Technical Vocational Training: A Solution to the Unemployment in Kenya

The Kenyan society is yet to effectively embrace Vocational Training Institutes. Too much emphasis is put on university education. This is despite the clear fact that the white-collar job market CANNOT absorb the yearly flood of graduates from the universities.

Developed countries around the world clearly show that vocational jobs are a major pillar of any country’s economy. Not only does a well established vocational education system help in creating employment, it also creates a quality workforce that drives up a nation’s productivity.

It is high time that we started caring about the Vocational Education System.

Why the Vocational Education System?

As of 2017, the unemployment rate in Kenya was at 39.1 percent. That means 1 in every four Kenyans was unemployed. A grim scenario especially for the youth aged 20 to 35 who are the most affected.

The report, courtesy of the UN as part of its human development assessment in Kenya, further states that, the unemployment rate is equal to that of Ethiopia and Rwanda combined. This is despite the fact that Kenya is East Africa’s biggest economy.

Kenya’s economy grew 5.8 percent in 2016—the highest in Africa. Unfortunately—unemployment—a song that has been sung in Kenya for years, persists.

Due to the long history of the reluctance or inability of the authorities to handle this issue, many Kenyans are skeptical about the vocational training program introduced by President Kenyatta.

Skeptical or not, I would like to draw your attention to an example I found inspiring—Germany.

Vocational Education System in Germany.

Germany is a member state of G7—countries i.e the 7 most advanced economies. At a young age, children in Germany are divided. One group is University-bound while the other group enters the vocational education system studying for a six-year period that leads to apprenticeship.

The system not only provides for a well-trained workforce; it also ensures that many Germans who would have ended up jobless have a ticket into the middle class.

Statistics say that 19 percent of Germans work in the Blue-collar sector. “Blue Collar aristocrats” as they are better known.

The unemployment rate in Germany is only 8 percent.

So, what should we learn from Germany?

The road to success is different for everyone.

Deputy President Ruto, when speaking about Technical Vocational Education and Training Institutions (TVETs), said something worth considering.

“Our students must understand that they do not succeed in life only by having a University degree in any field, but having a skill is critical for one’s progression as well as that of the country.”

Bill Gates, the holder of the world’s richest man title from 1995 to 2017, dropped out of University in his second year. He instead focused on his skill and went on to build the world’s most successful company.

University Education is fantastic and needed, but more important is the realization that vocational training has the potential to employ many more Kenyans who will, in turn, propel the county’s economy in a massive way.

Revitalized TVET Under President Uhuru Kenyatta

In 2012, in a bid to begin fulfilling some of the pre-election campaign promises by Jubilee, a TVET bill was introduced in parliament. In 2013, there was a TVET Act of parliament enacted into law.

The Act aimed at the establishment of the Technical and Vocational Education and Training System (TVET)

The Act provided for

  1. Governance and management of institutions offering technical and vocational education.
  2. A recognized assessment, examination, and
  • A method of promoting access to training.
  1. A way to ensuring standards, relevance, and quality.

The Act also established the Training and Vocational Education and Training System Authority (TVETA) whose primary mandate was to regulate the TVET sector.

TVETA regulates the sector by

  1. Overseeing and improving access to TVET.
  2. Registration and accreditation of institutions.
  • Overseeing programs and instructors.

Once the Act was enacted into law, earnest work, driven by the Ministry of Education began.

The current State of TVET

On July 19th, 2017, president Uhuru Kenyatta launched the first batch of equipment for 134 Technical Training Institutions procured at the cost of 16.7 billion.

Most notable as of June 2017, was that Training Technical Institutions (TTIs) had increased from 45 in 2013, to 206 and 70 more were under construction.

TTIs are divided into three.

  1. National Polytechnics
  2. Vocational Training Colleges.
  3. Vocational Training Centers.

Each County boasts of some Vocational Training Colleges and Vocational Training Centers.

Vocational Training Centers.

Training Centers are at the lowest level. They accept students who get grade D and below.

They offer two curriculums, Trade Test and NVCET. It is the students who decide which curriculum they will pursue.

Standard Eight leavers are advised to pursue Trade Test while Form Four Leavers are encouraged to pursue NVCET.

Trade Test

The National Industrial Training Authority (NITA) examines the Trade Test curriculum. Students are examined at three levels, Trade Test I, Trade Test II, and Trade Test III.

A student begins his/her studies at Trade Test III for two years, followed by Trade Test II which takes one year and finally Trade Test I which also takes one year.

Trade Test Curriculum is a dead end as once the student finishes Trade Test I—the highest level, they cannot pursue any further education in TTIs.


