An investigation into the training of labour in the informal construction sector in Kenya
Wachira, Isabella N
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The training of craftsmen in Kenya is the responsibility of their traditional employer the contractor. However, over the last 20 years, the contractors' motivation to train has been eroded by increased casualisation. Concurrently, there was growth of the informal procurement system propagated by private sector clients, who have no incentive to train because they are ad hoc consumers of construction services. Together these phenomena led to the collapse of the formal craft training and growth of informal skilling. Currently however, there is a lack of knowledge and understanding of the nature of informal craft training. The intent of this research was to redress this by identifying the types of skills informally employed craftsmen are acquiring, how these skills are acquired and how training delivery can be enhanced. The hypotheses of the research were that the skills and skilling methods in the informal sector do not differ significantly from those in the formal sector and that the nature of training in the informal construction sector is clearly understood. Data was collected using structured questionnaires administered via the face-to-face survey method to a sample of 498 informally employed craftsmen. The findings indicate that informally employed craftsmen are acquiring trade skills that are similar to those in the formal sector but with additional specialisms. More remarkably, these craftsmen are acquiring generic skills (estimation, material specification, supervision, and interpretation of documents) motivated chiefly by informal procurement practises that require them to execute duties that are traditionally in the domain of contractors and consultants. Informal skilling methods, although not formally recognised, dominate training amongst informally employed craftsmen with the exception to the electrical and plumbing trades which continue to train formally. Moreover, weekend training and instruction in English and Kiswahili can enhance training delivery. These findings indicate the significant differences between the formal and informal training systems and demonstrate the lack of understanding of the nature of training in the informal construction sector thereby disapproving both hypotheses. The findings imply that appropriate craftsmen training should encompass the skill needs of the informal sector and take cognisance of the informal skilling methods in the formulation of viable training programs for construction craftsmen. Interventions should include building linkages between the formal training institutions and informal trainers in an effort to address the weakness of informal skilling. Such interventions should aim at the integration of both formal and informal craftsmen training as a means of addressing the shortages and inadequacies in craftsmen skills and to increase the levels of skill certification for the benefit of the sector. The study therefore concludes that the existing system of craftsmen training requires to be reviewed to make it more inclusive and responsive to the requirements of the contemporary market. Accordingly, the findings of the study, though not intended to provide a solution, will be useful in developing viable policy interventions to enhance the training of construction craftsmen. In addition, the study identifies the need for research into appropriate methods of assessing informally acquired skills and best practices for skilling of craftsmen.