Francis Aduol (left, seated), vice-chancellor of the Technical University of Kenya, and Qian Rong (right, seated), vice-president of Avic International Project Engineering Co, sign a manufacturing contract during the ATC season four awards ceremony on March 27. Liu Hongjie / China Daily
An initiative by Avic International Holding Corp, a diversified Chinese business group, to empower Kenyan students through skills development under its African Tech Challenge competition has won praise from senior Kenyan government officials.
Launched in 2014, the program aims to equip the youths with technical skills via a training program and competition, with outstanding participants receiving fully sponsored master's degree scholarships to prestigious universities in China, as well as cash prizes and employment opportunities.
The ATC competition has had four successful seasons so far, with Avic International training 550 youths and cooperating with 131 technical training institutes.
Speaking during the award ceremony of the competition's fourth season, Amina Mohammed, cabinet secretary in the Ministry of Industry, Trade and Cooperatives, said the African Tech Challenge is an important tool because it demonstrates the outcomes of an effective technical and vocational education and training system.
She noted the African Tech Challenge was conceived to raise awareness about the diversified opportunities available in technical and vocational education and training, which provides a vehicle for gainful employment or self-employment.
"This amazing journey has been helping the Ministry of Education to achieve the aims of spearheading and enhancing integration of science, technology and innovation by developing human capacity, science, engineering and capacity," she said.
Amina noted that initiatives like the African Tech Challenge provide great opportunities for businesses, manufacturers and the private sector to enhance their chances for prosperity.
"My ministry, in cooperation with Avic International, will work toward expanding the ATC competition to more disciplines in line with the labor market's demand for skills," she said.
Rachel Shebesh, chief administrative secretary of the Ministry of Public Service, Youth and Gender Affairs, applauded Avic International for the role it's playing in facilitating the delivery of skills development within the Kenyan education system.
"I commend the effort and contribution by Avic International to Kenya's youth employment agenda and the commitment the company has shown in bringing attention to vocational and technical education," she said.
Shebesh said employers feel more confident when hiring graduates of vocational programs, because they know these graduates are ready to work and promote entrepreneurship.
Kevit Desai, principal secretary of the Ministry of Education, said: "It's my hope that the collaboration between Avic International and the Kenyan government will continue to grow to the logical conclusion. I'm looking forward to seeing Avic complete the equipping and commissioning of the remaining (technical and vocational education and training) institutions," he said.
In 2010, Avic International, in conjunction with the Ministry of Education, established the Vocational Education Training Project. This technical and vocational education and training program entails commissioning public technical training institutions and providing them with equipment.
According to Liu Jun, executive vice-president of Avic International, the training project has seen Avic equip more than 60 technical training institutions and train more than 20,000 youths.
"Avic believes in empowerment of the youth to enable them, to create employment and to impart skills that make them ready for the opportunities available in the market," he said.
Liu said they will continue to work with the government to identify opportunities for working with the youths to advance their skills.
Speaking during the same event, Liu Xianfa, the Chinese ambassador to Kenya, said the embassy will continue to work diligently with Kenyan universities to promote enrollment in technical institutions.
"We strongly believe that great opportunities for economic development and industrialization lie in taking an active role in empowering the youth with the technical skills that will allow them to meet labor market demands, consequently liberating them from unemployment," he said.
After the fourth season of the African Tech Challenge, 25 of the 103 participants were confirmed for employment with Avic.