|The Transition of Youth from School to Work: Issues and Policies (IIEP, 2000, 188 p.)|
|Chapter IV. The integration of youth into the informal sector: the Kenyan experience by Ahmed K. Ferej|
Formal education provides good preparation for the youth going to the informal sector. This is because, with some level of literacy and numeracy, the trainees can learn more easily on the job or take courses more easily. Perhaps a vocationalized curriculum as originally conceived might have played a more significant role in youth preparation. But since this was not effectively implemented due lack of adequate resources, it might be argued that a good general education could be a better preparation than a poorly implemented vocational preparation. Post-school education and training and apprenticeship programmes play a more significant role in youth preparation for work. The implication of these will be discussed.
5.1 Improving education and training in the vocational and technical institutions
As mentioned elsewhere in this paper, VTIs need to re-focus their programmes to the needs of the market place. At the moment that means the needs of the informal sector, as this is where most jobs are to be found. The greatest change therefore must come in the culture of these institutions. At present they are examination oriented with little emphasis on practical skill development, innovation and problem solving. The education level of graduates from this level is high as the average programmes take about three years. These trainees must be prepared to learn the realities of work in the informal sector. Once they come to terms with what the sector can offer, they are probably best placed to improve and do well due to the level of technology and scientific knowledge they have. At the same time, the VTIs need to play a more positive role in the training of apprentices by offering short-term courses that better meet their needs. The first phase of the MSETTP project showed that there was little interest in what they could offer. This is at variance with the facts because they offer improved prospects of institutionalizing the concepts created by the MSETTP project.
5.2 Improving the informal apprenticeship training process for the youth
The quality of training an apprentice receives is directly related to the work environment in which the training is conducted. To improve the quality of training in the informal sector, appropriate interventions are needed by the Ministry of Research, Technical Training and Applied Technology (MRTT&AT). The areas of intervention include flexible training programming for apprentices and trainers. MRTT&AT is responsible for the development of the informal sector, as well as technical training in general in Kenya. By providing flexible training programmes in its VTIs, MRTT&AT can have a multiplying training effect on the quality of training in the informal sector. Flexible scheduling requires the introduction of classes at times that are convenient to the operators in the informal sector. This largely means night classes. Another issue is the high academic entry point required to enrol into classes. Most studies have shown that at the present time informal-sector operators have primary education or less. Using the results of a good needs assessment, classes can be designed to meet the needs of these operators.
Training programmes can also be designed to meet the needs of the apprentices. The focus of such programmes would be to supplement informal apprenticeship training rather than to substitute it. Master craftsmen who are the principal trainers can learn methods of improving productivity, basic record keeping, and how to find information related to problems encountered in the workplace. Flexibility in scheduling, course offerings, credit accumulations and testing is needed to make the programme attractive to the trainees.
In the final analysis, however, the craftsmen or apprentices from the informal sector must be able to see gain for themselves in order to make the effort and time to participate in the VTI programmes. One incentive that can be explored, for example (see World Bank documents), is making it easier for informal-sector operators who have participated in training to obtain development loans. A craftsman, for example, who has participated in some specific training programme and shows transfer of acquired skills to his work, could be recommended for concessionary loans. Similarly, apprentices who participate in VTI training could also build up valuable training credits that may also be a useful requirement for start-up loans upon completion of apprenticeship training. The apprentices could also be given guidance in the taking of the trade test examinations. Acquiring the certificate would give the individual trainee confidence as well as contribute towards improving standards in the informal sector.
5.3 Collaboration with VTIs
To date little contact exists between the VTIs and the informal sector in Kenya, even though both are actively involved in the training of future technical operators and entrepreneurs (Ferej, 1996). Great opportunity exists for mutual gain for the two training sectors. In addition to the VTIs' theoretical and technical know-how that could supplement informal sector apprenticeship training, and improve efficiency and productivity of the artisan entrepreneurs, there are opportunities for the informal sector to complement VTI training for its current formal trainees. Students from the VTIs can seek internships with the informal sector during their regular industrial attachment phase, as well as during vacations that amount to about three months a year. Such internships should provide the VTI trainees with a live and active business environment to acquire both technical and entrepreneurial skills that exist in abundance in the informal sector (Ferej, 1994). In the short term the opportunity to take VTI trainees would provide the informal sector with a new source of income as well as recognition. In the long term the sector stands to gain from interaction with minds trained to a higher academic level.