Germany sketches big plan to tackle Kenya’s skills shortage

Technological innovations will shape the future of the construction industry.
Germany seeks to equip local craftsmen with modern skills to match the needs of the market.
Property developers in Kenya are increasingly grappling with a shortage of skilled construction workers, a situation that is likely to undermine housing development in the country.

The shortage of masons, plumbers and painters among other artisans has been blamed on students who have increasingly shunned technical courses in favour of courses that lead to white-collar jobs.

As a result of this shortfall, labour costs have risen exponentially as property developers seek to woo the few skilled workers in the market. This has also seen some developers turning to uncertified artisans thus compromising standards.

But a new initiative by the government of Germany appears set to equip local craftsmen with modern skills to match the needs of the market.

The European nation says it will spend Sh3 billion to establish vocational training in various technical colleges in Kenya, which will offer students with on-the-job training and work experience.

According to Germany ambassador to Kenya Jutta Frasch, the funds will be used to equip colleges with state-of-the-art facilities that will improve the way technical knowledge is imparted to students.

“This might be seen as small (contribution), but we have to start somewhere,” Ms Frasch said while announcing the support in Nairobi last week.

The dual vocational training system has over the years assisted Germany to tackle skills shortage by ensuring that students are equipped with the practical skills demanded by the labour market.

Under the system, learners attend classes at a vocational school and obtain on-the-job training at a company. The courses ordinarily last between two and three and a half years and they comprise both theory and practical lessons.

Students spend a day or two per week at a vocational school where they acquire the theoretical skills, while the rest of time is spent at a company where they get to put newly acquired skills into practice.

Germany’s initiative will complement those of several local companies that have recently embarked on various training programmes that seek to grow a local army of a million skilled technicians.

Bamburi Cement, HF Group, Alibhai Shariff and the National Construction Authority (NCA) are some of the organisations currently undertaking programmes aimed at improving the vocation skills of key technicians in the local construction value chain.

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