The Technical and Vocational Education and Training Authority (TVETA) is making huge strides in streamlining higher learning institutions in alignment with the skill demands in the job market
BY WANJIKU KIMANI
There are very few places in Kenya where one can look and not find hint of some formal training institution of sorts. Be it on a billboard, a newspaper, on the radio, via TV or even just in general conversation, we have all come across a technical or vocational education institute. Their proliferation cannot go unchecked and that’s where the research based, stakeholder centred stewardship of Technical and Vocational Education and Training Authority (TVETA) comes in.
“Since its inception under the TVETA Act 29 of 2013, part of this authority’s mandate was to provide for the governance and management of institutions offering technical and vocational education and training, as well as to assure standards, quality and relevance,” says Dr Kipkirui Langát, the TVETA Director General. While working under the umbrella cause of reducing rampant unemployment by creating a budding industrial economy in Kenya, the organisation faces a unique set of challenges due to the complexity of the industry in which it operates. “We work in a very complex sector, dealing with various stakeholders, including the public, private and NGO sectors, along with over 20 pieces of legislature to consider”, says Langát. It is true that TVETs in Kenya cross a broad spectrum of sectors, giving rise to the need for a body with a comprehensive strategy that is based on an understanding of all the stakeholders as well as the legal implications involved. From his position, Dr Lang’at cites this as a challenge which requires one to understand different legal interpretations as well as the guiding principles and the philosophical ideals behind such laws. But of great importance to him is an interpretation based on the overall public good, underlined by the Constitution as the basis and reference point, along with a fair amount of consultation to guide decisions.
A Solid foundation ensures tangible results
One of the major things that TVETA is tasked with is laying the foundation for the reforms that brought about the conception of the authority and at his appointment in 2015; Dr Lang’at faced the challenge of implementing these reforms and he observes that, “people are not always remembered for what they started, but by what they finish.”
He however is not interested in short-term results but rather in a long-term foundation which is both sustainable and forms a basis for continued growth. His analogy of a chef and his ingredients – “You may have all the best ingredients but no one to cook them” – makes clear the focus he has on ensuring that Kenya, and Africa as a whole, moves from a provider of exploitable goods to user, curator and manager of such resources, one of which is human capacity.
Supply vs. demand driven curriculum
Dr Lang’at speaks of TVETA’s need to monitor the viability of skills to address the disconnect between learners and employers, which in the past has been based on supply-driven programs. “We need to look at what jobs are there, what jobs are there likely to be in the future, and how do we train people in terms of the needed skills. We also need to look at global trends, especially job disruption as a result of technology.” He gives the example of the analogue phone booths which was an industry, hiring skilled professionals and technicians, but who found themselves redundant at the advent of mobile technology. Dr Lang’at does not hesitate to point out that people always have the opportunity to earn a new skill, just by moving along their own skill set, and it is the role of training institutions to monitor the viability of skills and to determine how long they will be in the market. He links this to the introduction of robotics in manufacturing, questioning how long it will take for them to make a visible impact and affect the job market.
Leadership is driven by experience
Having moved from the literal bottom of the career pile to one of the highest ranking positions; Dr Lang’at recalls his years as a ‘craft certificate lecturer’ from which he moved up to being offered a position as a head of department after only two years of employment – a position he was surprised to be offered seeing as his bosses overlooked more experienced persons but they obviously could see something he had to offer. His motivation is the desire to learn and when faced with a challenge, he advices the youth to take the advantage to be able to use their limitations as a source of strength. “A leader is given an opportunity at a given time to make a change and it may never happen again, and so they need to choose a specific goal from which to leave a legacy,” he concludes. TVETA is one place where he will definitely leave such a legacy.
Wanjiku Kimani is a digital marketer and a freelance journalist based in Nairobi.Email: email@example.com