After clearing high school, no one would dare change my mind from pursuing an electrical and electronic engineering degree. An engineering degree for many years has been a sure-bet in the job market.
According to the data on the Engineers Board of Kenya, there are 408 registered consulting engineers and 1924 registered professional engineers while there are 14,322 registered graduate engineers. Begging the question, why is the transition of graduate engineers to professional engineers low?
Engineers say that the degree does not guarantee one an edge in the job market unless you meet the stringent requirements by Engineers Board of Kenya (EBK) and the Institute of Engineers of Kenya (IEK) that regulate engineers in Kenya. The situation, they claim is worsened by foreign engineers who are not accounted for mainly from China.
An article by The Standard noted that Engineers trained in Kenya are required to undergo a three-year internship under the supervision of a professional after graduating from engineering school, which takes at least five years.
“After the internship, the graduate engineer makes an application to the EBK to become a professional engineer. However, it’s the frustration one faces during the process that affects many of us,” says Martin Aluga, the organising secretary of Forum for Restoration of Professional Engineering in Kenya (FORPE), which fights for rights of graduate engineers. Aluga notes that any practising engineer in Kenya must be a member of the regulatory agencies.
Back in September, a section of the registered graduate engineers held a press conference under the Kenya Engineering Sector Working Group, to air their grievances. Later, they marched to the office of Cabinet Secretary James Macharia to present their petition, in which they want the CS to order an audit of foreign engineers in the country.
“We have many Chinese engineers in Kenya now working on major projects but the question is, are their numbers known, are they documented? An audit should be done on all foreign engineers working in Kenya and the findings made public,” says FORPE coordinator Constant Wanyonyi.
Wanyonyi further claimed that foreign engineers are paid higher as compared to the Kenyan graduates, some of them are diploma holders. earning Ksh. 200,000 a month yet locals get about Ksh. 18,000.
The graduates further allege that the Kenya Engineering Technology Registration Board (KETRB) and EBK have similar mandates. “We ask the National Assembly to review the two Acts and we propose the formation of an Engineering Council of Kenya (ECK),” he says.
They have unsuccessfully tried to register Kenya National Union of Engineers to champion their interests, welfare and stop discrimination based on age and status of engineers of all cadres. The matter is subject to a pending court case.
“Interim certificate was issued. All requirements of the Labour Relations Act, 2007 were fulfilled. Later on May 24, its registration was denied. An appeal on the decision of Registrar of Trade Unions has been done at Nairobi Commercial Court,” said Aluga.
But EBK says: “We are not aware of an application for registration of Kenya National Union of Engineers and therefore, claim that we have frustrated the same is unfounded.”
On apprenticeship, EBK says: “In order to facilitate graduate engineers to transit to professional status, the board has developed a graduate engineers internship programme (GEIP) to be applied in public and private sectors to offer structured training for graduate engineers.”
“Within the resources availed by the government, the board will be having at least 100 graduate engineers benefiting from the programme this financial year. Already, 40 engineers are in the programme,” the board notes.
Excerpts of this article have been mainly borrowed from an article published on The Standard written by James Wanzala.