Recognising informal skills to open endless opportunities

Monday, September 28th, 2020 00:00 | By
Economic growth. Photo/Courtesy

Zack Kìnùthia 

The growth of a country’s industrial economy is pegged on the quantity of productivity accrued from the informal sector, which normally contributes about 80 per cent of jobs, supplementing the scarce formal opportunities. 

However, this sector is driven by persons who have acquired a series of skills and abilities outside the formal education.

Across the Globe, industrialised countries such as the US, Australia, New Zealand, Singapore, Malaysia and South Africa acknowledge the importance of recognising non-formal and informal education, promoting flexible qualification and the value of the certification systems.

This has proved to be crucial to economic inclusion, generating sufficient labour force, addressing unemployment challenges and stirring individuals into productivity. 

Harvard University, for instance, has acknowledged at least 2,300 persons with honorary degrees since its establishment in 1692.

The honorary degrees are mainly awarded to people with no previous postsecondary education nor with prior connection to the academic world.

They recognise individual contributions to society and acknowledge lifetime achievement in their field.

The earliest honourary degree on record was awarded to Bishop of Salisbury, Lionel Woodville, in honour of his service to community in the late 1470s by Oxford University. 

Therefore, the idea of recognising individual’s competence, skills, knowledge and achievements irrespective of how they were acquired is being increasingly normalised across the world.

This appreciates the unlimited human ingenuity and originality in the pursuit of life, economic as well as social goals.

Locally, a majority of the informal workforce consist largely of school dropouts who have acquired a series of marketable skills, capacities and abilities through non-formal and informal learning as well as work experience. 

However, according to a recent report by the Kenya National Bureau of Statistics, the labour-force still faces serious challenges while seeking job opportunities here and abroad for lack of formal education and certification of their competence.

For example, despite having acquired skills and experience, Jua Kali artisans, masons and plumbers have limited opportunities.

This is because most of them can’t access tenders and can neither be recognised by potential employers in corporate world or distant market for lack of papers.

Thus, it’s imperative that Kenya too joins in honouring knowledge, skills and work-experience acquired informally or even post-formal education.

Towards this end, besides technical and vocational education and training (TVET), which imparts knowledge and skills through formal, non-formal and informal learning, a revolutionary policy for evaluation of nation’s knowledge, skills and experience in the informal work-force was initiated, resulting in the Kenya National Qualifications Framework Act, 2014, which established the Kenya National Qualifications Authority. 

KNQA has since put in place a national framework for harnessing talents from informal sector dubbed Recognition of Prior Learning (RPL).

This seeks to have skilled labourers with no formal education but contributing to flourishing of society, subjected to assessment by exam bodies and later awarded with a certificate of recognition. 

The certification will demonstrate the bearer was assessed against prescribed standards or learning outcomes for knowledge, skills and competencies acquired in non-formal or informal learning.

This includes apprenticeship, self-learning, creativity and innovations as well as work experiences. 

It is envisioned that through RPL, we will formalise the informal skills and knowledge, thereby open millions of our skilled labourers to opportunities beyond our borders and usher them into the global economy.

 The certificate will enable recipients access jobs and also shield them from work related exploitation by employers.

In addition, the certificates will also serve as useful testimonials in the event they choose to further studies. — The writer is Education CAS

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