| Training for self-employment through vocational training institutions (ILO/ SKAT, 1997) |
|Part III - Lessons from the field: Country studies from India, Colombia, Kenya, Ghana and Chile|
There is an increasing interest world-wide in the apprenticeship system of training. In the United States, for example, the focus has been on apprenticeship training system as an alternative means of providing skills for students who do not wish to pursue post-secondary education. In the developing countries, however, interest in the traditional apprenticeship training methodology, especially in the informal sector, has arisen due to its cost effectiveness, its potential to train a large numbers of youth, and its functional utility in helping graduates and school-leavers make the transition to employment or self-employment. The apparent success of traditional apprenticeship training in the informal sector should not be viewed as competition for vocational training institutions (VTIs). On the contrary, the volume of training undertaken through traditional apprenticeships, despite the acknowledged limitations of the apprentice masters as trainers, suggests that the informal sector and the VTIs can complement each other.
The informal sector is defined here as that sector of the economy which comprises small enterprises with an owner or master craftsman in charge, and a few assistants and apprentices.
The traditional apprenticeship method of acquiring skills on the job, is the dominant mode of training in the informal sector. However, traditional apprenticeship is not confined to the informal sector. The modern sector also has large numbers of individuals who acquire their skills on-the-job, without support from the formal educational system. There is a clearly merit in expanding the intersection between these two training sectors. The lessons learned from studies of Kenya's traditional apprenticeship system can contribute to developing strategies for developing self-employment among VTI trainees, through training partnership with the informal sector.
The informal sector was first brought to the forefront in an ILO report in 1972 (ILO, 1972) which highlighted the many small Kenyan businesses which had started with little capital and virtually no support from government or NGOs, but which provided employment and livelihood to a significant portion of the urban population (McCormick, 1988). This thriving informal enterprise sector has become known as the Jua Kali, a Swahili phrase for 'hot sun', which reflects the open, unsheltered working conditions of most informal sector enterprises. But it was only in the 1980s that the Jua Kali sector received serious consideration in official economic statistics and policy documents of the Kenyan government.. The informal sector was first officially recognised in Sessional Paper No. 1 of 1986, on 'Economic Management for Renewed Growth', and the employment policy document, 'Creation of Employment Opportunities for a Growing Population', of 1989. However, it was not until Sessional Paper No. 5 of 1991, on 'Small Enterprise and Jua Kali Development in Kenya' (Government of Kenya, 1991) that Kenya fully addressed the concerns of the sector. This document outlines the responsibility of government to 'concentrate on creating the infrastructure facilities and the economic environment in which entrepreneurs can emerge, develop, and grow' and creates the basis for expanded cooperation between the Jua Kali and formal institutions such as vocational training institutions (VTIs).
The traditional apprenticeship system in Kenya
The key characteristics of traditional skill training in Kenya are its relative ease of entry, and its high degree of self-financing. Taking on apprentices can be both a source of income from fees and a source of cheap labour (Ferej, 1993). Entry can be based on kinship, friendship, business or philanthropy. Traditional apprenticeship are more flexible, the duration of training depends on the apprentice's aptitude, and the quantity, variety and type of work undertaken by the apprentice master. After training apprentices can and do seek employment elsewhere, start their own businesses, or continue to work for their apprentice masters. The fee structure is quite flexible, ranging from nothing in the case of philanthropy to considerable amounts. Tomecko et al. (Tomecko, 1991) found that an apprentice in the informal sector can expect to pay approximately sixty US dollars (USD) per annum. The total fees paid for a normal course of training range from USD 120 - USD 360, and are usually paid in a single lump sum at the commencement of training. The apprentices in turn receive an allowance or incentive of approximately one USD each working day, an amount which gradually increases as the apprentice's skills develop. A reasonably competent apprentice can earn several times the amount of the fee paid. The system is largely self-financing. In contrast to this, the cost of training in the formal system is about USD 250 per annum in a Youth Polytechnic (skills training for primary school graduates) and about USD 825 per annum in the Institutes of Technology (VTIs providing skill training for secondary school graduates), (Tomecko et al., 1991). Both these systems are externally financed; neither offer opportunities for the trainees to earn while they learn.
