|Issue:||Africa and the Middle East 1999|
|Topic:||Training in the Liberalised Telecommunications Industry in Kenya|
|Author:||Dr Julius Tangus Rotich|
|Organisation:||Kenya College of Communications Technology|
Transformation of training in line with the revolutionised telecommunication industry requires a good Management Information System (MIS), transparency and accessibility, with up dated information, to be able to take timely decisions and immediate remedial actions. In placing improvement efforts in today’s competitive telecom environment, the emphasis should be on the areas of aggressive marketing, customer satisfaction, quality management, re-engineering processes, etc. New possibilities in training influence structure of organisations in areas such as decentralisation, tele-working (working at a distance, work at home, or distant training using VTC, etc.), Internet, E-conference and Multimedia.
Kenya is a multicultural society, segmented to between 10 to 15 different cultures, with over 30 ethnic languages spoken in different parts of the country , with a population of about 30 million people. Basically, the society is divided into agricultural, industrial and the informed groups. The diversity has drastically affected the telecommunication services and modernisation in certain areas. Although the country boasts about 95% teledensity, countrywide the coverage per 1000 people is still below 20. To a large extent, therefore, this has affected telecommunication training investments in the country as a whole. In agricultural societies, concepts are based on approximations. Training qualifications are not stringent; even time aspect is approximated, therefore, competition is rare. Organisations and some specialised institutions would easily enjoy monopoly. This used to be the case, for example, with the Central Training School (of KP & TC now KCCT). In some instances course participants would easily fail to turn up for trivial reasons because of the many loopholes. In industrial societies, concepts are now based on queuing?. Appointments seem to be respected, qualifications become stringent; and students compete for the fewer chances available. An example is what is happening at our major universities today. But in the informed societies (Information Technology group), concepts have changed totally. It is anywhere anytime. And with the liberalisation in the telecommunication market, even institutions like KCCT have to compete for sources of trainees. The challenge is merging the three societies without diverting from specified standards under the college policy. Serious alternatives are sometimes taken into considerations otherwise the institutions may not survive or some ethnic groups may never get training at all. But still, moving ahead of other institutions, rapid changes in the training sector is the reality of doing business in the Liberalised Telecommunication Industry. Effect of New Technologies in Human Resource Development Today Economically, to teach new technology in telecommunications requires, among other things, a higher degree of skills among fewer staff in any institution and society. Learning processes are quickly replacing controlling processes as a permanent training environment due to the pace of development in the telecommunication industry. It has also been recognised that traditional training is often very expensive, and frequently not the most appropriate solution in any organisation. This is the reason why instructional technology is moving towards performance technology; the change in the names clearly reflects a drift in meaning in training. Therefore ground rules also have changed. Human Resource Development (HRD) has to change periodically to bring in the best returns to an institution. This demands a higher degree of commitment because today it is the customer who dictates the terms by demanding objective results. In the liberalised telecommunication training sector, competition for prospective customers and resource personnel is quite high. For instance, in a small institution, everyday is a battle. The chief executive is faced with a number of challenges relating to remuneration of staff, customer dissatisfaction and cashflow. To counter these issues, many institutions are concentrating on specialised training. Clear vision and mission is also very important to HRM/HRD? in any competitive training environment. This describes an ideal or desired scenario of what telecommunication colleges might eventually become, why the institution exists, domains in which the institution intends to compete given its strengths, and the medium and/or long-term goals for each domain. Although HRM/HRD aspects have always been of vital importance to overall telecommunication agencies, where top managers are now assigning maximum priority in their action plans, including the human factor, as a vital aspect of achieving the agencys objectives. In large telecommunication companies such as the Kenya Posts & Telecommunications Corporation (KP&TC), the rule was that, such companies did not have to compete for a slice of the telecommunication service market. That same monopoly would be enjoyed by large institutions (back then), so that productivity, quality, costsas well as duration of a course would take second place; but not any more. Liberalisation in the telecommunication industry has brought with it stiff competition in training as well. But as already mentioned, aspects relating to the handling of the change process itself must be implemented in a planned and controlled manner, taking advantage of the changes being pursued i.e. new market products such as the Internet services, Global System for Mobile (GSM), or other cellular phones in the market today, and developing related courses. Every target in any changing situation will require a revised policy, covering resource redistribution, staff selection and training for higher level tasks by means of HRD process, etc. Management should strive to get the staff to feel happy about the change(s), see its future advantages and support it. That means making skilful use of systems of communicating with the staff so that they feel fully informed about the managements plans; it must be made clear to them that the institution