Snehar Shah, CEO of Moringa School

The power of vocational training as a niche market

By Victor Adar

Life without a job is tough. Imagine tuition fees, accommodation, living expenses, and spending, say, four years of your life to earn a university degree only to end up being unemployed and with a mountain of loans… 

That’s the reality that most graduates grapple with after completing their studies. And, it is the ever-unpredictable job market that inspired the setting up of Moringa School. 
Audrey Cheng and Frank Tamre, founders of Moringa School, saw the need to bridge the gap between the employed and the unemployed technical graduates by empowering those who join their accelerator program to make them “market ready”.

Cheng stepped down as CEO in 2022, leaving the company in the safe hands of Snehar Shah, an electrical and electronic engineering graduate from Imperial College, London, and a chartered financial analyst.
Shah brought a wealth of knowledge from 25 years of professional experience working in various industries including Investment Banking, Renewable Energy, Telecoms and Infrastructure in the UK, Europe and African countries.

The basis of Moringa School programs is equipping students with the skills companies are looking for—which makes them ready to hire. It eliminates the fear many companies have of graduates being half-baked.

“Our goal is to transform higher education in Africa. To this end, what we train on is cutting edge and market aligned, because we are here to make our students as employable as possible.” says Shah, CEO Moringa School.

The stark difference between Moringa School and other technical training institutions is that they place a lot of emphasis on soft skills, they don’t just provide technical training. Shah says some of their training programs last for five months and cost as low as Kshs. 40,500.

Insisting on innovation and seeing opportunities in challenges, Moringa tech institute prepares learners to be competitive in the job market and to chart new paths. 
“We provide an alternative for students,” says Snehar Shah, CEO of Moringa School. “What we train on is cutting edge and very market aligned. We strive to make our students as employable as possible by only providing technical training, but also imparting soft skills.”

Mr. Shah, an electrical and electronic engineering graduate from Imperial College, London, and a chartered financial analyst says their training lasts only five months, with fees ranging from Sh40,000 to Sh160,000. 

Shah notes that opportunities exist for technical students as some of the big tech companies like Google, Microsoft, and AMS are always ready to employ them. 
Shah says there’s a plethora of opportunities for technical students, and the big tech companies like Google, Microsoft, and AMS are always ready to bring them into the fold.

“Moringa is outcome-oriented. We help tech students fasttrack their careers by helping them gain the necessary skills they need to cut their teeth in the industry as entrepreneurs or high value employees,” he says.

Since his appointment in January 2022 to head the tech institute, Shah has been making bold steps and setting good examples in the wake of a record rise in unemployment. He says lack of jobs is a major issue

Labour force
The Kenya National Bureau of Statistics (KNBS) in its September 2021 quarterly labour force report, placed Kenya’s unemployment rate at 10.4% from 5.2% in March (the same year) with employment vis a vis population ratio dropping to 57.7% from 64%.

KNBS also revealed that the country’s overall employment to population ratio for the working age population of 15 to 64 years was 63.7% in quarter one of 2021 compared to 65% recorded in the previous quarter, and 64.4% recorded in the same quarter of 2020.

The statistics speak volumes  – the job scarcity witnessed in recent years has seen young people join the tech training institute to cut their teeth on ‘market aligned courses’ that include software engineering, data science, and product design. There is more business for Moringa based on the fact that jobs are on the decline.

“We train on courses such as Artificial Intelligence (AI), Machine Learning, Cloud Computing, Cybersecurity, Robotics, Data Engineering, and such, which we also do by running the Digital Academy for Safaricom PLC and such,” Shah explains.

As of 2020, Kenya had 2,301 (technical) institutions against 753 in 2013 when the Technical and Vocational Education Training (TVET) Authority was established as part of an effort to meet the demands of the current market. 

In January this year, education cabinet secretary Mr. Ezekiel Machogu said the TVET Authority has registered and accredited more than 2,340 institutions, 4,604 trainers and 11, 299 programmes. 
The CS also revealed that the government is set to phase out business courses being taught at technical schools in three years time – it is about aligning the TVET sector with industry needs while offering young people a chance to gain skills needed in the labour market.

According to Shah, the first thing we have to do is leverage “boot camp training method”, which is intense, and practical so that graduates can be “job creators and not job seekers.”

Software developers
In 2021, Google and Accenture quantified the number of software developers in Africa; the continent has 716,000 professional developers at the moment, with 50% from Egypt, Kenya, Morocco, Nigeria, and South Africa. This is a 3.8% increase from the 700,000 developers recorded in 2020.

Shah attributes the trend to the rise, and rise of the use of the internet, demand for remote tech talent, and the capacity of high-growth start-ups to hire developers. From where he sits, the tech ecosystem will still offer more, and more opportunities in the next two to three years.

The shift to remote work too is also creating more opportunities, and if anything, Shah says, Covid-19, for example, simply offered the Moringa School an opportunity to expand at a much faster rate. 
“Remote working was a reality for many but we pivoted our model because before the pandemic, we were mostly a physical campus but now we train more than 80% of our students remotely, which enabled us to expand. Now, you don’t have to be in Nairobi to train with Moringa—you can be in Kisumu, Eldoret, or at the coast and still train with us online.”

The cherry on top is that Moringa School uses live learning and pairs up students with technical mentors.

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