By Dr Kipkirui Langat

The TVET sector continues to play a critical as a catalyst for social-economy development and in the attainment of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

However, there is limited information currently available about this sector, the very reason I am calling for the strengthening of TVET research so as to generate the requisite data and information that would promote a better understanding as well as facilitate evidence-based policy development, monitoring and evaluation in the sector.

The TVE sector as currently constituted in Kenya has been aligned towards creating an inclusive, equitable and quality education that promotes lifelong learning opportunities for all. The sector specifically focuses on SDG 4 and 8, which deals with quality education, decent jobs and economic growth for all.

The community of nations have been mandated to meet certain targets aligned to the 17 SDGs by the year 2030. These includes equal access to affordable and quality TVET programmes (target 4.3), substantially increase in the number of youth and adults with relevant skills for employment, decent jobs and entrepreneurship (4.4), elimination of gender disparities in education (4.5) and ensure that all learners acquire the knowledge and skills needed to promote sustainable development (4.7).

This agenda has also been domiciled by the African Union TVET strategy document, which provides a strategic framework for the development of national policies to address the challenges of TVET. The strategy addresses the cross-cutting issues of governance, innovation and creativity, employability and relevance, with the main thrust being development of TVET systems that prepare young people to be job creators rather than job seekers.

A central theme within the continental TVET strategy is the strengthening of global partnerships to support skills development in the continent. The participation of key stakeholders has been crucial in TVET development and this strategy advocates for a structured and continuous collaboration between the productive sectors, social partners, training institutions and professional associations, among other strategic partners.

The strategy calls for encouragement and support for research in TVET. As it stands, there is limited information available on TVET. There is need to strengthen TVET research within the continent to ensure availability of data and information that would promote a better understanding as well as facilitate evidence-based policy development, monitoring and evaluation. TVET research will ultimately lead to the identification of challenges and how to address of gaps in curriculum implementation and market linkages through capacity building programmes of key players in member states.

The Constitution of Kenya 2010 and Vision 2030 acknowledges the need to reform education and training to create a sector fit for purpose. To address these issues, the government provided policy direction for reforms in education and training through sessional paper no. 1 of 2019. TVET sector focuses on providing skills that fits the workplace hence providing for decent employment and guaranteeing human and economic development. The policy is being implemented through the TVET Act 2013 and the KNQF Act 2014.

TVET reforms agenda in Kenya is largely informed by the AU strategy and it reflect a vital paradigm shift witnessed in recent years, which has placed quality and relevance as its priority. The reforms focus on integrating global best practices to link the TVET system outputs with labour sector requirements hence creating a competent, motivated and adaptable workforce capable of driving economic growth and development.

The reforms have been majorly focusing on institutions and improvement of the quality of training through infrastructural development and provision of equipment. Kenya hopes to achieve a TVET system which is relevant, flexible, effective, efficient, accessible, sustainable, while fulfilling its general obligations as an integrated part of the educational system. TVET reforms will provide the Kenyan labour force with market-oriented training, a structural ability to adapt quickly to changing circumstances and market needs, high quality in training through comprehensive and continuous trainer training, curricula development and financially secured and harmonized TVET system.

Since the competence level is an important criterion in employment, TVET programmes should be developed to meet the demands of a knowledge and skills-based economy. However, there are fundamentals to be achieved to ensure that TVET in Kenya meets the requirements of global market. Due to the complexity of its structure and governance, several challenges affecting the delivery of a quality and relevant TVET system are still being experienced.

Some of the challenges include lack of adequate and quality data from various TVET stakeholders. This has made it difficult to implement policies, make informed decisions, carry out monitoring and evaluation, among other issues hence affecting proper planning and development within the sector. To address this issue, a proper mechanism should be put in place to provide high reliable TVET data for researchers, policymakers, practitioners, development partners and others to make informed decisions in all matters TVET.  Data processing and generation of information is essential to improve the overall performance of policies, training pathways, initiatives and practices concerning TVET development.

Some of the data required includes; academic qualifications and certificates, status of training infrastructure and equipment, enrolment by programme and gender, completion and transition rate, companies providing apprenticeship, and other types of training, expenditures in labour cost, and work-based learning participation rate. Others include satisfaction demand for TVET, relevance of quality assurance systems for TVET providers, training of trainers, integration of ICT in TVET and satisfaction of employers with TVET graduates.

Analysed data and generated reports will inform TVET policy development and implementation, employment and labour landscapes, labour market information and training standards, assessment and certification, accreditation, and qualification framework policies.

TVET research therefore, is very important as it helps in the provision of evidence for monitoring the policy implementation and performance of the reforms and other initiatives. It will also provide feedback on the quality and relevance of TVET to all stakeholders and its responsiveness to the labour market demand conditions as well as guiding future reforms and investments.

The author is the Director General/ CEO, T