Swisscontact in Kenya and the Hilti Foundation have launched a revolutionary project that promotes an employer-led dual apprenticeship system within the construction sector.
The project aims to develop a skilled workforce, through a combination of on-job training in companies and theoretical learning in vocational schools set up to meet the rising demand for technical skills in the market.
The involvement of the private companies is key to define the skills apprentices need to acquire and provide them with the opportunity to put into practice what they have learned in the classrooms.
“This dual apprenticeship project arrives in a very timely manner in Kenya. It fits very well with the situation that the country is experiencing because it brings concrete solutions to current difficulties,’’ said Swiss Ambassador to Kenya Valentin Zellweger.
“The project hopes to learn and adopt best practices from the successful and well-tested Swiss dual training model. The model will not be fully replicated but adopted to best suit vocational training to the Kenyan context and build on the existing to ensure continuation and replication,” said Mr. Anirban Bhowmik, Swisscontact Regional Director in Central, East and Southern Africa.
Initially, the dual apprenticeship project will support Kenyan companies to implement the system in two trades – plumbing and electrical installation.
In 2017, the Kenya Federation of Master Builders (KFMB) put the number of trained plumbers, painters, and masons at less than 2,000 compared to 5,000 engineers and architects countrywide, highlighting a general shortage of skilled artisans in the construction industry.
Speaking at the launch, Hilti Foundation CEO Wallner Warner said “Our key principle is help for self-help. We are not a financial donor; we invest in empowering people, enabling people so they can become active and lead a self-determined life. We believe that sustainability can only be achieved through systemic change.”
Kenya has a large youthful population of approximately 60% aged between 18 and 35 years. With its dynamic private sector, growing middle class, and rising entrepreneurial engagements, the demand for houses, business centres, and infrastructure is constantly growing.
Through its Big Four agenda, the Kenyan government has been working to ensure accessible and affordable housing for its citizens. However, the production of housing units is currently below target leading to a current housing deficit of over 2 million units, with nearly 61% of urban households living in slums.
Despite the construction sector being among the fastest growing and contributing substantially to the GDP, there is a clear gap between the current expansion witnessed in the industry and the availability of qualified skilled workers or fundis.
A feasibility study recently conducted indicated a substantial skills gap in plumbing, welding, and electrical installations. Many construction companies testify that a major challenge they face is the shortage of skilled labor.
“ Apart from providing a solution to youth unemployment, quality apprenticeships can benefit job seekers and youth of all ages who due to changes in labor market or job requirements find themselves in need of retraining or upskilling,” National Industrial Training Authority (NITA), Director for Industrial Training William Mwanza said
Daily dues for certified workers, commonly referred to as fundis, has increased by over 300% from about Ksh 800 in 2012 to about Ksh 3,000 today. Fundis operating in major towns charge even more. The ratio of labour to building costs has also increased to over 25%.
The dual apprenticeship programme will be developed in continuous consultation and collaboration with the employers, existing training institutions and public agencies. Industry associations will be closely involved and disseminate the experiences of the early adopters to other businesses across the industry.
In the long term, private companies will improve their productivity and profitability since the trained apprentices will have acquired market-relevant skills and will be able to deliver quality work in time and reduce wastage.
Recruitment costs will also be reduced due to the pipeline talent and business competitiveness will improve thanks to the availability of fresh and innovative ideas. Apprentices who may not be absorbed by the private sector still have a chance of succeeding in entrepreneurship which is a great step in reducing youth unemployment.
“Once the proof of concept is achieved, we hope that the dual apprenticeship project will contribute to the development of a model for apprenticeship training, which will be valued by both the private sector and the government and full ownership and responsibility obtained,” said Mr. Anirban Bhowmik, Swisscontact Regional Director in Central, East and Southern Africa.
Presently, the Vocational Education and Training (VET) system is undergoing major reforms and an apprenticeship framework has recently been adopted but not as yet implemented.
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