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National Skills Development Policy- Learn to Earn.

Author: Mr Alfred Cheruiyot - Principal Secretary, State Department for Skills Development for Post Training

For many years Kenya has not had a National Skills Development Policy that seeks to address skills mismatch in the country. Skills mismatch is the disconnect between skills produced and those required for the labour market. The reality is that if skills mismatch is left unattended, it will hinder the realisation of Kenya Vision 2030 goals which aim at transforming Kenya into a highly industrialized, middle-income country providing a high quality of life to all citizens in a clean and secure environment.

It is in this context, that the State Department for Post Training and Skills Development formulated the National Skills Development Policy, to ensure that education and training in the country consistently supplies the skills required by the labour market in the right quantity, the right quality, and at the right time. Moreover, the Medium Term Plan III (2018-2022) had indicated that this policy should be developed within the plan period.

The goal of the National Skills Development Policy is to promote sustainable socio-economic growth through the development of a skilled workforce that is employable, productive, enterprising, innovative, adaptable and competitive. It covers the broad areas of governance and management, human capital development, education and employability, entrepreneurship education, labour market information and skills anticipation, learning to earning transition, skills for national development priorities, skills for the formal and informal economy, and skills for non-traditional and new occupations.

According to the Kenya National Bureau of Statistics, August 2020, the current unemployment rate stands at 10.4 percent and labour underutilization rate at 17.2 percent. The highest proportion of the unemployed was recorded among the age cohort 20–24 years and 25-29 years, registering 22.8 percent and 21.7 percent respectively. Further, the highest rate of labour underutilization is observed in the age group 20-24 at 32.7 percent. The policy is expected to be a game-changer in addressing the skills mismatch that has contributed to youth unemployment.

In addition, youth aged 15–34 years recorded the highest percentage of persons who are Not in Employment, Education or Training (NEET) at 18.2 percent. The NEET youths are particularly at risk as they are neither improving their employability through training nor gaining work experience through employment. This indicates that the potential of young people, to contribute to socio-economic development and foster increased prosperity for the country, is not fully harnessed.

Key Government reports had drawn attention to the importance of providing education and training that is responsive to the needs of the labour market. These reports included the Commission of Inquiry on Public Service Structure and Remuneration Commission Report (1971), also known as the Ndegwa Report; the Report of the National Committee on Educational Objectives and Policies (1976), popularly known as the Gachathi Report; the Report of the Commission on the establishment of the Second University (1981), also known as the Mackay Report; the Manpower Survey Report (2011); the Sessional Paper on Employment Policy and Strategy for Kenya (2013); and the Sessional Paper on Reforming Education and Training for Sustainable Development in Kenya (2019).

OUR STORY

In 2018, the President through, an Executive order created the State Department for Post Training and Skills Development to develop, harmonize and implement training and skills policies across the Government.

The primary functions for the State Department for Post Training and Skills Development are;

  1. Initiate and coordinate development of the National Skills Development Policy and Strategies and integrate those strategies within the National Qualification framework.
  2. Coordinate and supervise skills development amongst various actors.
  3. Develop a framework for the establishment of sector-specific skills councils and professional bodies.
  4. Establish and manage an institutional framework for industry and skills and industry and entrepreneur linkages.
  5. Develop and maintain skills and employment database system among many other functions.

As not to further delay the aspirations of Kenyans, the Department embarked on an aggressive coordination of the National Skill Development Policy with resounding success.

In a short period of time, the technical team has come up with a draft document that was unanimously voted as the best for the Country by all stakeholders.

Ministries, Departments, Agencies, both National and County Governments, Non-Governmental Organisations, National and International Organisations gave the National Skills Development Policy a clean bill of health and a thump up in all forums of discussions with a rider of a 'belated document that should have come up several years ago'.

One of the major breakthroughs of the draft policy is that it found out several glaring disparities between our education system and the labour market.

According to the policy, it was found that poor coordination of skills and trainings causes upheavals in the employment fields.

In their recommendation, the experts behind the policy advised that the only way out is to create linkages along our education, skills developments, and training lines.

Like a tall tree, the education system must be deep-rooted, strong with several branches that at the end must have many fruits. The learning process should end in earning, the fruits of education learning to earning should be made a signature tune in all our institutions of learning.

NATIONAL SKILLS DEVELOPMENT POLICY

The National Skills Development Policy was undertaken through a consultative and participatory approach. The process involved various stakeholders both at national and county levels. These included the public sector, private sector, Non-Governmental Organizations, civil society, development partners, and youth groups.

It is a milestone for the State Department which was created to promote skills development to fulfil the growing need in Kenya for quality and relevant skills across sectors, and bridge the existing gap between the demand and supply of skills.

It is envisioned that the current problems observed will drastically reduce when the Policy takes effect as evidenced in some countries.

A survey across other Countries shows that the document is so important that some Countries have dedicated a whole Ministry to coordinate it. For example, in India, there is a Ministry in charge of skills development and this has led to remarkable steps towards industrialisation. Other Countries which have elevated skills development like Russia have also made a noticeable move in industrialisation.

'Kenya Vision 2030 aims at transforming Kenya into a highly industrialized, middle-income country providing a high quality of life to all citizens in a clean and secure environment. However, the skills mismatch issue if left unattended it will impede the realization of this goal and this is what the National Skills Policy aims to counter.

As a State Department charged with this responsibility, it is our duty to ensure that the ball will not fall again. Once the policy is in place it will chart the way forward in all spheres of development, addressing the clarion call in our dailies on the need to skill and upskill the workforce.

The National Skills Development Policy and its functions is not new rather a reinforcement of other sessional papers that have been put forward before by the Government.

PARTNERSHIPS & SKILLS DEVELOPMENT

The Department has created the Office of Career Services and has forged close ties with other actors in Government and Private Sector. It has also created a conducive work environment with national and international development partners all geared at improving the Kenyan workforce through skills development.

Recently the Department in collaboration with other key players demonstrated how best education -industry linkage can be achieved.

Some youths were identified for training in garment-making skills. then a potential employer was also identified. After a short time, the youths who were initially under the KAZI MTAANI programme were so skilled that the potential company absorbed all of them.

Collaboration with the Chandaria Business Incubation Centre and Kenyatta University (KU) has also led to the organization of an entrepreneurship training for youths. Besides by extending its coordinating function, Rivatex East Africa Ltd and Moi University have also provided the youths with workplace learning skills in the textile industry.

If more industries, companies and businesses can open a window of extending training to our youths, a sizeable number of them will not only get skills but also business managerial skills which will lead to self-employment.

This in essence illustrates the expected situation between institutions and the industries. There should be close linkage for maximum benefit for both sides and this is what is envisaged in the Policy which will create pathways that lead to various fields of employment.

The many pathways created for the learners, will ensure a smooth transition from learning to earning. It will also end the current situation where many youths are groping in the dark when it comes to seeking employment by removing bottlenecks that hinder their movement in the job market.

CONCLUSION

In every scenario, there are at least three actors when it comes to employment. There are candidates or potential employees, employers, and trainers who are the major actors. However, for several years the education system might have lagged behind in skills survey hence resulting in the skills mismatch, that has seen thousands of youths churned out but lacking employability skills.

The missing link here is that the system has not been very responsive, and transitioning from training institutions to the labour market has not been easy for many young Kenyans for many years.

We are confident that soon the woes of the education system will be resolved, enabling each individual to play a critical role in the growth and development of the country. This will ensure that Kenya is ready to leverage the opportunities of the African Continental Free Trade Agreement (AfCFTA).

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