The Kenya National Qualifications Authority (KNQA) has said Kenyan universities are churning out a lot of irrelevant human resources leading to many unemployed graduates.
The authority’s Director General Juma Mukhwana said Kenyans have qualification papers but they do not make sense because many are taking courses that the economy does not need.
“This economy is looking for workers in construction, ICT, human health, but we have a lot of people going for business management, sociology and arts. We need to take courses that this economy is looking for,” said Mukhwana.
Speaking during a National Industrial Training Institute Board of Directors meeting at Whitesands in Mombasa, the DG said this has created a situation where there are jobs without people and people without jobs in the same economy.
For example, Kenya is now trying to harness the potential of the blue economy. However, there are no skilled people who can do underwater welding. Companies that operate ships therefore have to import skilled labour to do underwater welding.
Mukhwana said the country is facing a deficit of people skilled in underwater welding, where he pointed out that there is a need for the education sector to align training and certification to the needs of the country.
He said Chinese have dominated construction of roads in Kenya yet there are Kenyan engineers who have done civil engineering and graduated, because when the local engineers are doing shoddy work after two years the roads are full of potholes.
The authority also said 30 per cent of all the qualifications being used in the Kenyan market, whether in government or private institutions, are fake.
“We are now establishing a national database with universities so that graduates are captured into the database for employers to easily find the actual skills they require for their firms,” said KNQA Director General Juma Mukhwana.
Mukhwana said this will kill the idea of fake certification. “With the click of a button, employers will know if a qualification actually came from where they say they came from,” he said.
He said there are cases where people use other people’s qualifications to get employment.
The authority is also concerned that some academic institutions issue qualification certificates yet those certified cannot do the work they are certified for.
“We want to hold the colleges and universities accountable. If you are producing a mechanical engineer, make sure that they can perform the work of a mechanical engineer,” said Mukhwana.
The authority, in partnership with the National Industrial Training Authority, is developing a new qualifications framework that will ensure skilled workers are adequately certified so as to match the economic needs of the country with the skills required.
This is more so in the informal sector, which has employed 83% of the country’s workforce. This 83% also contribute a third of the country’s GDP.
Professional bodies have often failed to recognize the skills that artisans in this sector have. This results in poor pay for skilled workers and hefty pay for unskilled workers who have theoretical knowledge of the same work done by the skilled workers.
NITA Chairperson Dr Kamau Gachigi said Recognition of Prior Learning (RPL), a policy that has been introduced in Kenya through the African Union, will greatly address this.
“If we cannot recognize most of the people who have these qualifications by certification then we are doing a disservice to our citizens,” said Dr Gachigi.
NITA has been having trade tests to certify such skilled individuals. However, this has been expanded to include master craftsman levels. This was borrowed from industrialised countries like Germany, South Korea among others.
“This means somebody who has never stepped into a formal classroom can get a qualification equivalent to a post-graduate level,” said Dr Gachigi.
This certification will also guide employers on how much to pay these skilled workers.
Through the recognition of prior learning, Dr Gachigi said, Kenya is largely going to formalize the informal sector, which is characterised by inefficiencies, discrepancies in earning levels.
Recognition of Prior Learning
“The demand for this RPL (Recognition of Prior Learning) is going to be so large because so many people will come forward seeking to have an opportunity to get formalized,” said the NITA chair.
He said different government agencies and institutions are now working together to ensure they pool resources together so as to recognize and certify different non-formally acquired skills.
KNQA also creates interrelationships between the Kenyan qualifications, African qualifications and global qualifications.
The African Union envisions a situation where Africa is one with intra-trading set to increase. Trade between African countries is only at 15%.
In Europe it stands at 75% while Asia has 45% of intra-trading within their continent.
[National Industrial Training Authority (NITA) Chair Kamau Gachigi. Photo/Ahmed Omar].
“So, we are doing more business with other people than with ourselves. That means we are exporting our wealth and importing a lot of things from China and India, and yet we are saying our young people are unemployed,” said Mukhwana.
Mukhwana said there is a push to have an African Continental Qualifications Framework where skills acquired in Kenya can be recognized in Nigeria so that Kenyans can study in Kenya and work in Nigeria and vice versa.
The framework will also ensure harmonization of qualification standards for learning institutions.