Thousands of jobless youths in Kitui are set to benefit from a skills development programme organised by the county government in partnership with South Eastern Kenya University (Seku).
The university will offer short certificate courses in masonry, plumbing, carpentry, electrical works, artisanal mining, and garment and soap making. The county government will cater for tuition and accommodation for the trainees while the university, which is based at Kwa Vonza, will provide teaching staff and lecture halls.
Kitui Governor Charity Ngilu said more than 2,000 skilled people will be required to work at a garment factory being constructed at Syongila Vocational Training Centre in Kitui Central. A soap making plant is also being built at Migwani, Mwingi West.
Governor Ngilu said about 3,000 masons, carpenters, plumbers and painters will be needed when the county begins construction of 2,000 housing units next year. She said most of these skills are lacking in Kitui.
“The county should be able to source all skilled labour locally. We are not just creating jobs for the youth, the overall goal is to stimulate Kitui's economy. Soon, the youths will be able to engage in small-scale manufacturing,” she said.
Mrs Ngilu said 300 youths who began training this week would get jobs upon completion of their three-month course. The garment factory requires at least 2,000 workers to operate on a 24-hour schedule.
The model, she said, borrows heavily from countries like Singapore, Israel and Rwanda and is heavily dependent on highly trained workers.
The governor said statistics show Kitui County spends more than Sh2 billion annually on primary and secondary school uniforms. She added that the garment factory would ensure that those funds are spent within Kitui, thus boosting the local economy.
“The volume of garments required, such as school and hospital uniforms, is enough to sustain that factory. That means retaining money in Kitui that previously was spent on buying uniforms in Nairobi,” she said.
Mrs Ngilu spoke during a ceremony where 300 youths were officially admitted to the university under the partnership programme.
Seku Vice-Chancellor Prof Geoffrey Muluvi and a number of university staff attended the ceremony held at Kitui bus park.
Prof Muluvi said the university would ensure the youths get quality vocational training, adding that the country lacks skilled labour.
He said the university has one of the best programmes on geological science in East Africa, adding that those training as artisanal miners will be the first to have such skills in Kenya.
The youths were chosen through a competitive process where each of the county’s 40 wards provided an equal number of prospective trainees.
This is the second batch of students. The first was trained for three months at Trendy College in Nakuru under the supervision of Rift Valley Textiles.
They graduated last month.