Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture and Technology (JKUAT) and the East African Breweries (EABL) staged a STEM Engagement Day, Friday March 17, seeking to leverage on emerging trends and opportunities in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics disciplines, against the backdrop of a rapidly changing work ecosystem.
In his welcoming remarks, JKUAT Deputy Vice Chancellor (Academic Affairs), Prof. Robert Kinyua, underscored the critical role of the academia-industry linkage in advancing scientific research, innovation, technology development, and its contribution to the education and training of the next generation of STEM professionals.
The function was headlined by a laden panel discussion, featuring the Vice Chancellor, Prof. Victoria Wambui Ngumi, EABL Human Resource Director, Tope Akinsanya, Kenya Association of Manufacturers (KAM) Chief Executive, Anthony Mwangi, State Department for Higher Education, represented by Ms. Caroline Owade and Founder and CEO of Ujuzi Kilimo, Brian Bosire.
“If you want to be part of the future, then you must not only imagine it, but also create it. Some of you are preparing for jobs that either do not exist, or will not exist by the time you’re done studying,” challenged Anthony Mwangi, further urging students not to focus on the perceived prestige of the courses they are pursuing but on a mindset change towards getting practical skills.
“Career development starts when you begin to learn something out of classroom. We live in the information age, so use it to level up. I believe that STEM is the future and a crucial provider of solutions to the world’s challenges. As a university graduate, you should not be studying to perform repetitive tasks but to create these solutions,” said Ujuzi Kilimo’s Brian Bosire.
Bosire, himself a JKUAT graduate of Electronic and Computer Engineering, founded Ujuzi Kilimo, a data-driven agronomy services company, using original and innovative technology to reinvent the soil testing and analysis process, helping Kenyan farmers to improve and increase crop health and productivity.
He called on the government and various development initiatives to increase the scope of support beyond research and innovation to commercialization in order to complete the cycle and generate actual impact. His sentiments were echoed by Prof. Ngumi, who termed commercialization as the only weak link in the efforts towards leveraging technology and innovation for sustainable development.
“As a university we have a strong research and innovation culture, which has seen both students and staff innovate solutions to the world’s greatest challenges. While we’ve made progress towards embedding entrepreneurship in the process, the weak link remains commercialization. We need all relevant bodies in the industry, both government and private sector to pitch in so we can fully untap the innovative potential we have as a country,” she opined.
In her submissions, EABL’s Tope Akinsanya urged students to focus on continuous growth to ensure they are growing in skillset, while appraising them of the company’s programs aimed at accelerating graduates’ career growth and development.
She presented an internship award to JKUAT’s Mark Maara, a Mechatronics Engineering student whose ‘SignSpeak’ innovation at the STEM function impressed the judges and was ranked the best.
“At EABL, STEM skillsets are crucial in accelerating our efforts towards reducing carbon emissions and minimising waste,” she averred.
With EABL having rolled out an ambitious STEM Apprentice programme that seeks to develop a sustainable pool of talent within the EABL ecosystem, the STEM engagement day served as a crucial first step in the long-term partnership with the university, as a STEM-leaning institution, to further that objective.
The engagement day came against the backdrop of the company’s ongoing centenary celebrations, which, according to the Group’s Corporate Relations Director, Eric Kiniti, has increasingly made them critically aware of the central role of STEM as an essential ingredient in driving innovation, technology and a sustainable future.