Kenya Engineer recently held discussions with Prof. Eng. Abel Mayaka, the Dean Faculty of Engineering and technology at Multimedia University, on various matters touching on Engineering training in Kenya. Prof. Mayaka has over 28 years experience in the training of Engineers and is well versed with the opportunities and challenges in the engineering profession in Kenya.
Please introduce yourself to our readers
My name is Prof. Abel Nyakundi Mayaka. I’m a Mechanical Engineer by profession. I’m a professor in manufacturing Engineering. I finished my PhD in 1993 at 28 years old and immediately joined Moi University as a lecturer so I have over 28 years of teaching experience at the University. I stayed at Moi University for 17 years and rose through the ranks from a lecturer to a head of department to a dean of the faculty of Engineering. I then transferred my services to Multimedia University in 2011. While in Moi I was awarded for exemplary performance as a dean by the then Vice Chancellor Prof. Mibei.
What is your professional opinion on accreditation of Engineering programs?
We learn these things by sharing experiences in other institutions and other countries and the bottom line is that accreditation is very important. It makes sure that the programs being offered meet some minimum requirements to produce engineers. Accreditation looks at the infrastructure; whether you have physical facilities to offer the programs, the equipment you have for training purposes and the human capital you have to deliver the programs. So it is important that as you run the programs there is someone looking to ensure that you meet minimum requirements to deliver the programs.
How can CUE and EBK collaborate in streamlining admission to and accreditation of Engineering Courses?
CUE deals with training at university level. CUE is tasked with the mandate of ensuring that programs offered in universities meet certain requirements or are offered in a certain environment. On the other hand we have the professional body and in Kenya there is the Engineers Board Board of Kenya which is the regulator of the profession. Ideally they are supposed to look at your career progression after training. I think there is now a new mandate for EBK to check what is being offered in the universities. So in a way it brings about some overlap of responsibilities but it would be good if these processes are managed jointly so that you have one common opinion from the two institutions. As it were, each of these institutions do not have capacity to carry out this function, they are doing it at the university’s cost. If the process can be harmonized it will be a way of saving costs for the universities.
How would you rate your performance as faculty here at Multimedia University?
I’d say we are above average, probably doing 80% in terms of percentages but then again there are a number of challenges that stops us from being where we are supposed to be.
What is the importance of having nonacademic experience for trainers of Engineers?
This is very important. Where I went through my university education, working at the industry is a must so that you can take some time off, go and work at the industry and then you can come back at the university. Because as a university you can’t train for each industry specifically. We give general knowledge in Engineering Education. But then for us as lecturers and even students we need to expose ourselves to other areas in the industry.
What’s your take on the practice of retaining best students into academia?
I can remember the first time I was employed at the university that was the practice. All the first class students were retained by the university because the programs were expanding and there was also need for succession. But it reached I time when financial constrains could not allow this practice to continue. But I think it is a best practice to retain our best students and that is the best way to build capacity internally.
What do you make of the proposal to introduce a post graduate Engineering School something in the mold of the Kenya School of Law?
In my opinion it is not practical to do this because after undergraduate training people pursue various different branches of engineering. What they should do is to have people continuing their post graduate preparations in various organizations with professional Engineers attached to oversee what they are doing and mentoring them and I think that is what EBK is currently doing.
What is your take on the enactment of the Technologists and Engineering Technicians bill?
Well that is a long story. I think the Engineers act overlooked that bit and that is why they felt they had been left out and so they went and called theirs but then for me I think we should just co-exist and work together.
What is the importance of partnerships especially between local and foreign institutions with regards to training of engineers?
We try to establish partnerships not only with the industries but also with other institutions. For industries we seek experience and attachment but for foreign academic institutions we collaborate for purposes of capacity building, joint research projects, consultancy and so forth. As we speak there are four universities we are collaborating with externally.
How can local Engineers measure up to foreign counterparts and receive equal consideration for major infrastructure projects in the country?
That is a big issue. I think it is somewhere in the regulations that a certain percentage of jobs contracted to foreigners should be done by Kenyans which I’m not very sure happens. Also when putting out tender notices some qualifications required automatically limit participation of Locals. The other challenge is that some of these major projects are funded externally and the donor comes with their own conditions some of which might limit participation of our people.
Finally what would you say are the expected growth areas in Engineering?
There are many opportunities in engineering. In fact as we always say there is an Engineer at the back of every aspect of life. If you come closer home to the Big 4 agenda then you realize that Engineers are needed in order to achieve any of the listed objectives under this agenda. The opportunities are many but we need to get focused and appreciate the position of Engineers in the community.
Prof. Eng. Abel Nyakundi Mayaka holds MSc. In Mechanical Engineering and a PhD in Technical Sciences (Mechanical) from Moscow Russia. He is registered Professional Engineer in Mechanical Engineering with the Engineers Board of Kenya (EBK). Prof. Mayaka is a full professor of Manufacturing Engineering and serves as Dean Faculty of Engineering and Technology at the Multimedia University of Kenya. He also currently serving as a panelist to the Institution of Engineers of Kenya, Mechanical Engineering Professional Review Board