National Vocational Certificate of Education and Training(NVCET) is examined by Kenya National Examination Council (KNEC) While pursuing the NVCET curriculum; a student does two modules of the course of their choice for two years.

The most significant distinction between NVCET and Trade Test is that with the NVCET curriculum, a student can pursue further studies.

Examples of Training Centers

  • Milangini
  • Miharati
  • Nakuru Polytechnic

Vocational Training Colleges

A Vocational Training College accepts two kinds of students, direct students who get grade C, and C-. These students pursue the Diploma Courses offered in the Training Colleges.

Students who have done the NVCET curriculum in a Training Center can apply to a program known as CRAFT offered by Training Colleges.

A CRAFT program takes one year, and if a student completes the program successfully, they can proceed to Diploma if they so wish.

Examples of Training Colleges

  • Nyandarua Institute of Science and Technology
  • Rift Valley Institute of Science and Technology.
  • Aimosi in Kakamega.

National Polytechnics.

National Polytechnics offer Diplomas, Higher Diplomas, and Degrees, but only in conjunction with Technical Universities.

Note that there are only three Technical Universities in Kenya

  1. The Technical University of Kenya.
  2. Technical University of Mombasa
  3. Dedan Kimathi Technical University.

Examples of National Polytechnics include,

  • Kabete National Polytechnic
  • Kisumu National Polytechnic
  • Eldoret National Polytechnic.

The Courses Offered and Potential Opportunities in the Labor Market

The courses offered across the institutions are too many to enumerate, but they include Masonry, Carpentry, Electrical, Garment making, Masonry, Fashion and Design, Mechanical, and Cosmetology.

Diploma courses cover a more extensive range of choices that include Architecture, Business Management, and IT among others.

A crucial factor to note is that the job market right now is in dire need of technical skills. In 2017, the Star ran the story of a student who enrolled in Thika Training Technical Institute for a course in Architectural Engineering, and by the end of his first year, he had a job with a real estate firm.

It is interesting that he got a job in his first year while some Architectural Engineering degree graduates were and are still tarmacking.

Jobs available for this skilled workforce include chefs, clothes designers, mechanics, electrical wiring technicians, masons, and carpenters.

Take carpenters, for instance; houses are being built day in day out. A skilled carpenter is paid an average of Ksh.1000 per day. A plumber, on the other hand, commands a fee of Ksh. 50,000 and upwards per job.

The response so far

There is still a level of contempt attached to Vocational Training. Most students still prefer and are lured by the glamor of universities.

The Kenya Central Placing Service noted that in the year 2015-2016, there were 60,000 opportunities but only 13,000 students applied to the Technical Training Institutions.

Nyandarua County, for instance, graduated roughly 300 students in 2017.  If you multiply this number by 47 Counties, then we have a rough estimate of 14,000 TTI graduates per year across the country.

The response is not yet as massive as was expected, but there is hope that with more awareness and success stories, there will be a time when 60,000 opportunities will be too little.

Impact of TVETS on Society

  1. i) Craftsmanship. This is a scenario where a learner learns as they work. A student taking carpentry is placed with a carpenter who is doing real work, and they learn on the job. The enormous impact of craftsmanship is the reduction in idleness among the youth undertaking technical courses as they are always busy.
  2. ii) Job creation for the youth.

iii) Self-employment. Arguably the greatest impact. TVETs equip students with the skill to create employment opportunities for themselves.


Financing is one of the biggest challenge faced by technical institutions. The students pay roughly Ksh. 45,000 to Ksh. 50,000 per year as school fees but it is still not enough for everything needed. Milangini, for instance, is considered one of the best Technical Training Centers in Nyandarua County, yet it does not have enough beds.

Lack of quality trained instructors is yet another challenge. The government has made considerable strides in hiring instructors, but there is still a gap that needs filling.

Lack of instructional material. The materials include things like dummies for those doing cosmetology, wires, and plugs for those pursuing electrical and clothes for those doing fashion design.

The instruction materials are critical since the courses are mainly practical.


On February of 2018, President Uhuru Kenyatta appointed Dr. Kevit Desai as the Principal Secretary in charge of Vocational and Technical Training (TVET) under the Ministry of Education.

He is highly knowledgeable about TVETs as he was the chairman of the Permanent Working Group on TVET in Kenya. This was a committee that played a huge part in introducing the Act of Parliament in 2013.

With him in charge, there is hope that awareness and perception of TVETs in Kenya will change. As parents or as future parents, we need to realize that our children are gifted differently and it is up to us to give them the best possible chance of success.

This could just be through Technical Vocational Training.

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