Dual apprenticeship programme to fix skills gap in construction

Students will train at private companies.

In Summary

•They will attend class at technical vocational institutes during the 2-year course.

•Stakeholder collaborations expected to spur growth in the education sector and address the market demand shortage for technical skills

Students at the University of Nairobi.
FUNDING: Students at the University of Nairobi.
Image: FILE

Swisscontact in Kenya and the Hilti Foundation have kicked of an employer-led dual apprenticeship programme.

The programme, officially dubbed PropelA, is set to be revolutionary as it seeks to find lasting solutions to the mismatch of technical skills experienced in the Kenyan job market today.

Initially, the construction sector will benefit from this initiative – particularly the plumbing and electrical trades.

The first cohort of apprentices have been admitted to Don Bosco Boys Town Technical Institute Karen for the plumbing trade ,while Eastlands College of Technology has admitted apprentices to study the electrical trade.

“The programme chose to begin with the construction sector since it is one of the fastest growing and contributes substantially to the Kenyan GDP,""said Ehasanul Huq, the project manager of the PropelA programme.

The gap between the current expansion witnessed in the industry and the availability of qualified skilled workers is glaring, Huq said.

For example, the demand for skilled plumbers verses the supply in the market is at a ratio of 20:4.

The PropelA project was developed in collaboration with stakeholders in the education sector.

Representatives from vocational training institutions, private companies and public agencies particularly, the National Industrial Training Authority (NITA), were in involved in each process of the model design and curriculum development. 

In future, industry associations are expected to be closely involved and disseminate the experiences of early adopters to other businesses across the industry.

The apprentices admitted to the PropelA employer-led initiative will have their school fees catered for by the private companies and receive a stipend at the end of each month like regular employees.

In a month, they will spend one week in-training at the vocational institutes and three weeks in-training at the private companies. 

“The private companies have been pivotal in defining the relevant practical skills apprentices need to acquire,"Swisscontact country director Lillian Mwai said.

The PropelA project is currently being implemented in Nairobi county with plans to expand to other regions, and the continent.

“Once the proof of concept is achieved, we hope that the project will contribute to the development of a national model for apprenticeship training, which will be valued by both the private sector and the government and full ownership and responsibility obtained," Mwai said.

Kenya has a large youthful population of approximately 60 per cent 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.

“It is not as easy to get competent workers, especially when handling a sizeable project. This drastically increases our operational costs due to the limited skills supply and resulting wastage,” Ultra Power Systems chief executive Meshack Kariuki said.

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 are expected to reduce due to the pipeline talent with  business competitiveness also improving.

Currently, 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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