International Review of Education

, Volume 63, Issue 3, pp 341–361 | Cite as

Technical knowledge and skills development in the informal sector in Kenya: The case of custom tailors

  • Edwinah Amondi Apunda
  • Helena M. de Klerk
  • Teresa Ogina
Original Paper

Abstract

Custom tailors working in the informal sector in Nairobi, Kenya, mainly acquire technical skills through undertaking traditional apprenticeships (TAs). However, most of these tailors are semi-skilled, produce low-quality products and are often poorer than their formally trained counterparts. This qualitative case study explores the aspects of technical skills and knowledge which tailoring apprentices develop, and the factors which influence these outcomes. The findings show that apprentices do acquire basic technical skills for immediate application to ongoing tailoring activities (such as how to take body measurements, draft patterns, and cut, sew and finish constructed garments). However, apprentices do not acquire the technical knowledge that underpins the trade. Most master tailors who have completed TAs lack technical knowledge and have no access to technical skills upgrading. This perpetuates the cycle of basic and limited technical skills transfer to apprentices, poor performance and poverty among tailors. Both apprentices and master tailors expressed concern over knowledge limitations in TAs and a need to access further training to improve skills and acquire knowledge of the trade. The authors of this article argue that, technically and pedagogically, skilled master tailors are critical to improving training quality. Complementary training in theoretical knowledge is also important in improving apprentices’ technical skills and understanding of the trade. Inclusion of TAs in government policy may help ensure sustainable improvement of skills.

Keywords

technical knowledge and skills development informal sector Kenya tailoring traditional apprenticeships 

Résumé

Perfectionnement des connaissances et savoir-faire techniques dans le secteur informel au Kenya: le cas des tailleurs – Les tailleurs sur mesure actifs dans le secteur informel de Nairobi (Kenya) acquièrent essentiellement leur savoir-faire technique dans le cadre d’un apprentissage traditionnel. Néanmoins, la plupart d’entre eux sont insuffisamment qualifiés, fabriquent des articles de faible qualité et sont plus pauvres que leurs confrères qui ont bénéficié d’une formation officielle. La présente étude de cas qualitative explore les éléments des connaissances et savoir-faire techniques qui sont transmis traditionnellement en confection ainsi que les facteurs qui influencent ces résultats. Les conclusions révèlent que les apprentis acquièrent certes les compétences techniques de base pour une application immédiate dans les actes courants de la confection (prise de mensurations, traçage de patrons, coupe, couture et finition de vêtements conçus). Ils n’abordent cependant pas les connaissances techniques qui sont à la base du métier. La majorité des maîtres tailleurs qui ont accompli un apprentissage traditionnel manquent de ces connaissances techniques et n’ont aucun accès aux mesures correspondantes de perfectionnement. Cette situation entretient le cycle du transfert minimal et limité des compétences techniques aux apprentis, du faible rendement et de la pauvreté parmi les tailleurs. Tant les apprentis que les maîtres tailleurs expriment leur souci concernant la limitation des connaissances dans l’apprentissage traditionnel et le besoin d’accéder à la formation continue pour perfectionner leurs compétences et acquérir des connaissances sur le métier. Les auteures de l’article affirment que sur le plan technique et pédagogique, les maîtres tailleurs qualifiés sont décisifs pour améliorer la qualité de la formation. La formation complémentaire en savoir théorique est également importante pour améliorer les compétences techniques et la connaissance du métier chez les apprentis. L’intégration de l’apprentissage traditionnel dans les politiques publiques pourrait contribuer à garantir un perfectionnement durable des compétences.

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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht and UNESCO Institute for Lifelong Learning 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  • Edwinah Amondi Apunda
    • 1
  • Helena M. de Klerk
    • 1
  • Teresa Ogina
    • 1
  1. 1.University of PretoriaHatfieldSouth Africa

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