Higher learning institutions have been challenged to support the enhancement of innovation and skill development among the youth for increased productivity.
Principal Secretary, State Department for Industry, Ministry of Investments, Trade, and Industry, Dr Juma Mukhwana, urged universities to intensify the moulding of graduates so that they can fit into the economy by equipping them with the right skills, knowledge, and activities to play in the local and international markets.
Speaking during the Mount Kenya University 24th graduation ceremony, where 5,763 graduates graduated, Mukhwana noted that as the country gears towards a mid-level economy, the role of varsities in helping Kenya realize its aspiration cannot be overlooked.
“Small-scale industries play a critical role in our economic development, creating employment for 14.1 million people, representing at least 93% of our national workforce. The sector contributes 24% to the GDP,” Mukhwana said.
Innovation, skill development contribution
The PS stated that SMEs have significantly contributed to innovation and skill development among young people, highlighting the government’s commitment to collaborate with institutions of learning to create linkages between them and industry where synergies are built to bring out the best innovations for commercialization.
He insisted that small-scale industries, often the backbone of many economies, play a vital role in generating employment, driving innovation, and contributing significantly to local value addition and employment creation.
“This collaboration was manifested during the Covid-19 pandemic period, during which many innovations were developed and deployed into the market. My department has continued to promote partnerships between SMEs, academia, and the private sector in skill development, promoting the development of new technologies, and creating policies that encourage research and innovation in the country,” he added.
Mukhwana, at the same time, cited the minimal absorption of new technology by SMEs, inappropriate skills that are critical to the growth of SMEs, the commercialization of innovative technologies, and a low appreciation of science and its contribution to national development as among the challenges bedevilling the linkage between learning institutions and SMEs.
He lauded MKU for supporting students and researchers to pursue the development of research-oriented projects that have continued to transform lives.
“This support has led to the development of several innovations that have been internationally acknowledged and awarded and that have been instrumental in supporting the establishment of small-scale industrial start-ups,” he stated.
The PS rooted the need to foster strong linkages to harness the collective potential of academia and industry to create a more inclusive and prosperous society for all, saying that the symbiotic relationship between higher education and small-scale industries is indispensable for driving socio-economic equity, especially on the African continent.
Integrity, perseverance, and empathy
He urged the graduates to carry with them the values instilled by the university, such as integrity, perseverance, and empathy.
On their part, the university chancellor, John Struthers, and chairman of the University Council, Dr Vincent Gichuru Gaitho, pointed out that the varisity’s adoption of emerging technologies has ensured that the education offered is affordable and accessible through the diverse modes of study.
Currently, the university’s digital footprint is growing globally, with students enrolling from more than 40 nationalities.
The two assured that the university will continue to strive to be competitive by forming various forms of partnerships in order to attract and retain qualified, dedicated, and competent staff.