Changing the face of technical/vocational education in Nigeria
Embracing technical/vocational education, Nigeria’s future hope
By Jet Stanley Madu
Have you ever wondered why most Nigerian graduates, including graduates of technical and vocational colleges, are unemployed and unemployable? The Acting Executive Secretary, Lagos State Technical and Vocational Education Board (LASTVEB), Engineer Laolu Oguntuyi, revealed why in a recent press briefing.
According to him, it is owing to the absence of another kind of skills that he termed ‘soft skills,’ namely: good attitude, teamwork, decision-making, problem solving, and good communication – in both oral and written forms. Many graduates of today, he argues, “don’t have adequate knowledge of these soft skills.”
These skills and some other conventional skills like GSM repairs, graphic designs, social media engineering are among courses that over 6,000 graduates of technical colleges will be trained in later this year, he said, in a programme tagged the TECHSEEC project. TECHSEEC is an acronym for Technical Students Empowerment and Evaluation Conference.
The training programmme, designed for graduates drawn from five technical colleges in Lagos State, will come from the stable of Trantouch International Limited, in collaboration with LASTVEB and will afford participating students the opportunity to showcase their creative works.
Benefitting from the training
Giving insight into the programme, Oguntuyi disclosed that the training will run from three to six months, depending on the participants’ fields. He hinted that final year students would benefit from the training after their exams in June next year.
Oguntuyi who asserted that Nigeria’s curriculum is outdated, explained that the core reason LASTVEB was set up is to regulate vocational education in Lagos State. He regretted the poor perception of technical and vocational education, as well as the great divide between educational institutions and the industry in the country. He is, however, elated that the idea for the TECHSEEC project is coming from a product of technical college.
His words: “In Nigeria, people have poor perception about technical and vocational education. But I am happy that Mr. Collins who is the initiator of the programme happens to be our ex-student, specifically from Government Technical College, Ikotun, Lagos. If he can come up with such initiative, what it then means is that teachers in technical and vocational colleges are not dropouts. And the students they likewise teach are not dropouts.
“Presently, there is inadequate linkage between educational institutions and the industry. This is because in Nigeria, we have outdated curricular which do not even involve the industry. Yet, at the end of the day, the industry is supposed to be the beneficiary of our products. Now, we need to tell the world that vocational education is not an inferior education.”
Oguntuyi was speaking during the official signing of the Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) for the conference between LASTVEB and Trantouch at Ikeja. The training programme, said to be the first of its kind in Nigeria, will hold in partnership with organizations like Slot Academy, who would provide the training. Others include: Interdream, Cornet, MetroSoft, BOSCH and Rhoda Michael Fashion Academy.
The propagator of TECHSEEC, Mr. Uwadia John Collins, explained that the initiative was borne out of the passion to improve standards in technical colleges in Nigeria. He added that his experience in having the privilege to work with technical institutions and organisations locally and internationally was part of what informed the idea.
Uwadia who is also the founder and Chief Executive Officer, Trantouch, spoke on the derivable benefits for participating students and colleges who exhibit unique innovations in technology. “There will be a platform to reward talents,” he promised. “If a particular school comes up with something creative, they’re sure going to be rewarded at the end of the day. And that can drive creativity.”
Apart from the training for the students, the educationist disclosed that grants will be made available to any school that is ready to go into research and development.
“This programme is not just a one-time project,” he warned. “It is going to be an annual conference. We’re hoping that we will develop it in such a way that, every year, the students and schools can look forward to saying, okay, ‘we have to come up with something unique, something worth showing to the world.’ We will give them the opportunity to showcase it. And at the end of the day, the student/s or school gets rewarded for it.”
Hope of Nigeria’s future
Chairperson of the TECHSEEC conference, as well as Founder, Partnering Fashion Academy, Mrs. Agbeyo Rhoda, stressed that technical and vocational education is the springboard for entrepreneurship, and should be embraced by all.
“If people embrace vocational studies, they will start building their businesses earlier and start empowering the economy differently,” she said. “Where you have the active source of the economy is in small businesses. And who are the people who drive these small businesses? They are students and graduates of technical and vocational studies.”
Agbeyo maintained that it is imperative for Nigerians to embrace vocational studies, arguing that gone are the days when technical and vocational education was regarded as a low-ranking way of acquiring knowledge.
“In fact, technical and vocational education is probably going to be the saviour of Nigeria,” she observed. “Really, there are a lot of graduates now, going about looking for jobs. And there are no jobs. So, everybody has to be an entrepreneur. And how do you become an entrepreneur? You go to a vocational institute/college and learn a vocation.”
She stressed the need to bring technical education to limelight, noting that parents should work towards encouraging their children to attend technical colleges. “It probably could be what will secure the child’s future in Nigeria of today. At the moment, dollar is on the high-rise. Really, the people that are succeeding in this economy today are people with vocational skills.”
How the media can help
She then appealed for media support in promoting this system of education. “I bless God for LASTVEB. Now, we have a body that can control this and drive technical and vocational education in the right direction. So, I think it’s something we should embrace and the media should lend their support”.
Mr. Abdullahi Nurudeen who represented one of the training partners, BOSCH decried the lack of facilities in the colleges. He however, disclosed BOSCH’s readiness to wade in, in ensuring that needed modern learning tools are provided.
As he shared his experience on the state of some of the institutions, he insisted that efforts and resources must be pulled together to lay good foundation for the students.
“I have visited quite a few schools here in Lagos and met with the students,” he recounted. “I found some impressive things there. But, what I see that are really lagging behind are the facilities in them. And we have had a meeting, and we in BOSCH are working towards supplying some of the tools which are highly needed. These students are our future. How do we lay good legacy for them? In laying good legacies for them, we have a long way to go. Often in my interface with other organizations, what they tell me is that they need someone who has technical vocational training right from the scratch. I do not want to employ just a graduate who lacks technical skills.
“So, we need to train these students with modern technology, because the private sector we are talking about, they make use of modern technology. And this is where BOSH comes in in this project. And I’m very sure that in this initiative, we definitely have a long way to go with LASTVEB and possibly, in partnering with TECHSEEC.”