Tackling water woes: ILO’s vocational training success in Kenya

With support from the Government and partners, ILO PROSPECTS introduced a skill development programme supporting maintenance of water sources and supply systems in a drought prone community of Garissa, Kenya. The first batch of trained Water System Operators graduated this week.

Article | 21 February 2024
Water Systems Operator demonstrating their learning at the graduation ceremony ©ILO
Garissa, Kenya (ILO News): Garissa County, located in the arid areas of northern Kenya, faces acute water shortage due to limited rainfall. The communities in this region primarily depend on water resources comprising of boreholes, dams, water pans, and wells. However, these community watering points face persistent challenges, including the frequent breakdown of equipment, poorly maintained water facilities, and leakages leading to substantial water losses.

Recognizing the urgency of addressing these issues, the ILO PROSPECTS programme in collaboration with the County Government of Garissa and SITE Enterprise Promotion, implemented a three-month training course at the Vocational Training Centre to train Water Systems Operators (WROs) to address challenges at the water points and to ensure consistent supply of water in the communities.

The course, “Building skills in masonry, plumbing, water pumping equipment and systems operations for community water system operators” is designed to equip trainees with both knowledge and hands-on skills. “The objective is to empower WRO’s to undertake skilled maintenance of equipment and utility structures such as animal drinking troughs, water kiosks and water piping systems. This, in turn, ensures the optimal performance of the water facilities installed at the community water points,” explains Lilyanne Velo, National Programme Coordinator for Enterprise Development, ILO PROSPECTS Kenya.
18 trainees graduated in the first cohort of the training programme ©ILO

This week marks a significant milestone as 18 trainees from the local community and county government successfully graduated from the program. These newly graduated community WROs are poised to play a crucial role by complementing the County Water Department. Operating under the supervision of the County technical team, they will provide essential technical services to enhance water infrastructure in the region.

When asked about his experience of the course, Noor Hassan a WRO from the Skanska water point says, “As an operator working without training, I wanted to learn technical skills and get a college certificate to enable me to negotiate employment terms and serve my community. Now I have not one skill but many.” Along with six existing WROs, 12 new candidates completed the course. WROs make income of 6,000 to 10,000 Kenyan Shillings (USD 40 to 70) every month.

Admitting the impact of the course on management, instructors, and the institution, Ahmed Adan, Principal of the Garissa Vocational Training Centre (VTC), said, “The introduction of tailored short courses, attuned to the demands of the job market, has sparked significant interest among trainees enrolled in regular 2-year programs. Furthermore, the institution now boasts cutting-edge training equipment and tools, elevating the overall learning experience for its students.”
Trainees showing operation of water points in the community ©ILO

“These activities underscore the ILO's commitment to sustainable capacity building, institutional recognition, and the widespread cultivation of expertise in water systems operations to ensure the resilience and efficacy of water facilities for the benefit of communities and the region at large,” concludes Caroline Njuki, Chief Technical Advisor, ILO PROPECTS Kenya

In the future, the International Labour Organization (ILO) envisions a comprehensive strategy to fortify and expand the impact of its water-focused training initiatives through;
  1. Curriculum enhancement in collaboration with the Technical and Vocational Education and Training Authority (TVETA) and Kenya Institute of Water: Collaborating with TVETA and the Kenya Institute of Water, the ILO aims to ensure that the curriculum remains current, relevant, and aligned with industry standards. This effort is designed to provide trainees with cutting-edge knowledge and skills.
  2. Accreditation and registration on the Kenya National Qualifications Framework (KNQF): The ILO plans to seek accreditation for the water systems operations curriculum and register it on the Kenya National Qualifications Framework (KNQF). This move is intended to facilitate seamless integration of curriculum into the broader educational landscape, contributing to the professionalization of water systems operations.
  3. Garissa VTC accreditation as a Training and Testing Center: By strengthening the training infrastructure, the ILO aims to secure accreditation for the Garissa Vocational Training Centre (VTC) as a Training and Testing Center for water systems operations. This recognition will increase its capability not only to impart knowledge but also to evaluate the proficiency of trainees in the occupation.
  4. Programme expansion and Recognition of Prior Learning (RPL): The ILO plans to expand the water systems operations training initiative on a broader scale to all parts of the county. This expansion includes the implementation of Recognition of Prior Learning (RPL) mechanisms, acknowledging and enhancing the skills of existing Water Systems Operators (WROs), thereby fostering a continuous cycle of professional development.