kenya’s at independence period? One of answers is definitely a well-developed human capital. Unfortunately, the situation in the country’s TVET institutions is wanting and far from meeting requisite learners’ skills, let alone current or future development outcomes.

For the country’s TVET institutions to evince and realize quality outputs in students graduating from TVET institutions, there is need for multi-pronged approach efforts. The efforts should not start and end with curriculum review but should extend to the stakeholders who directly benefit from or implement the curriculum – the students, instructors, and the institutions.

To start with, there is need for a re-energized marketing campaign to not only raise awareness on the TVET education and courses offered therein but also to improve image and perception of TVET education among students and parents. As it stands, TVET education is perceived as a training ground for the less intellectually talented students who have not made to prestigious public and private universities thus shunned these stakeholders. Majority of instructors in country’s TVET institutions have undergraduate qualifications, with an insignificant number having doctoral qualifications. This situation paints a picture of shallow knowledge base in these institutions. How can this perception be improved? The answer, we need to see statistics of youth graduating from TVET institutions considered for various employment positions taking an upward trend. Institutions also need to start recruiting high academic achieving instructors for various courses and levels of training. This is what will to sell to students and parents and motivate them to consider TVET education as an opportunity for upward socio-economic mobility.

Secondly, there is an urgent need for refresher training and/or pre-service training of instructors to align their skillsets with new curriculum provisions. This should apply to both in-service instructors and those yet to join the teaching profession. In fact, instructors should go through a mandatory in-service training to acquire action and results-oriented skills’ delivery approach. It cannot be assumed that by virtue of being trainers, instructors are a know-it-all or can easily master and infuse skills on their students without training. The ‘you cannot give what you do not have’ phrase thus applies.

Thirdly, TVET institutions need to be well resourced, meaning that there should be adequate instructor-students ratio, and equipment/facilities-students’ ratio in each students. Rather than having more institutions spread across the country, the education policy-makers could delve more on having few but result-oriented institutions where productivity or performance is the yardstick for educational attainment instead of course completion or time taken in an institution. Moreover, institutions could prioritise assessment and awarding of certification for skills based on students’ competencies to undertake a task rather than satisfaction of course duration.

It is no doubt that education enhances individual’s understanding of selves and environment, with a corresponding improved creativity and productivity that advances technological and entrepreneurial development. In Kenyan context, for the ‘Big Four’ agenda are to be achieved and sustained, there is need for comprehensive adoption and implementation of the three action points in TVET institutions’ education to bridge the existing skills (technical, academic and non-academic) inadequacies.



*published by People Daily on 23 October 2019.

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