Centres of Excellence Boost for Future Jobs

By Alice Tudor, VSO

Centres of Excellence Boost Opportunities for Future Jobs

The first report in VSO’s Producing Progress series focuses on a programme in Kenya that tackles inequality through improving the provision of skills for entrepreneurship for marginalised groups, youth and women in particular. The reports draw out lessons from a variety of programmes, including those that improve employment opportunities, strengthen markets for smallholder producers and align skills needs with supply.

The Strengthening Vocational Training for Enterprise Development (SVTED) project is helping the Kenyan Government achieve its Vision 2030 strategy for economic growth and poverty reduction. A study by the Kenyan Government and a UNDP analysis both identified the agricultural sector as an engine of growth and poverty reduction. They both also prioritised the need to strengthen links between industry and training institutions to allow for a smooth transition from training to the workplace.

So this project was set up to increase economic opportunities for youth and women, and more specifically increase the capacity of 400 young people in information and communications technology, agriculture and entrepreneurship. It supports four vocational training centres in Kenya to become ‘centres of excellence’ that provide high quality practical skills to youth and women to allow them to pursue agribusiness and entrepreneurship opportunities.

The SVTED project helps to improve the quality of vocational training for thriving enterprises by exposing students to more productive technologies (such as higher yielding seeds, irrigation systems and ICTs). By forging links between informal artisans and the training centres and by creating apprenticeships, students are exposed to the workplace.

VSO volunteers supported the management of the vocational training centres to make them financially stable. The strength of this approach is evident in the increased enrolment and income of the training centres. In one youth polytechnic in Kiranga, the level of debt was reduced from Ksh 500,000 in 2011 to a comfortable Ksh 50,000 in 2013[1].

A review found that managers and teachers in the youth polytechnics lauded the ongoing support from skilled volunteers in what can often be a lonely and stressful job. By arranging exchange visits to other training centres, volunteers helped to inspire managers and teachers to recognise and build on their strengths and strive for their institutions to become Centres of Excellence.

By training young people this programme builds their capability to earn a higher and more secure income for life. However improving the supply of skilled labour is only one side of the equation; programmes such as this are vastly improved when they understand long term demand for skilled vocational workers, align with a national strategy such as Kenya’s Vision 2030 and then work in a sustainable way. VSO’s SVTED programme is more sustainable because it’s founded upon a partnership with the training centres and is focused upon improving their staff’s ability to teach now and into the future. The programme is achieving great results for marginalised groups in Kenya and providing a case study which we hope will inspire similar partnerships in more countries.

If your company wants to look at improving the vocational or technical skills of the labour force in your supply chain, or if you are interested in employee volunteering with VSO get in touch via http://www.vsoknowledgeexchange.org/.

To read the full report on VSO’s programme in Kenya, please click here.

[1] Roughly Kshs500,000 = £3,300 and Kshs50,000 = £330

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