Kenya hit with sharp shortage of plumbers, painters and artisans despite job highly demanded

The limited number of artisans in the relevant fields has led to poor workmanship on major projects.

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Investors in the real estate sector have decried the limited number of skilled artisans in the industry.

This acute shortage resulted in a serious labour imbalance in the booming industry which risk putting the multi billion sector into a quagmire.

“At the moment we have few plumbers, masons, electricians and painters. Somebody might say that one does not need to be trained on painting but that is not the truth. Skills such as paint mixing have to be taught and at the moment there are very few painters around who can give you an impeccable job,” Kenya Projects founder and chief executive officer David Kanyi was quoted by a local media lamenting.

At the Coast for instance, there are at least 1,000 architects and engineers compared to about 200 trained artisans specialising in masonry, plumbing and painting, a situation that should ordinarily be the other way round, Kanyi added.

The limited number of artisans in the relevant fields has led to poor workmanship on major projects, and in some cases, sections of a house have been demolished and redone due to low standards.

“It’s very serious since we already have a crisis and if we go on like this the construction sector is likely to get into a halt in the near future,”  Mr. Kanyi said.

This scenario has been squarely caused by commercialization of institutions of higher learning, where colleges and universities are competing in churning out sometimes half-baked engineers and architects.

Parents are equally to blame for pushing their kids to pursue ‘corporate careers’ deemed acceptable instead of  enrolling in tertiary institutions to learn practical skills, only for the same kids to later languish in unemployment after clearing school due to the high competition for white collar jobs.

The government is not a saint either, in the past ten years it has led a campaign of converting tertiary colleges once a preserve for teaching hands-on skills necessary to drive the economy forward to commercial colleges and universities creating the current mess we are in.

Subsequent lack of funding to the few universities and colleges to invest in new tools and skills has forced many institutions to simply close down their labs and phase out the programme.

Doing away with in practical lessons in secondary schools like metalwork and woodwork did not help either.

Real estate Investors are now calling tertiary institutions to train more skilled artisans in order to bridge the widening gap.

“The problem is that everybody is rushing to take up courses in engineering and architecture, which leaves the artisan jobs without manpower, and yet at the moment these are the jobs that are well paying” The Kenya Federation of Master Builders (KFMB) technical director, David Jomeli said.

According to KFMB there are about 5,000 engineers and architects countrywide compared to less than 2,000 trained plumbers, painters and masons.

"We are also sensitising Kenyans to encourage their children to undergo training in these fields,” he added.

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