Prof. Margaret Muthwii, vice chancellor, PAC University, feels that academic programmes must be re-engineered, restructured and re-defined to align to industry’ needs
“Institutions of higher learning are under obligation to ensure that graduates have the necessary skills and competencies needed in the workplace,” opens Prof. Margaret Muthwii, vice chancellor, Pan Africa Christian (PAC) University. She goes on that universities must remain attractive, relevant, customer friendly and most remarkably, sensitive to students’ needs.
Many people enroll for higher education for the sake of acquiring general skills and knowledge that will make them competitive in the job market. Therefore, provision of best training is a prerequisite to ensure students become employable.
Prof. Muthwii asserts that the value for university education is seen in how graduates apply themselves to their work.
“Producing half-baked graduates and inadequate collaboration between industry and academia are some of the issues affecting higher learning in Kenya. There have been numerous debates on the quality of graduates produced not only by Kenyan Universities but also across East Africa,” argues Prof. Muthwii.
This has informed PAC University to adopt a strategic approach and is set to disrupt higher education in the country. “We have designed our academic programmes in such a way that they have a practical dimension,” says Prof Muthwii. “For instance, we work with Kamiti prison on counseling psychology where our students provide counseling to inmates every week,” she adds. Other courses such as leadership, theology, communication and bachelor of commerce are also practicum oriented.
“For many of us, the connection between university and industry is an urgent need,” observes Prof. Muthwii. This prompted Kenyan universities to join hands with leading industry players to launch a sustainability platform to address the skills gap between academia and industry.
The university-industry sustainability platform was launched at the first university-industry sustainability conference organized by PAC in partnership with Kenya Private Sector Alliance (KEPSA) and Visions of Hope Africa for Africa. According to Prof. Muthwii, the digital platform will allow participants to share their stories and showcase their projects.
She observes that the ecosystems within which jobs operate are constantly changing. Industry must therefore transform to cope with the accelerated pace of disruption brought about by technological growth among other factors. What we knew ‘how to do very well’ yesterday, is no longer relevant today. Currently, employers are constantly looking for new skills and at the same time deserting skills which they had invested heavily in previous years.
“Because of this dynamic nature of industry, university programmes must be re-engineered, restructured and re-defined to align to industry’ needs. The pursuit to bridge the skills gap is an urgent matter. It must drive us towards excellence. And this must be achieved with constant conversation and collaboration between university and industry”, adds Prof. Muthwii.
Areas of strategic collaboration
Prof. Muthwii observes that university should listen and co-work with the industry in different areas including:
- Research and innovation
- Design, delivery and assessment of curricula
- Internships and practicum
- Business incubations
- Leadership development programmes
The University has been at the forefront in supporting organizations train their leaders. “It is important that we support the industry by understanding what they need in their leaders and subsequently provide the requisite skills that meet those needs.” The institution’s partnership with World Vision Kenya to train their high performing staff exemplifies this.
“We have positioned ourselves to walk with the industry in order to prepare top-notch leaders by listening to people, sharing with them best practice on leadership in order to build their understanding, thinking and approach to leadership,” avers Prof. Muthwii.
Monitoring graduates is also important. “After the World Vision Programme, they requested us to walk with their graduates for one year and gauge their performance to determine the value and impact of the training.” Industry’ feedback on job performance of graduates could help universities determine higher education learning outcomes.
Could universities also do researches as a follow up to their students?
Role going forward
PAC University does not only impart knowledge but also helps students become entrepreneurs. The alarming rise in youth unemployment largely influenced by supply and demand for labour requires stakeholders to take strategic measures. Because of this realization, PAC University has positioned itself differently. Entrepreneurship and religious principles courses are compulsory for all students in a view to impart them with requisite skills to start and run a business as well as spiritual formation.