In December 2014, the United Nations General Assembly adopted a resolution declaring 15th July as World Youth Skills Day. The goal is to achieve better socio-economic conditions for today’s youth as a means of addressing the challenges of unemployment and under-employment. This year’s theme is ‘Reimagining Youth Skills Post-Pandemic’.
To celebrate the seventh year of equipping young people with skills that help them navigate through employment, decent work and entrepreneurship, KEPSA hosted a webinar under the theme “Reimagining Youth Skills Development: Putting Private Sector at the Centre Stage” on 15th July 2021.
Project Director, Ajira Digital and Youth Employment Program at KEPSA, Dr. Ehud Gachugu introduced the forum by noting that the country has seen innovations that have been driven by the youth to help not only to address the Covid-19 pandemic but also lessen the burden of the pandemic in many fronts. However, he said, young people are most affected by the socio-economic consequences of the pandemic and highlighting them and putting them at the centre stage was critical.
In her opening remarks, the KEPSA Education Sector Board Vice-Chair Ms. Priscilla Kerebi said that with only 9 years to the Vision 2030 goal of achieving a rapidly industrializing middle-income economy and providing a quality life for the citizens, it was crucial to reimagine the approach on youth skills development, adapt them to the ‘new normal’ and prepare them for the future. Ms. Kerebi went on to say that the Sector Board sits at a unique position since both employers and trainers are part of the board. However, she indicated that the board tries to ensure that both perspectives from the demand and supply side of education converge to holistically tackle challenges facing the sector. “The sector board advocates for policies that will not only improve the skills-set of our nation but will ensure both students from public and private institutions are optimally trained,” She remarked.
Eng. Patrick Obath – Chair, KEPSA Foundation said that the curriculum shift to recognize competence and the frameworks to recognize skills acquired in the informal system of education and ensure they get certified would allow the youth to get opportunities in the formal job market. “The question still remains how can the private sector do more to be at the centre stage to assist the youth and the TVET sub-sector in general?” He posed. “Without a doubt, the collaboration between the institutions and industry, in general, will play a significant role in transforming Kenya into the industrialized, middle-income country providing a high-quality life to all its citizens.”
A TVET alumnus Mr. Nick Odhiambo said that “There are some challenges getting assimilated into the work industry where there’s some level of being undermined. Myself, I took this as a challenge to be able to prove that the TVET course I took was good enough for me to still be in the same market and still go for the same jobs and opportunities.” He added that acquiring skills doesn’t mean you will directly be assimilated into the job industry but it takes a little more effort and determination to have a seat at the table.
The Director of Technical Services (DTS) at Kenya National Qualifications Authority (KNQA), Mr. Stanley Maindi outlined the key function of KNQA which is to ensure that qualifications meet national standards, are of international comparability, and above all, are able to address the needs of the industry. “One of the challenges we have in this country is the issue of a mismatch between what academia is producing and what the labour market requires,” He noted.
“It is all about reimagining our youth as the prosperous citizens of this country, but you can’t talk about wealth and prosperity without talking about the economy and the economy is about people providing services, products, and people who are buying them,” Said Mr. Davis Waithaka – CEO, Elimu Holdings. “The only way for a carpenter in a village to access 50,000 people is if there’s a strong digital economy. We have to reimagine the market share and go an extra mile to learn new ways of reaching more people,” He revealed.
The chief guest Mr. Tom Mulati – Technical Education Director at the Ministry of Education said that the government was also reimagining its engagement with the industry. “We have already initiated a process of developing a policy framework of engagement between the government and the private sector with regards to training. We’ll be getting in touch with KEPSA and other players to give us their input,” He said.
Mr. Mulati went on to say that the government recognises that apprenticeship is extremely important because it gives hands-on skill training. He added that the ministry was working towards reintroducing the program. “The trainees who are in the formal TVET training are hardly 400,000 and we cannot manage the entire population. The equipment which we have in the TVET institutions costs billions, and we cannot renew the equipment as fast as the technologies are changing. So, we’ll continue working with the private sector to have training taking place at the workplace,” He remarked.
The webinar concluded with remarks from the KEPSA Education Sector Board Chair Dr. Vincent Gaitho who outlined that the event recognizes that the youth are a resource and the best way to utilise their skills is for economic development. “If we have to achieve socio-economic development, we must have a broad spectrum engagement and not undermine the youth,” He concluded.