TVET, defined in various ways, is mainly characterised as preparation for 'blue collar' work that requires competence in technical and productive skills. This article demonstrates our work in Kenya and lessons learnt through a project management perspective. 

Strengthening the capacities of TVETA

In 2013, the Kenyan Government brought into law a regulatory body to oversee accreditation of training courses and institutions, development of standards, licensing, registration, among other key functions. This law, in essence, resulted in the formation of the State organisation, Technical Vocational Education Training Authority (TVETA). Consequently, a herculean task lay ahead of setting up structures and bringing the organisation into full functionality. This neccessitated the creation of the project Strengthening the capacities of TVETA for enhancing education system in Kenya links between the TVET system and the labour market by aligning TVET programmes with the labour market needs to reduce skills mismatch project. 

In collaboration with other development partners, MDF developed a three-year project to enable TVETA set up these systems and structures. The project is currently ongoing until the end of 2020.  The project aims at achieving five key outputs including: development of a Quality Assurance Framework/Quality Assurance System, development of a Management Information System (MIS), and development of standards to assess entrepreneurial profiles of TVET institutions. While there are other key output areas, these three outputs have a direct impact on the functions of the Authority in terms of registrations, accreditation and compliance. 

Strengthening Agriculture TVET Teacher Training in Kenya

As the above project picked up momentum, it presented another opportunity to influence a sector-specific area, which paved way for another TVET project  focusing on Agriculture, that is,' Strengthening Agriculture TVET Teacher Training in kenya'. Since Agriculture remains one of Kenya's key priority ares, this project  aims to contribute to the Sustainable Development Goals 2 (SDG2) of ending hunger through strengthening the capacity, knowledge and quality of individuals in TVET and Higher Education in Kenya.  

The project brings together labour market partners, higher education institutions and teacher training colleges to improve the delivery of curriculum that is labour-market responsive, competency-based education training within required regulations and quality assurance mechanisms of gender inclusiveness. It does this through private partner participation, curriculum development and enhancement of teacher training delivery. The project is a collaboration of TVETA, higher education institutions in Kenya, The Netherlands Government and teacher training colleges in Kenya. 

Lessons Learnt

In coordinating the above projects, I have picked up a few lessons along the way that I would summarise as follows: 

  1. Identify the interests of the stakeholders; in a sector that is primarily a bedrock to the growth of every government, community or society - through education - there will be parties with different interests. Map these out early and be flexible to adopt and change as you move forward. 
  2. Share your vision and agree on the objectives together; in many instances, we see perceived solutions created without consultation or engagement with the key stakeholders, resulting in documents and strategies that do not see the light of day. While this engagement can be a long drawn out and expensive process, if implementation is not done in tandem with the set objectives of the project, all the preparation work done bankrupts the whole process. 
  3. Get your stakeholders working together from the beginning and maintain the engagement and involvement; this continuous process requires employing warm acquisition tactics. This is sometimes overshadowed by other direct needs. However, it helps build a menaningful relationship and trust or T.R.U.S.T (Tremendous Results Using Simple Techniques). 
  4. Communicate and document your experience and the journey; given the amount of work that goes into setting up a project of this nature and all the different stakeholders and needs involved, it is a no brainer that along the way important things risk being overlooked, achievements not celebrated, and key milestones obscured in the complex process. To overcome this, document the lessons and achievements outside of the scheduled monitoring and evaluation framework and shout about them.
  5. You cannot tackle the whole system, so do not bite off more than you can chew; the TVET sector is dynamic and has many variables. Hence, select an area of focus that will have a real impact. In addition, define what success looks like when you achieve that common goal. 
  6. Patience; processes can be slow and at times tiring and daunting. Working in a sector with many stakeholders, combined with a bureaucratic approach, will require patience and resolve to follow through in the face of many setbacks. 

Conclusion

The above insights highlights some individual lessons in the project management of a particular sector. However, I acknowledge that this is common in the management of any project. It is also important to mention that all the above milestones would not have been achieved if there was lack of a supportive and collaborative environment with the beneficiary organisation. This starts with the leadership; the decision-makers and those setting the policy agenda. The TVETA management who have provided exemplary support and collaboration throughout the project's life cycle has aptly demonstrated this. 

The African proverb, 'if you want to go fast, go alone, if you want to go far, go together' resonates with project management. The ability to achieve some of the above milestones would not be possible without partnerships and support.  While we are able to bring different technical experts to the table, including sourcing for key partners for support, NUFFIC's partnership with MDF has made execution of the project possible. This is by creating an environment to set up viable structures, providing opportunities to gain valuable insights, and most importantly, building an enabling environment. 

Finally, the need for skills development and an effective yet responsive TVET sector remains an area of interest and investment and can be done through different channels. I however, believe that a partnership-building approach is best for tackling a sector that is so vast. MDF brings this approach on board and has the requisite capacity. 

You can find out more about the projects we have managed around the world via Enterprising Partner. You can also contact the author of this blog, Eva Kimani, for a free consultation on the TVET programmes MDF manages across Africa.