AITEC and other stakeholders are not against the school system but argue for need of marriage between work and education.
“There is no doubt that universities and tertiary institutions are providing a large pool of graduates. The problem, however, lies in the large disparity between academia and work. Accreditation has therefore become key in this market,” said a key player in this field, Kevit Desai, Chairman of the Linking Industry With Academia (LIWA) Trust.
The manufacturing industry, for instance, uses Supervisory Control Data Acquisition (SCDA) software, which is standard for the industry, but depends solely on in-house training, with no institution in the country offering the software as part of their curriculum.
As it is, an estimated 9,600 IT fresh graduates are expected to join the workforce this year. Yet companies report they are having to set up management trainee programmes where they spend six months to a year training fresh graduates just to give them the basic IT skills they need for entry level jobs.
”For ourselves, we see a lack of skills within software development, and we see low levels of IT absorption in the primary and secondary school levels, leading to an IT skills deficit in general,” said David Svarrer of Digital Age Technologies.
This contrasts with the European Union where more than half of the EU population has a medium or high level of computer skills. In 2011, 52 per cent of 16 to 74 year-olds were estimated to have medium or high level computer skills, with 27 per cent at a high level, according to a report by Cedefop, the European Centre for the Development of Vocational Training.
Globally, partnerships between government, private sector and academia have been key to achieving such high skill levels. In Germany, a “dual system” that balances a curriculum of structured training within a company and part-time classroom tuition over two to three and a half years has resulted in the German economy being described as having a “high skills equilibrium”.
With a broad industrial base and a large number of small and medium-sized companies involved in export-oriented activities, Germany’s economy is now built on its highly skilled workforce, and the French government is now considering implementing this same kind of training model.
In Kenya, the private sector, through LIWA, has now engaged in over 40 partnerships with both government and academic institutions, 10 of which were formed in 2012, in a direct effort to bridge the gap. LIWA has also facilitated a partnership between KAM and Kenya Polytechnic to develop a curriculum in Manufacturing ICT, as well as a second partnership between Centurion Systems, University of Nairobi and Kenyatta University on research and development for industrial manufacturing.
“While efforts by employers are commendable they don’t have the guarantee that upon completion of the training programmes the employees will remain at the post long enough for the company to benefit from their skills,” said Mr. Desai.
The only sustainable answer, say employers, is more appropriate academic programming.
Moreover, Kenyan SMEs are being particularly handicapped by the shortages in the ICT job market, as they lack both funds and capacity to train staff but must deliver industry standard products and profits.
The AITEC East Africa ICT Summit 2012, themed “Smart cities > smart societies > smart enterprises” is a consumer and business event that provides the platform to achieve this vision through a multi-faceted event that will draw together the many strands of a vibrant growth market, underpinning high-level business-to-business services with widespread consumer engagement in modern mobile applications and electronics.