is giving them the means for preparing for the change (training, new development, etc.), therefore they are required to · Encourage capable, hard-working people of strong moral quality to remain · Support the preparation, through re-raining/training/ development of people willing to serve the institution and who have the will to better themselves · Part with staff who are inefficient and merely a burden to the company consider staff re-deployment only where necessary. Its main objective being to ensure that movements within the institution are not random but correspond in so far possible to the HRD planning. Crucial Issues in the Open Training Market Liberalisation has brought about changes in many governmental and public institutions and has also contributed to high business pressures. The influence of taxes and tariffs, which in some cases can be subtle, is well known. Monetary policy in the liberalised economy is the aspect of which government institutions are bearing business and requires immediate adjustments; regulation and restructuring are other aspects to look at. The effect of educational and governmental systems on the supply of human capital and their impact on training is less recognised. A further acknowledged factor is the effect that the government in its role as policy maker has on the liberalisation of the training market. Currently in Kenya, the training policy is open, thus evidently there is need for the re-engineering of staff and re-investing in the infrastructures with modern facilities as earlier cited. Globalisation has led governments to seek greater control over business. This involvement in international transactions stems from the need to network with a growing number of countries, using modern telecommunication technologies. In the World over, the increase in the rate of change can also be attributed to government’s reaction to shrinking tax lending bases, a by-product of growth in imports and productivity, for example, in the new telecom industry e.g. GSM, IT and intelligent networks. The consequences of the increased taxation, which often accompanies such shrinkage, are almost all negative due to globalisation. At times, the power to levy taxes can equate to the power to destroy esp. where it would be difficult to establish control e.g. Internet. To some extent this would adversely affect the training industry too, in the majority of the more firmly established national economies, like in Kenya. The second direct influence wielded by governments is regulation. Regulation, policy and legal framework have a bearing on telecommunications training in ways, which are hard to anticipate, let alone tackle. In this respect, government deliberations between re-structuring and liberalisation, and consequently privatisation, have led to considerable changes in in training policies in recent years. Liberalisation and privatisation, which are generally perceived as being in the interest of any business, may also have negative effects by leading to growing competition and a consequent drop in the performance of many organisations and institutions. In Kenya, the government has re-structured the telecommunication sector. Training as well as business has to react to the major changes in regulatory policy, and such changes have already been felt world-wide in the past two decades. Other interesting factors of change are the supply or shortage of human capital and the quality of education Government influence is felt at all levels of education. The output of the educational system does not always match the needs of business, due to sensitivity of areas in view of policy frameworks. Moreover, differences in professional standards can vary from nation to nation, thus fostering the trend towards competitive advantage. Lastly, and least appreciated, is the influence exerted by the government in its role as a consumer. The public sector, viewed as a whole, is an excessively large client. Because of this, institutional training policies can have a bearing on the competitive climate of any organisation. In some areas, government buying may dominate the market. Here, changes in government purchasing policy will prompt many institutions to change their approaches or service strategies. Our institute, for example, has relied on the parent organisation, KP & TC. This has changed; we now put more emphasis on the private sector as the major source of our trainees. Finally, technology is the most important factor in the change. Everyone knows that the pace of technological change has accelerated in recent years, the flow of new products onto the open market being one of its consequences. But the adjustments that institutions can make in response to technical change go beyond new product design. A large part of the influence exerted by technology falls on the pattern of any business. If technology leads in some way to better quality or lower costs, it can be applied to create an advantage through research. As a result, all competitive training is virtually obliged to take up any new technology which offers a clear improvement, and shortening of course duration by use of new teaching methodologies, e.g. Virtual Training Centres (VTC), Computer Based Training (CBT) or Technology Based Training (TBT). Since changes in technology will by their very nature always be new and poorly understood, they are particularly difficult for institutions to assimilate. The pace in changing technology is evolving so swiftly that one development replaces another long before training sectors have assimilated the first one. To compensate for this, institutions find that they have to monitor new technology by re-training and employing new instructors who are more qualified. All of whom must have basic skills and therefore be able to communicate effectively with the participants as is required. Although technological changes are among the most cited factors, they are also the most difficult to understand and monitor. This calls for a well-established training structure. As telecommunication training institute and a centre, “committed to excellence in human resource development”, we strive, therefore, not just to follow the market but to make it to follow us. Otherwise, how would our college live up to our motto?