Plumbers and Masons shortage in Kenya hits builders amid bid to plug skill gap


Nairobi Water and Sewerage Company workers repair a pipe in Spring Valley. Kenya is facing an acute shortage of qualified plumbers and masons.

Kenya is facing an acute shortage of qualified plumbers and masons as students shun technical education in favour of courses leading to perceived glamorous careers.

This has left property developers at the mercy of uncertified artisans and compromised standards in the construction sector.

National Construction Authority Chairman Steven Oundo said certified artisans were now charging about Sh2,000 per day from between Sh500 and Sh1,200 five years ago.

“The market forces are clearly unbalanced pushing up prices,” Mr Oundo said. The number of electricians and painters has also dipped.

The development comes at a time when the country is experiencing a construction boom including key government projects such as Konza technopolis.

Education officials said the government has over the years neglected technical institutions.

“The perception that technical jobs pay poorly is partly to blame,” Deputy Director of Technical Education Samuel Wanyonyi said.

Official data shows student enrolment at the Technical, Industrial, Vocational and Entrepreneurship Training (TIVET) institutions fell 4.1 per cent to 46,784 last year. The slump also affected national polytechnics having registered a 32 per cent decline to enrol 13,853 students in the same period.

Currently, there are three national polytechnics namely Kisumu, Eldoret and the Kenya Technical Teachers College (KTTC). This follows last year’s upgrading of Kenya Polytechnic and Mombasa Polytechnic to technical universities by former president Kibaki.

Past attempts to rejuvenate technical education by the government have had done little to boost enrolment at technical institutions.

The Ministry of Higher Education last year introduced the Technical and Vocational Education and Training Bill 2012 seeking to shift technical education from time-bound curriculum-based training to competency based training.

The bill proposed the upgrading of national polytechnics to universities offering technical education.

Meanwhile, the Ministry of Labour cited a lack of frequent surveys on the country’s work force population as a likely cause for skill gaps in various sectors.

“The government has been reluctant to conduct these surveys due to costs involved,” the Ass Director Human Resource Planning James Maru said.




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