Hairdressers, carpenters and mechanics can now earn PhDs

Fine details have now emerged on how a salonist, a carpenter, mason or a mechanic will have their work experiences evaluated and rewarded through an elaborate plan to nurture talent and spur economic growth.

This came after it emerged that Kenyans who work in formal, informal, non-formal and jua kali sectors gain solid knowledge, skills, expertise and attributes through practice but are never recognised.

The government now wants these persons who have over the years acquired special skills through practical engagements — such as hair dressers, plumbers, welders and electricians — assessed and awarded certificates to join relevant colleges for studies that will result in higher qualifications.

This means Kenyans who have acquired such skills — even without proper education backgrounds — will be able to approach a relevant training college or Qualification Awarding Institutions (QAIs) in Kenya and apply for recognition of their skills that would lead to highest level of education and skilling.

Targeted under the programme are people who would wish to acquire a qualification, upskill to get a higher qualification or migrate to a different job or increase productivity in their self-employment.

The details are contained in a new policy dubbed Recognition of Prior Learning (RPL) developed by the Kenya National Qualification Authority (KNQA) developed the guidelines.

Education Cabinet Secretary Prof George Magoha said the new policy opens doors for more flexible pathways through any curriculum, thus enabling greater participation in higher education by learners from a wide range of backgrounds.

“This policy is seeking to develop and implement a more flexible, efficient learner journey in recognition that not all learning takes place in formal classes and formal laboratories,” Magoha said.

Distinct skills

Juma Mukhwana, the KNQA Director General, said with the guidelines, Kenyans who have never attended any classroom education but have distinct skills will be assessed and awarded certificates to proceed to acquire higher education and get remunerated for their qualifications.

Training colleges have already been issued with guidelines on how to recognise the skills through registering and assessing the candidates for placement into alternative pathways to acquire diplomas and degrees.

Vocational and Technical Training PS Julius Jwan said the policy seeks to acknowledge, with credit, learning outcomes achieved through a range of experiences, including informal and non-formal learning, such as employer-provided training and assessment.

The PS said the policy sets forth the framework for establishing a process that acknowledges the skills, knowledge, performance outcomes and learning achieved prior to undertaking a programme of study through formal, informal and non-formal learning pathway.

Jwan said the RPL policy, standards and guidelines being developed will provide candidates and learners with a fair and accessible process of evaluation, assessment, documentation and recognition of their acquired skills, knowledge and competencies.

According to the guidelines, once candidates with the prior skills have identified their college of choice, they will be required to upload their profile on an online system, including their portfolio.

Facilitators appointed by the college will assess candidates’ suitability for a specific qualification, provide the necessary information about learning outcomes and competency standards required for the qualification and the nature of evidence required.

Evidence will include letters of recommendation, sample(s) of candidate’s work and product, videos and/or photographs of work activities, skills logbooks or job descriptions.

Employers and customers

Details of formal training, records of seminars, conferences and workshops attended, curriculum vitae and performance appraisals or testimonials from current or previous employers and customers will also form part of evidence to be analysed.

Once the application has been done, the candidates will be vetted by an assessor who will screen the evidence produced.

“If the assessor is not satisfied, the candidate will be told of the shortcomings and advised on how to collect additional evidence or upgrade the knowledge and skills,” reads the guidelines.

This means candidates will be given a chance to fill skill gaps through upgrading programmes so they meet desired standards.

Once the assessors are satisfied, the candidate will be enrolled to the college based on the the minimum admission requirements for national qualifications framework levels.

Mukhwana said the authority has developed and published 10 levels of the Kenyan qualifications and the standards that will make it easier for the candidates to progress smoothly from lower levels of education to higher levels.

“If a mechanic, carpenter, hairdresser, plumber, welder or mason gets assessed and he or she is found to have the right abilities, their skills will be equated to level three,” he said.

According to the minimum admission requirements, level three admission criteria requires one to be a holder of a certificate of experiential learning issued by the authority.

This will then allow the students to progress to level four, which results to an artisan certificate qualification.

And if the same student opts to progress further, he or she will move to level five to obtain a craft certificate, then level six, which results in diploma certificate qualification.

The student can progress to level seven to obtain a degree qualification, then to level eight which gives him postgraduate diploma or certificate.

Level nine and 10 results is masters and doctorate degrees, respectively.

“This means that from a lower qualification, the skills can be assessed, equated and awarded certificates that will allow students’ progress to highest qualifications and get remunerated accordingly,” Mukhwana said.

Fees for the courses will depend on the needs of the candidate and the number of units of competency for which they are seeking recognition.

The guidelines say colleges in conjunction with stakeholders shall develop a differentiated unit cost of assessment to inform the total cost payable for an RPL application and advise the candidate before proceeding with the RPL assessment process.

“The cost will vary from application to application. However, the fees chargeable will ensure sustainability of the RPL process and shall cover charges for colleges, KNQA, regulators and Assessment Centres,” reads the guidelines.

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