In traditional apprenticeships all learning takes place on-the-job, At the beginning stages the master watches over the apprentice closely, and intervenes at all crucial stages. Unlike more formal learning methodologies, tasks are not simplified during the period of learning. Instead, the task is held constant, while the role of the apprentice is simplified. As the apprentice becomes progressively more skilled the apprentice master reduces direct interventions and allows the apprentice to assume increasing responsibility for the work. Because apprentices are typically involved in work that has an economic dimension, working independently is not encouraged until the apprentices' performance are likely to be error free. There is little room for error. The work environment is the most important influence on the skill acquired by the apprentice. The breadth and depth of the master's knowledge and the social interactions among the master, the apprentice, other apprentices and customers are also crucial to the overall development of the apprentice.
The main focus of traditional apprenticeship learning is the practice of technical processes, but trainees also learn business skills simply by being immersed in the business transactions of the enterprise (McLaughlin, 1990). In contrast, apprentices in large formal enterprises seldom conduct any negotiations or attend to customer needs directly and are at a distinct disadvantage in relation to their informal sector counterparts who have many opportunities to observe and participate in business. The level of skill acquired during traditional apprenticeship depends on the quality of the work environment. Most trainees have only hand tools to work with and seldom develop skills in the use of modern tools or in modern business methods. A central tenet of the formal apprenticeship system is the trade test which is usually accepted as an affirmation of an individual's skills. Trade certification does not carry much weight in the informal sector where competency is measured by output rather than qualification. Still, artisans in the informal sector who aspire to formal sector employment are aware of the need for certification and may take a trade test to improve their employment prospects.
Strategies for developing self-employment and efforts to promote self-employment through VTIs
The Kenya government, with the assistance of the UNDP and the ILO, has made efforts to introduce entrepreneurship awareness to many VTI students. The objective is to direct graduates towards self-employment as a viable alternative to formal employment. Small Business Centres (SBC) have been set up in several VTIs to promote small enterprise development. At present the UNDP/ILO is sponsoring ten selected SBCs with the intention of having these ten become the models for the other thirty in the country. It has been recognised, due to the short period of training, the lack of practical skills among instructors, and the artificial setting of the training, that the skills acquired by the SBC trainees will be limited. Hence, some form of internship through traditional apprenticeship might help improve the level of entrepreneurship training. Certainly, the opportunity exists for VTIs to take advantage of the virtually unlimited traditional apprenticeship potential of the Jua Kali.
In the past the VTIs and traditional apprenticeships have been on a parallel course, both are imparting productive skills for the local economy. Mutual need can, however, cause these parallel tracks to converge. The VTIs can co-opt the low cost work environment of the informal sector to enhance their students' training and preparation for self-employment, and through thoughtful and flexible programming, the VTIs can offer useful courses to upgrade the training and productive skills of the apprentice masters. The blending of the two sectors can, therefore provide opportunities to address legitimate concerns about the limitations of the Jua Kali as trainers (World Bank, 1991; Tomecko et al., 1991). A partnership between the VTIs and the informal sector would help foster mutual understanding and knowledge sharing. The need to visit the sector frequently will provide instructors with a better understanding of local markets and give them the continuous opportunity to assess training needs and plan remedial courses for Jua Kali masters. The Jua Kali sector can provide VTIs with 'incubators' for training in business skills and the opportunity to try out new technical designs for local markets (Mburugu & Thiong'o, 1993).
Collaboration and cooperation will not come easily. VTIs and the informal sector have heretofore pursued different objectives using different methods. Often these differences have been compounded by a basic lack of mutual respect. Some form of rapprochement will be necessary based on shared goals. Clear incentives must be negotiated for all parties. Informal sector associations can and should be involved (Haan, 1995). VTI trainees who become apprentices should expect to pay fees just as any other apprentice. Many proposals for incentive systems to encourage Jua Kali participation have been mooted; including the awarding of 'points' to help Jua Kali qualify for development loans. This option might be difficult to administer, however, and offer less tangible benefits than direct payments. Nonetheless, a few pilot projects along these lines and others should be implemented to test and refine various modes of cooperation, with informal sector organisations involved at all stages.
