By MONICA AYUBA, Abuja –
Director-General of the Industrial Training Fund (ITF), Sir Joseph Ari, has said that over 20 million Nigerians are not employed and yet technicians are imported.
Ari, who made the disclosure at the 1st National Skills Summit at the Ladi Kwali Hall, Sheraton Hotel &Towers, Abuja on Thursday, said the answer to the scenario could only be that Nigerians have not fully embraced skills acquisition as a sustainable alternative to white collar jobs.
“This mindset and the perception that hands-on skills are for a certain group of Nigerians has to change,” he advised.
He also said that unemployment in Nigeria had continued to defy all solutions that have been thrown at it because of the absence of clear policies on technical skills acquisition as a vehicle for job creation and poverty reduction.
This, according to him, is coupled with the lack of synergy and co-operation between Agencies with mandate for skills development for job creation leading to disparate efforts that are yielding little results.
Ari explained that as the organisation responsible for the development of indigenous manpower for the public and private sectors of the economy, the ITF was firmly placed to understand and appreciate what the challenges are.
“Another important obstacle is our perception of skills acquisition. Till date, many Nigerians still believe that hands-on skills are a preserve of the poor and the disadvantaged in our society as they are viewed as dirty, dreaded and dangerous. This perception has led to skills shortages in trades and vocational areas that Nigerians should be well equipped to perform.,” he said.
Making reference to a Skills Gap Survey in Six Priority Sectors of the Nigerian Economy that was conducted by the ITF in liaison with the United Nations Industrial Development Organisation (UNIDO), Ari noted that despite rising unemployment, “vacancies still existed in several sectors of the economy that are still reliant on foreign labour to be filled.”
“My understanding of this is that if over 20 million Nigerians are not employed and yet technicians are imported, the answer can only be that Nigerians have not fully embraced skills acquisition as a sustainable alternative to white collar jobs. This mindset and the perception that hands-on skills are for a certain group of Nigerians has to change,” he said.
According to the ITF Director-General, another factor could be the disconnect between the schools and the needs of the industries, leading to a situation where it is not uncommon to hear employers lament the unemployability of graduates of our tertiary institutions.
“This formed the subject of a presentation by the Human Capital Group at the Financial System Strategy (FSS) 2020 International Conference on the state of the Nigerian educational system. According to the presentation, the “emphasis in Nigerian institutions has been on verbal activity rather than skill acquisition and problem solving activities,” while also noting that “The educational system has not been tailored to meet developmental needs of the nation,” he stated.
He added that closely related to this was the absence of a reliable Labour Market Information (LMI) that would have guided Nigerians in career choices and institutions of learning on industry needs.
“Consequently, institutions of learning and human capacity development institutions work on a whim, in the dark and without any form of guidance. The effect of this is that institutions train potential workers in skills that are not needed by the labour market,” he said.
He explained that the first National Skills Summit in Nigeria, was organised by the ITF “for us to collectively deliberate and chart pathways and solutions to tackling the unemployment problem facing our dear country.”
“The reasons for the Summit, which is the first to be organised in over 60 years as an independent Nation, are not far-fetched. Across the nation today, no day passes without reports of kidnappings, armed robbery, mass killings and other heinous crimes. In the event of arrest, most of these perpetrators claim some form of tertiary education and blame unemployment for their dastardly acts.
“This is despite the fact that the Federal Government, especially under the Administration of President Muhammadu Buhari, has rolled out numerous policies and other initiatives directly targeted at tackling unemployment and its attendant fallouts. From what the Federal Government has done and is doing, it is obvious that the unemployment situation that has persisted is not as a result of the lack of will and commitment of the Federal Government to find lasting solutions to the problem,” he said.
“Although there are several other knotty problems, these highlight the enormity of the hurdles confronting the entrenching of skills acquisition culture in Nigeria. It is with a view to addressing these that the ITF is organizing this skill summit with the theme: Skills for Employability and Job Creation, and Strategies for Developing Employability Skills in Nigeria and Industry Needs and Education Curricula, as sub themes,” he added.
He recalled that at a stage in the nation’s history, Nigeria was politically and economically at par with the Asian Tigers namely; Singapore, Taiwan, South Korea and Hong Kong.
“Skills acquisition experts are in agreement that whereas these nations poured investments into their education sector, especially in Technical Vocational Education and Training (TVET), we emphasized and prioritized paper qualification. The upshot of our choice is that when the Asian Tigers joined the developed world, we, like other African countries, retrogressed because of our lack of commitment to skills acquistion.
“This summit, therefore, provides us a veritable platform to finally articulate specific strategies for developing employable skills in Nigeria, apply best practices for aligning skills development to market needs, spotlight and bring to public domain topical issues that have skills development implications and/or requiring skills interventions, bring together skills development agencies and practitioners to exchange ideas and facilitate professional networking and technical collaboration, propound policy guidelines for skills development, and identify and assess existing skills development and labour market contexts in Nigeria,” he further explained.
Speaking at the occasion, Vice President Prof Yemi Osinbajo assured that the Federal Government would continue to support organizations and agencies that will address to the problem of skills gap in Nigeria.
Represented at the occasion by Minister of Industry, Trade and Investment Otunba Richard Niyi Adebayo, the Vice President noted that the issues of insecurity and social media could not be address without job creation, pointing out that the present administration of President Buhari has done a lot to turn around the Fortune of the country through various empowerment programmes.
The Vice President explained that the first national Skills Summit is vital for the Federal and state governments because it would find solutions to the the challenges of skills gap in the country.
“This summit is so vital because states across the federation will embrace the outcome of the deliberation said,” h.
Chairperson of the occasion Minister of State for Industry Trade and Investment Hajia Aisha Abubakar, said Nigerian youths need to develop skills in order to tackle the problems of unemployment.