Just days after unveiling a rural economy plan — which Deputy President William Ruto and his allies say was an attempt to copy his Hustler Nation mantra — Mr Odinga wants Kenya to refocus on skills identification for the return of the Made in Kenya brand.
He specifically wants formation of a human resources development body that he says should be dedicated to identifying skilled youth, organising domestic skills competitions and sending the best to compete with the world.
“The human resources development body will keep a data bank on the skilled youth, source support, including extending specific incentives to small and medium enterprises run by craftsmen and artisans, and ensure their passions become professions, industries and jobs for the nation,” Mr Odinga said in a message he posted on his social media pages.
The body, he said, will source incentives for existing industries to extend rewards and scholarships to those with technical skills who want to continue perfecting them.
“The body will establish a tradition of apprenticeship training to help skilled youth keep updating their skills in line with changing times.”
The ODM leader wants Kenyan youth sent to the World Skills Competition in October next year, which he says is the only way to keep up with manufacturing giants.
“Identifying skilled youth needs to be done the same way we select athletes and footballers for the Olympics and other international competitions,” Mr Odinga said.
“As we keep data and support skills, we must open pathways for a steady flow. We need to recreate and mainstream vocational high schools. We need clear parallel education paths. Those who wish to proceed to university after high school should be allowed to do so.”
Kenya, the ex-prime minister said, needs to be part of the skills Olympics, which has been happening every two years since 1950, to compete with the best and improve, helping turn passion into profession.
“Developed nations like Japan, Canada, Germany and Korea have taken their youths to this competition to showcase skills, beginning with basics such as technicians, tailors, cooks, hairdressers, artisans, craftsmen. They graduated to machinery and manufacturing, then to computing, information processing and IT. There are no shortcuts to development. And when those young people’s ideas win medals, their countries take them up, support them and turn their passions into professions.”
Mr Odinga regretted that little or no effort had been channelled into promoting skills education once students leave school.
“The human resource body should deal with this. More importantly, we need a concerted campaign against the societal mindset that has a dim view of skilled manual workers,” the ODM leader said.
He insisted that the only way to have Made in Kenya as the norm rather than the exception is to focus on skilled workers and artisans.
“We need to appreciate that the people who design and produce the fine suits and dresses, handbags, expensive watches, elegant shoes, fine music, movies, chairs and all the other things we love and import are essentially artisans and skilled workers who chose to hone skills,” he said.
Even then, Mr Odinga offered, Kenya still needs people to get degrees for white collar jobs.
“We still need professional degrees so that we can have doctors, lawyers or accountants, but with the high graduate unemployment or underemployment, with many corporations adopting technology to do the work humans used to do, a system that mixes skills and knowledge is the path to industrialisation, jobs and the future,” he said.