Camosun’s Partnership With Kenya Coast National Polytechnic Promotes Cutting Edge Curriculum & Hands-On Learning
Recently, Kimani and two of his colleagues were in Victoria as guests of Camosun College, where they attended meetings with local and regional partners and businesses, sat in on classes, participated in a field school and worked collaboratively on developing an applied learning curriculum to take back to Kenya. Joining Kimani were Ms. Anne Kithinji (Industrial Liaison Officer), and Ms. Everline Milimo (Head of Section – Hospitality), all from KCNP.
The Kenya delegation’s Camosun visit represents the evolving partnership between two coastal institutions, separated by geography, but with a shared commitment to enhancing educational opportunities through applied learning as well as trades, technical and vocational training to meet the needs of industry partners.
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 to work on electrical and hospitality education streams with KCNP.
The partnership represents the Kenyan Government’s committee to enhancing educational outcomes throughout the country and developing the next generation of workers to fill skills gaps in a number of key industries.
“In Kenya, we’re moving from a knowledge-based education to a competency-based curriculum,” explains Anne Kithinji, KCNP’s Industrial Liaison Officer. “Camosun is helping us build that curriculum with local industry.”
After the initial project inception phase in summer 2017, the Camosun team has travelled to Kenya twice for follow-up meetings, with a Labour Market Information study completed at the end of 2017 that brought together industry partners, stakeholders and educational leaders in order to best understanding the emerging needs of the economy.
“Right now there is a very big difference between how learning is carried out at Camosun and how we do it in Kenya,” says Kimani. “Learning here in Victoria is very engaging with instructors and students working together, requiring input from both sides and the students are able to develop their skills with those relationships.”
As Kenya’s economy grows with tourism and trades looking at new ways of doing business, industry partners increasingly require skilled graduates who can fill a number of flexible positions. “There is a skills mismatch in the graduates available, and what the industry requires,” explains Kithinji. “They need people with hands on skills, and who can do more than one job. Industry wants flexible graduates with competence, soft skills and a good attitude to fill many new positions that did not exist a few years ago.”
Carl Everitt, Camosun’s chair of Hospitality Management, is looking ahead to the next stage of the partnership, while noting that the college’s core strengths in applied learning form the basis for success. “We’re going back to Kenya at the end of May to work on an industry advisory committee,” he says. “The plan is to bring together all the partners around one table to discuss what types of curriculum they’d like to see and then plan ways to develop that curriculum that is relevant and reflects industry needs.”
The Kenyan team notes that part of the challenge, as well as the opportunity, is to change the prevailing mindset about trades. “The government is now promoting trades and vocational training and working with all of our polytechnics to do that,” says Kithinji. “They want people to understand that talent comes in many forms and that people who have talent in trades should be proud and choose training in areas that develops their skills and helps the country’s economy. In the past, there was a different mindset more about a theoretical education than hands-on training.”
Industry leaders in Kenya, who have long been accustomed to training their own and have in the past been skeptical about educational partnerships, are increasingly seeing the value in working more closely with KNCP and other educational institutions in the country. “That change takes time,” says Kithinji. “Our job, with Camosun’s help, is to lead by example.”