Changing Craft Skills In The Kenyan Construction Sector
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The skills required of construction craftsmen are determined by factors related to their work environment such as the prevailing technology, materials and methods of work, and their employment relationships. As these factors change over time, it follows that the skill sets of the craftsmen will also change. An argument put forward by several writers is that the traditional classes of skills are inadequate to cope with the range of work required in today’s construction sector. In addition, these changes, which create new knowledge, skills and attitudes that the craftsman requires for adequate work performance, highlights the crucial role of training in ensuring that the craftsmen are equipped with the appropriate skills. The Kenyan construction sector has experienced dramatic changes in the work environment of craftsmen over the last 20 years, driven mainly by the decline of the formal sector, the increased casualisation of operatives, and the growth of informal procurement. This has arguable led to equally significant changes in the nature of and demand for crafts skills. This paper reports on the findings of a pilot study that sought to investigate the type of skills that Kenyan craftsmen are acquiring. The results show that, in addition to the traditional trade skills, the craftsmen are acquiring generic skills e.g. material specification, estimation, supervision and costing. These new skills are driven mainly by changing employment relationships, particularly between the craftsmen and employers utilising informal procurement rather than the skills required by the formal construction sector. Consequently, the changing skills requirement among craftsmen highlights the need to overhaul the existing training programmes to meet the changing needs of the construction sector.