Modern equipment is key to practice-oriented education at the centres of excellence.
CEMEREM facilitated the purchase of modern survey equipment through DAAD funding in 2016, forever transforming the narrative of survey practicals at Taita Taveta University (TTU).
Industrial attachment has been enhancing the skillsets of young TTU mining graduates for a confident and just transition into the dynamic labour market, mine surveying being a key area they get engaged in.
Down Memory Lane
The memory still remains crystal clear – both in content and form and in terms of the subtle details and the sublime picture. Students used to endure a journey of more than 300 kilometres to universities in the Nairobi Metropolitan Region for sessions of survey practicals. Purchasing modern survey equipment was, therefore, rightly envisaged to be a critical link in the chain of producing practice-oriented mining engineers at the young Taita Taveta University College (TTUC), now Taita Taveta University (TTU), Kenya.
In 2016, uplifting news broke. The Centre of Excellence for Mining, Environmental Engineering and Resource Management (CEMEREM) was finally established at TTU as the first DAAD-funded “Centre of African Excellence” to be engineering-oriented. CEMEREM came in handy with equipment support. Instruments for engineering surveys were among the first equipment to be procured at the erstwhile fledgeling Centre of Excellence. CEMEREM is co-managed by TTU and two other partners in Germany: HTW-Dresden and TU Bergakademie Freiberg. The survey equipment included Total Stations, Electronic Theodolites, Automatic Levels, Construction Lasers, GNSS, and their accessories.
The survey instruments have since been transforming the practical experience of the students of Mining Engineering at TTU. These upcoming engineers take three units in Engineering Surveying and two units in Mine Surveying under the five-year programme.
Addressing the Skills Gap
In 2015, the strong push for establishing CEMEREM was the growing deficit in practice-oriented resource engineers and managers in East Africa. Adequate training infrastructure, adequate industry exposure as an integral part of the study programmes, summer schools, conferences, and exchange programmes are important interventions in addressing this challenge.
A nationwide study completed in 2021, facilitated with funds from the African Centre for Career Enhancement and Skills Support (ACCESS) – “University of Ideas”, confirmed that 18% of Kenyan youth aged 18-35 acquired work-ready skills during their industrial attachment. This is significant, given that only 24% of the respondents exuded confidence in the readiness of their skills for the labour market upon graduating from college. A new standard in Kenyan universities that requires a minimum of uninterrupted eight weeks of industrial attachment for engineering students right from the second academic year, complete with supervision by industry supervisors and university lectures, has been key to closing the skills gap.
Authentic Testimonies of Indelible Impact
Interacting with the graduates of this programme, I have been elated to receive feedback after feedback that the practice-oriented training facilitated by the modern survey equipment has given the graduates a competitive advantage in getting employed in the mining sector. Several of them are principally engaged in engineering surveying and mine surveying as a routine professional activity.
Inspiring examples abound:
- TTU graduates surveying the tunnels and minefields using ground-based optical solutions, airborne laser scanning and drones, or spaceborne solutions availed through GPS/GNSS and satellite imagery.
- Mapping for application of mining permits and licenses with reference to the online mining cadastre has been a source of income to a good number of them who freelance, contributing to the gig economy.
This gratifying feedback peaked in May – June 2022 as I participated in industrial attachment supervision across Kenya, from the County of Uasin Gishu through Kajiado and Machakos to Taita Taveta. Road construction sites have been real cases of applied engineering surveys to the students on attachment with road agencies. The students attached to quarrying sites and cement factories find interesting applications of Geology and Chemistry. On the upstream side, they invariably find skills in surveying irreplaceable in setting out, mapping, and monitoring various aspects of the busy mining industry.
The selected pictures below showcase the interesting practical sessions that make for practice-oriented mining education at TTU with crucial support from CEMEREM: equipment and networking.
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Practice-oriented activities are crucial to our educational ecosystem.