Though Jua Kali sector training is normally flexible, for the purposes of joint training a time frame should be agreed upon. At present craft training in Kenyan VTIs involves up to seven academic terms at an institute and two terms of industrial work experience. An extra term has been proposed for trainees taking a self-employment module. If these three 'industrial attachment' terms were to be designated for an apprenticeship in the informal sector the twin objectives of employment and self-employment preparation could be achieved simultaneously. A VTI graduate would then be either a skilled employee or an entrepreneur with a reasonable chance of success.
The skills and knowledge an apprentice master is capable of imparting depend upon his own training and experience. Hence, there is the need to carefully scrutinise the skills of the Jua Kali masters. If there are weaknesses it must be the responsibility of the VTIs to fill in knowledge gaps, either during the apprenticeship or later. By so doing future entrepreneurs with ever higher levels of education, technical skills, and entrepreneurship skill will be continuously contributing to upgrading the small enterprise sector.
Monitoring and evaluation are essential. Informal sector organisations should monitor the apprentices' day-to-day progress. VTI staff should visit enterprises regularly to observe and assess, and to confer with apprentice masters and officials of informal sector associations. Each apprentice should maintain a work diary. Since the ultimate objectives of the VTI - Jua Kali partnership is to produce VTI graduates who can become self-employed, it will be necessary to conduct tracer studies and other forms of follow-up to assess impact in terms of actual self-employment.
Policy implications of a training partnerships between VTIs and the informal sector
Areas of policy concern include, course content, testing and certification, fees, safety, and VTI staff preparation and remuneration. Course content in Kenyan VTIs is closely controlled by the Kenya Institute of Education. The curriculum is prepared centrally and applied uniformly, as are examinations. If VTIs wish to engage in training partnerships with the informal sector on a long term basis then the government, through the Ministry of Research, Technical Training & Technology, needs to address the curriculum and examinations implications of incorporating what must become highly localised and decentralised training.
It will be necessary to formulate policies on fees to be paid to participating enterprises. At present students only pay fees for the institutional components of training; when they are on industrial attachment they rely on the philanthropy of the entrepreneurs who host them. The fee structure policy should empower VTIs to negotiate with the informal sector associations in their communities. Policy should be developed to guide parents, trainees, enterprises and VTIs on broad fee structures while providing the basis for fee calculation and negotiation. Safety and liability for safety are important issues. Large companies often insist on a waiver of responsibility for student safety during apprenticeships and attachments. A well articulated policy from the central government needs to be developed to cover traditional apprenticeships. Incentives might need to be included to encourage full participation of VTI staff. Teachers who will design and teach courses in the evenings should be paid for their services. A policy empowering the VTIs to negotiate incentives with their own staff will be necessary.
The successful implementation of a partnership between the VTIs and the informal sector depends on the clear articulation of policy by the central government, as well as decentralisation and the delegation of authority to local VTIs. The factors that have made traditional apprenticeship training successful in the informal sector need to be preserved. VTIs can inject much needed technical skills without ruining the flexibility of the traditional apprenticeship mechanism. Careful monitoring will be needed to ensure that the sector's training balance is not upset. Apprentice masters should be expected to treat VTI trainees as they would any other traditional apprentice. If informal sector apprentices get paid incentive allowances then this practice should be extended to VTI trainees also. Co-opting each partners' mechanisms wherever possible, rather than changing each to suit the other, will greatly facilitate success. Ultimately, however, the success of the partnership will depend on the development of genuine mutual respect among VTI staff and administrators, informal sector entrepreneurs and their associations, and the trainees themselves. With respect will come trust and infinite gain for all parties.