The results of this year’s Kenya Certificate of Secondary Education (KCSE) examination have once again highlighted the need to embrace and invest in technical and vocational training institutions.
From the statistics, 567,517 candidates or 81 percent of the learners scored mean grades of C and below. This means that they are not eligible to join universities, which require a minimum grade of C+.
The good news is that the government has been increasing its investment in Technical and Vocational Education and Training (TVET), which have the capacity to absorb those who fail to make it to university.
The institutions offer students a credible and more accessible alternative, with hundreds of them operating across the country.
They run the most diverse practical training programmes that can be used by students to secure jobs or launch their own enterprises.
Their fees are also relatively more affordable compared to most courses offered by universities. Academic year fees in TVETs were reduced from Sh92,000 to Sh56,000 in 2018. Those joining the institutions through Kenya Universities and Colleges Placement Service (KUCCPS) are also eligible for a bursary of Sh30,000 besides funding from the Higher Education Loans Board (HELB).
Agribusiness, automotive engineering, hairdressing, electrical engineering, plumbing, culinary arts, quantity survey and welding are among the courses offered by TVETs.
Due to the previous neglect of the institutions, skills in such professions have been scarce and those occupying the fields are earning fairly decent incomes.
The government, which increased its spending on TVETs to Sh25 billion in the 2018/19 fiscal year, should publicise the opportunities available for young people in the institutions.
Several high-profile instances have highlighted the missed opportunity for individuals and the country as a result of skills gap that TVETs are best placed to address.
It is clear that TVETs can be a powerful launching pad for careers and enterprises and all stakeholders –parents, students and the government— should embrace the middle level colleges for prosperity.
The Kenya Pipeline Company (KPC), for instance, was forced to import 50 welders from China, Nigeria and Lebanon to work on the new Nairobi-Mombasa pipeline after it emerged that it could not get Kenyans to undertake the special welding jobs.
Motor vehicle dealers such as DT Dobie have also been training their own mechanics and other technical staff, signalling that there is not enough supply of well-trained professionals entering the formal automotive industry.