NAIROBI, Kenya, Feb 7 – Academia and manufacturers have joined forces to address training and knowledge gaps in the Small and Medium Enterprise (SME) sector and universities.
A year-long Memorandum of Cooperation signed on Wednesday between the Kenya Association of Manufacturers (KAM) and Kenya Polytechnic University College is geared towards developing and enhancing capacity and entrepreneurial skills in small businesses.
KAM Chief Executive Officer Betty Maina said the high transience rate among SMEs in Kenya is due to several factors including product development and identifying markets for their goods.
“The real challenge is on product development. Many people tend to do exactly the same thing so product diversification is something we’re quite keen on, whether it’s the application of engineering solutions the design development of prototypes for various products that are required in the market,” she said.
The key areas of focus of the strategic partnership will include innovation, business start up courses, business plan development, cash flow management and marketing development.
Kenya Polytechnic Principal Francis Aduol said through the partnership students will also benefit from a real work experience that will ensure input of apt industry practioners and professionals into the market.
“Our students require proper hands-on training which is a challenge for us and this is where KAM comes in. So that by the time they leave the institution they have a good idea of what is happening in the industry,” he said.
Aduol added that there is often too much focus on developing engineers in local universities and not enough training for technologists who will be instrumental in turning the ideas and concepts of engineers into reality.
“Many think that when you train many engineers then you have technologists and you can be technologically advanced. That is simply not true. A large chunk of our engineer graduates are jobless, because for an engineer to function you need a technologist,” he explained.
The polytechnic has embarked on addressing this gap by giving focus to training technologists and providing this niche group hands-on experience in the workforce.
As the government takes steps to revamp the education scheme and do way with the 8-4-4 system, Maina said the need for practical training in schools alongside industry experience is crucial in producing better graduates and overall professionals when they enter the job market.