Loan to improve technical and vocational training

Kenya’s plan to revitalise post-secondary technical and vocational institutions – aimed at imparting engineering, science and technical skills to thousands more young people – is taking shape thanks to a US$62 million loan from the African Development Bank, or AfDB.

Financing negotiations have been ongoing since 2008 and on 1 July the AfDB board approved the second phase of Kenya’s Support to Technical Vocational Education and Training (TVET) for Relevant Skills Development project.

The project hopes to equip 33 TVET institutions with workshops, laboratories and equipment to enhance skills training for students.

Part of the money will be used to train 600 instructors and tutors at diploma and degree levels, to arm them with the knowhow to teach in public, middle-level technical training institutions.

“It will strengthen faculties of engineering and applied sciences in the 33 target TVET institutions through engineering infrastructure and faculty development,” explained the AfDB in a statement.

The project aims to improve access and equity, and the quality and relevance of training, in line with the Kenya TVET Act of 2013. Half of the students to be targeted under the initiative will be females, and four institutions for hearing and visually impaired students are included.

Kenya’s government hopes that a total of 3,000 more students will be trained each year in the revamped institutions, easing pressure on youth unemployment and on universities to absorb the more than 200,000 students who qualify for university education each year.

Part of the money will finance the construction of hostels in some TVET institutions in rural and marginalised regions, where lack of hostels has been identified as a factor that hinders female access to technical education.

Education Sector Support Programme

Under the Kenya Education Sector Support Programme, the country has since 2008 been securing finance for technical and applied sciences training for both TVET institutions and public universities.

The aim is to fill an identified gap of 30,000 engineers, 90,000 electricians and 400,000 artisans, according to a 2012 Kenya Education and Training sessional paper.

Under the first phase of the project, the Ministry of Education, Science and Technology received US$36.03 million from the AfDB, which went to eight public universities in 2012 – the plan being to contribute towards growing the number of qualified engineers from 6,350 in 2012 to 12,000 by 2017.

Approval of the new loan in July means that the earliest the government could start to implement the project is September, when colleges begin intakes for the 2015-16 academic year – after the necessary equipment has been procured and training of tutors has commenced.

Skills for economic growth

More than 80% of Kenya’s 44 million people are under 35 years old, and many of them bear the yoke of unemployment and under-employment. Joblessness hit 35% in 2009.

One of the major challenges has been identified as a mismatch between the skills produced by post-school training institutions and labour market needs.

According to the bank, the skills students will obtain will be critical in supporting emerging oil, gas, renewable energy and mining sectors, which it is hoped will employ between 42,000 and 98,000 people in the coming decade, according to Sunita Pitamber, AfDB director for human development.

Previously a non-mineral or fossil resources-based economy, Kenya has in recent years discovered significant oil and gas reservoirs in the north and south of the country, and mineral exploration has picked up.

The East African country is hoping that the two sectors will begin contributing significantly to gross domestic product by 2018. Producing more skilled graduates is critical if the country is to achieve this goal.