Camosun Leads Unique Partnership to Expand Training in Kenya

Arriving at a remote outpost in the Shimba Hills south of Mombasa, Kenya for a meeting with local safari guides, Camosun Hospitality Management Chair Carl Everitt scanned what he believed to be a room of stern faces.

“At first, I thought they were upset,” says Everitt. “It was one of those cross-cultural moments when I couldn't read their facial expressions.” What he had first mistaken for sternness was in fact the polite anticipation of the local guide team to welcome their Canadian guests.

“They were very excited to meet us and work with us. We had the most enriching conversation that followed and some of the best information gathering came out of that meeting,” says Everitt. “The guides came from all over the village and the conversation was incredible—we couldn't have wished for a better result.”

In the crowd was a local safari guide who had recently graduated from Kenya Coast National Polytechnic (KCNP)—Camosun's partner institution in the country. “He came up to me afterwards and said: ‘thank you for coming all the way from Canada and I want to take you to see my country,' ” says Everitt. “He took us down to this amazing canyon and waterfall. It was his way of showcasing for us how his education had opened up new career possibilities for him and his generation and he wanted the world to know about the beauty of Kenya.”

In 2017, Camosun was chosen from a shortlist of Canadian institutions to lead an important component of a multi-year partnership between Canada and Kenya focussed on strengthening and supporting technical and vocational education and training (TVET). Camosun's successful bid as a Canadian institutional partner with KCNP is part of Colleges and Institutes Canada (CICan)'s Kenya Education for Employment Program (KEFEP) with funding provided by Global Affairs Canada for a three and half year contract.

“The two streams that Camosun was selected for are electrical and hospitality,” explains Graham Knipfel, Camosun's Manager of Global Consulting and Partnerships. “The overall CICan project focus is on technical and vocational education and training to help to build the capacity of several national polytechnics to deliver competency-based education programming.”

Knipfel notes that Camosun and Kenya Coast National Polytechnic share a number of similarities that led to the successful bid and these commonalities are laying the groundwork for a meaningful long-term partnership. “We're both coastal communities and coastal skills are important to us both,” notes Knipfel. “And we've always taken a positive and respectful approach where we anticipate working side by side and learning from each other's best practices. We believe that building strong working relationships based on mutual trust and understanding their needs is hugely important.”

Camosun's deep expertise in applied learning is also a critical component of the Kenyan partnership. “A big part of what we do with competency-based education is equipping students for real-world success,” says Knipfel. “Canadian colleges have a really good reputation of skills for jobs and this approach helps to create regional prosperity. That's the model we're hoping to share with our partners in Kenya—a strong focus on technical and vocational training and local industry partnerships.”

After a four-month inception phase last summer that involved an initial visit to Kenta, the Camosun team recently completed a Labour Market Information study. For two busy weeks in December 2017, Camosun's delegation held over 30 meetings with Kenyan stakeholders, including leaders in education, industry and government within the context of the electrical and hospitality sectors.

“We collected information and looked for specific gaps between education and industry,” notes Everitt. “Our goal was to collect this data and then sit down and analyse what are the common themes that emerge as a result of that.” Based on that study, Camosun and KCNP will jointly develop curriculum and programming over the next several months that is relevant and meaningful to improving educational and economic outcomes for their students and industry partners.

On the electrical side, Ian Warrender, Camosun's past Chair of Electrical Trades Training, and current Global TVET Specialist, sees the potential for increasing collaboration between Canada and Kenya. “We met with over 20 industry partners while in Kenya and one of the recurring themes was the need for learners to emerge from their training institutes with good, hands on, practical skills,” he says. “On the electrical side of the project, we're now focussed on working with KCNP to develop good electrical workers that not only can install quickly and accurately, but can come back to do renovations and troubleshooting. It's what industry made very clear to us through this LMI study. It's important to note Kenya is expanding its manufacturing base, and will thus require an even higher level of skillset from its polytechnics.”

Joyce van de Vegte, instructor in Camosun's Electronics & Computer Engineering Technology – Renewable Energy Diploma program, participated in the Kenyan visit and gathered labour market information focused on the technical skills needed for Kenya's burgeoning alternative energy industry. “They're one of the world leaders in geothermal and seeing growth in solar photovoltaic and solar thermal,“ notes van de Vegte. “Based on our meetings and research, I feel that our team can go forward with confidence that we're putting our efforts in the right direction to design a short course with a view to the highest probability of employment for graduates based on industry needs.”

The Camosun team believes that their college expertise will be essential to developing curriculum and programs at KCNP that will lead to job-ready graduates. He, along with Everitt and van de Vegte, also see many opportunities for the Kenyans to bring their skills and expertise to Camosun. KCNP is sending a delegation to Camosun in April 2018 and will attend the national CICan conference Camosun is hosting. “We can learn a lot from each other,” says Warrender, noting that they are exploring engaging the Kenyans in learning opportunities with Camosun students. For example, Everitt is inviting his Kenyan counterparts to participate in an upcoming hospitality field school in Whistler.

The spirit of sharing best practices and outcomes-based applied learning underpins the partnership. In Kenya, the Camosun team was constantly learning from their Kenyan counterparts, making note of good examples including a visit to a hotel that had repurposed garbage into a life-sized chessboard for use by guests.

“I spent a lot of time in Kenya with Carl working on the hospitality labour market study,” says Knipfel. “Nearly every day I heard him say that he learned something that he wanted to bring back to the classroom in Camosun and to share with his students. We're all just amazed with the resourcefulness of our partners.”

Knipfel believes that Camosun is well-positioned to develop a number of mutually beneficial partnerships with institutions around the world over the years ahead. “International education is becoming increasingly important to promote mutual understanding and a shared existence on the planet,” he says. “Our successful partnership with Kenyan Coast National Polytechnic is paving the way forward.”

Original article from Camosun College