Standard Gauge Railway will create more jobs for youth

Standard Gauge Railway will create more jobs for youth The Standard Gauge Railway is set to be- come a game changer for Kenya's employment fortunes especially for young people with hands-on skills.

As we draw closer to the full commercial use of the modern railway system, more Kenyan professionals will be exposed to new and exciting opportunities at various stations from Mombasa to Nairobi.

Additional technical jobs will also arise from the impending maintenance works on the new ecosystem of a modernised rail. These include repairs and maintenance of the locomotives/coaches/freight wagons, track and signalling system. Over 19,000 workers have been working on the project through the China Road and Bridge Corporation while another 8,000 were working under sub contractors.

The ripple effect on employment creation to the economy is even greater when suppliers of materials and service providers like cooks are added to the equation. Latest United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) Human Develop- ment Index (HDI) shows that out of every ten Kenyans, four are jobless. Similarly, the 2017 UNDP report has shown that despite Kenya being the largest economy in East Africa, it has the highest rate of unemployment at 39.1 per cent. While these figures are a cause for concern, the promise of a modern transport infra- structure is that the situation will not remain so in the near future.

A mega windfall of even better opportunities now beckons the large pool of unemployed youth with a promise to transform their socio economic status and shield the country from potential risk of rise in violence and crime levels on account of poverty. Government's commitment to ensure effective and efficient transport systems are being put in place. More opportunities throughMega projects like SGRin line with Vision 2030 blueprint, should offer more hope to reduce joblessness. Currently, the new railway line has opened up fresh business opportunities and new markets for products/services; these are factors that will increase compe- tition and productivity of businesses.

These activities should see more Kenyans secure diverse job opportunities, al- beit at different scales, to widen the labour market. Going forward, we can only expect to see more as the new railway line maneuvers through the Rift Valley toKisumu.Thejob opportunities that will be created in major towns along the routes can only be transformative. Government has shown its resolve to have Kenyans take control of SGR after its launch later through affirmation to ensure prospective employees get requisite skills and training to run the modern railway.

Last year, the government committed Shi billion for upgrades and equipping training workshops with state of the art equipment to bringing into operation a modern engineering school at the Railway Training Institute. Hundreds of well rounded technicians with hands on skills in telecommunications control engineering, traffic and transport management as well locomotive maintenance will be trained to bridge the current skills gap. In support of capacity building more than 25 young Kenyans were sponsored to undertake Bachelors Degree courses on SGR with key focus area being Railway Engineering and operations at Beijing Jiatong University. They were trained on design and construction, signaling and communication, operation and maintenance. This synergy is critical in boosting technology transfer, a major outcome indicator on the benefits of the SGR.

Technical and vocational training institutions across Kenya have already upped their game by ensuring they produce quality graduates in areas of Science, Engineering Technology and Innovation courses to meet the skill set demand in the market. To further promote technical skills among trainees, the government has set aside some Sh900 million for Higher Education Loans that allocates all qualified students in technical institutions Sh35,000 each to support their education.

Official data from the Ministry of East African Community (EAC), Labour and Social Protection, shows more than 500,000 youth join the local labour market yearly but only 60 per cent are absorbed. Looking at all these developments and milestones achieved, the picture is very clear on where we are headed as a nation in addressing the unemployment challenge, especially among theyouth. Indeed, the development of integrated modern transport infrastructure remains a key enabler for a competitive and productive economy that will anchor inclusive prosperity.

Dr Julius Muia,Director General Kenya Vision2030 Delivery Secretariat



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