The growing problem of youth unemployment and underemployment is one of the main socio-economic development concerns of most African governments. Without job-related skills, youth and adults cannot benefit from the employment opportunities that offer a decent income.
In many countries, one of the key elements of development is to support young people acquire professional skills through Technical and Vocational Education and Training (TVET) programmes. This approach also helps to promote entrepreneurship.
A student working on carpentry at Nyanza Vocational training center in Southern Rwanda. Photo courtesy of Graham Holliday
In Kenya since 2013 the government embarked on a vigorous programme of revamping and equipping all its Technical Training Institutes (TTI) and Vocational Training Centers (VTC), all with the aim of bridging the skill gap the country is facing as well as lowering the unemployment rate among the youth.
This saw the formation of the State Department of Vocational and Technical Training (TVET), under the Ministry of Education. According to Dr. Kevit Desai, Kenya’s Principal Secretary in the State Department of Vocational and Technical Training (TVET), Ministry of Education.
“The only way to address the unemployment and crime among the youth is to revamp our TTI’s and VTC’s through partnership with both industry leaders, stakeholders and donor community in order come up with a programme that meets the internationals standards as well as ensure that the youth embrace the idea of for TVET courses as compared to university courses which over the years have produced desktop graduates who do not meet the required job market skills, “says Dr. Desai.
This initiative by the national government has ignitiated most county governments to take up affirmative action to upgrade the existing Vocational Training Centers and Technical Training Institutes in order to scale up the uptake among the locals especially the youth.
Dr. Desai added, “There is a government directive that requires the county government to allocate a parcel of land and funds towards TVET sector. This aimed at ensuring that the youth have access to these institutions so as to address the skill gap and lower crime rate. Among the regions that are on the forefront in implementing the TVET programmes are Nairobi, Western, Nyanza, Rift valley and Central. Coastal region on the hand is doing poorly.”
The national government has decried low intake into vocational and technical training institutions in the coast region terming the situation “not encouraging” as the region is being left behind.
Dr. Desai wants local leaders to encourage the youth to join the institutions as the government has heavily invested in them for betterment of the society.
“Affirmative action is urgently needed to salvage the situation. In some institutions, there are only three hundred students yet the institution has a capacity of 1500. What this means is that the region will lag behind in acquiring skills to drive the Big Four agenda in the region,” Says Desai.
Desai has exonerated the government saying that it has passionately invested in equipment for the available centers of excellence like automotive engineering, and there is provision for loans by the government through HELB so that the youth can be trained.
“We make an urgent call for awareness creation and mobilization through our members of parliament and chiefs so that the youth can gain skills that can link them to government opportunities; without this, the region will have a stunted productivity” Dr. Desai pleads.
Among the counties that have recorded a low enrollment of students in their TVET institutions within the coastal region are; Kwale, Kilifi, Taita Taveta and Mombasa.
According to 2019 data by the Ministry of Education, for instance Mwatate Technical and Vocational College (TVC), a center of excellence in welding technology recoded zero enrollment from a possible capacity of 320 students. A similar figure has also been recorded at Wumingu TVC, a center of excellence in Mechatronics and ICT. In Kilifi County, Weru TVC has only managed 340 students from a possible capacity of 10,000, while Godoma TVC that majors in Electrical and Electronic has 560 students to a capacity of 1000.
While in Lunga lunga TVC had 50 students against a capacity of 1000, an institute meant to train students in Mechanical Engineering. Kinango TVC has only 13 against a possible capacity of 1000.
Even though Mombasa County has managed to enroll the largest number in a number of courses, none has hit the possible maximum capacity. Kenya Coast National Polytechnic has 6284 students in all courses against a capacity of 10,000. Dr. Desai is of the opinion that the local leaders within the coastal region are not doing to ensure the unemployment and crime rate is lowered.
“The leaders must put the interest of the youth within the coastal region first, they must realize that the investments which have been pumped into these institutions are huge and we expect results out of it.”
The African Union Commission (AUC), in 2007, developed a continental strategy to revitalize TVET in Africa, through the implementation of the Plan of Action, this was informed by the need to review it and redefine our vision of TVET in order to improve its visibility so that it can better play the role assigned to it.
According to Dr. Martial De-Paul Ikounga, Commissioner for Human Resources, Science & Technology, Africa Union Commission
“Africa certainly has high economic growth rates, but paradoxically this growth does not translate into jobs, and unemployment rates are not falling. The consequence is that African economies are struggling to cope with the difficult task of pro-viding decent jobs for the millions of new entrants to the labour market estimated at about 10 million each year,” says Dr. Ikounga.