Sunday, 6 September 2015

Friday, September 4, 2015 University degree is good but you need much more to succeed in life

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Cord leader Raila Odinga presents Kericho
Cord leader Raila Odinga presents Kericho Senator Charles Keter with an Executive Masters of Business Administration degree at the United States International University-Africa graduation ceremony on August 22, 2015. He was the chief guest. The expansion of technical and vocational education in Kenya suffered a major setback when more than 30,000 candidates turned down offers to join these institutions this year. PHOTO | JAMES EKWAM |  NATION MEDIA GROUP

The expansion of technical and vocational education in Kenya suffered a major setback when more than 30,000 candidates turned down offers to join these institutions this year.
This is very worrying bearing in mind Kenya needs technical skills to drive development.
The education sector is operating shop in an environment of want. The mismatch between skills needed in the job market and what colleges are offering is of great concern. Yet technical and vocational training is the key to development and attainment of Vision 2030.
Granted, operations of the informal sector in Kenya are diverse and specialisation  is on the increase. For example, some are specialising in oil-drum cutting while others in rolling metal posts and rails. There are those  who assemble these sections then sell them.
Other activities in this sector include running small restaurants and operating stalls for selling new, reusable second hand parts but the sector itself continues to cry for highly qualified lecturers to meet its objectives.   
Clearly, informal sector operators face a number of challenges including the wrong perception about needed skills. They also lack knowledge of needed technologies.
The sector is also reeling from lack of relevant skills. Yet, we keep complaining that in major projects such as the Standard Gauge Railway, China Road and Bridges Corporation is importing skilled manpower. 
For a developing country such as Kenya, a pool of highly skilled manpower is needed for obvious reasons. Kenya is at the take-off stage even as the country plans more capital intensive projects. There are mining companies prospecting all over, from the north to Coast.
Kenya is already a trendsetter in the production of geothermal energy. Recently, the Lake Turkana Wind Power project was commissioned with similar initiatives expected.
There are many other infrastructure projects including the $9.2 billion Konza City, a technology and financial metropolis project, which will obviously require skilled manpower. This means  Kenya needs youth who have up-to-date technical skills and creativity to offer solutions and make themselves indispensable in process of production.
Therefore, we need a paradigm shift. Young Kenyans must understand that you do not succeed in life only by having a university degree. This is a simplistic view.
The world over, there are people who have achieved so much without a degree, from Abraham Lincoln, Colonel Harlan Sanders to Henry Ford, and the list is long.  These people only learned a skill or a trade while working as apprentices or going to college.
Certainly, the current  training in Kenya has opened a skills gap in the job market. For sure, there are new challenges in the provision of middle level college  education and this is a serious problem which requires the attention of all stakeholders.
First, we need a comprehensive human assessment to address capital flight and the shortage of skilled manpower needed locally. The overall effective development of any country depends, not just on the available resources, but  on the quality and competence of its manpower as well.
For us to realise development that Kenyans can comfortably own, the people must be involved, and this involvement will be determined by the level of  skills. We shall save a lot in terms of foreign exchange and become a more prosperous country  if we can equip our people with the necessary skills.
Kenya must allow middle level colleges to continue preparing personnel with technical skills as universities train engineers and technologists who would later take up higher management positions.
Colleges provide a critical link between communities and the world and are key in wealth creation, meaning their role in development cannot be overlooked.

Dr Mogambi teaches at the University of Nairobi and is executive director, Southern Sahara Group: hmogambi @

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