VIU to expand international partnerships in Kenya

VIU and its partners will work with four Kenyan institutions to develop new programs, while providing new opportunities for VIU staff and faculty to apply their knowledge and skills internationally. || Photo Credit: VIU
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Vancouver Island University (VIU) is expanding the footprint of its international cooperation efforts in East Africa with the help of two other B.C. post-secondary partners.

VIU is working with North Island College (NIC) and the British Columbia Institute of Technology (BCIT) as partners in the Young Africa Works in Kenya: Youth Employability Through Technical and Vocational Education and Training (TVET) initiative, which aims to increase employment opportunities for young people, particularly young women, in Kenya.

The initiative is being implemented by Colleges and Institutes Canada (CICan) in partnership with the Mastercard Foundation. It is part of a five-year initiative (2020-2025) with the Kenyan Ministry of Education, relevant Kenyan government agencies and the private sector to increase youth workforce participation in Kenya’s “Big Four ” sectors (manufacturing, affordable housing, universal health coverage and food security), as well as the digital sector. 

The program also seeks to establish and strengthen policies that promote safe learning environments, provide gender equality training to administrators and awareness-building workshops for government officials.

Building on recent cooperation projects in Kenya, VIU will be implementing two three-and-a-half-year institutional partnerships through the program: leading a $1.1-million partnership with BCIT and NIC, and supporting a second $900,000 partnership with Humber College.

The initiative will see VIU and its partners work with four Kenyan institutions (Kisii National Polytechnic, Keroka Technical Training Institute, Sigalagala National Polytechnic and Bondo Technical Training Institute) to develop new programs in electrical, welding and mechanical trades, while at the same time providing new opportunities for VIU staff and faculty to apply their skills and knowledge internationally.

“I’m looking forward to this new phase of engagement to see the impacts of the emerging teaching and learning centres we’ve helped develop at our Kenyan partner institutions,” said Kathleen Bortolin, VIU teaching and learning specialist, who conducted training in Kenya before the pandemic and online over the past two years.

For Bortolin, these projects are exciting “because they push me to go beyond my context here at VIU and think about how to use my expertise and skills in a context that is different than my own.”

The international cooperation has also led to meaningful relationships between Kenyan instructors and their Canadian counterparts, even though they are often working together 11 time zones away.

“Our partners in Kenya always bring an infectious gratitude and joy to our interactions,” said Samuel Johnson, VIU electrical instructor, who helped develop new curriculum for an electrical program.

Between now and 2025, six new competency-based courses will be rolled out at each of the Kenyan partner institutions.

“We’re developing the courses in close collaboration with our Kenyan partners and putting a focus on competency-based teaching practice,” said Darrell Harvey, VIU’s manager of global engagement. “That’s really at the heart of the second phase of this partnership, so our Kenyan colleagues can build internal capacity to support effective teaching and learning in the long term.”

The initiative also provides an opportunity for VIU to work more closely with its Canadian partners from NIC and BCIT.

“North Island College is honoured to collaborate with provincial and international colleagues to strengthen opportunities for knowledge sharing and the advancement of trades and technical skills training,” said Dr. Cheryl O’Connell, NIC’s dean of the faculty of trades and technical programs. “This project is a great opportunity to contribute to our internationalization efforts and expand on meaningful partnerships with our colleagues in Canada and Kenya.”

“I’m excited about this opportunity to bring together trades instructors from our Institute with our Kenyan partners,” said Todd Odgers, associate dean, international at BCIT. “We hope what we can share about designing and delivering trades education will support the economic and social development of the regions our partner colleges serve.”

Funding from the Mastercard Foundation will also help ensure students in the programs of focus have the latest and up-to-date equipment and technology with which to practice, so they are prepared for the world of work.

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