Gyang Bere, Jos
The Industrial Training Fund (ITF) is battling to equip Nigerians with technical skills to reclaim vacancies that exist in about 925 trades in the country’s labour market currently being filled by non-Nigerians.
This was because there were no Nigerians that had the requisite skills to fill in the existing vacancies.
In 2018, the National Bureau of Statistic (NBS) report revealed that the number of the economically active or working age (15-64 years) grew from 110.3 million to 111.1 million, the number of unemployed equally appreciated from 11.92 million in the first quarter to 13.55 million and 15.99 million in the second and the third quarters of 2018.
This was based on research conducted by ITF, in conjunction with the United Nations Industrial Development Organisation (UNIDO). It revealed that there were vacancies in the area of services, agriculture, construction and transportation which are being filled by non-Nigerians.
Worried by the unhealthy development, the ITF in 2016, under the leadership of Joseph N. Ari embarked on a vigorous awareness campaigns to sensitise Nigerians on the need to avail themselves of training in such areas.
The fund took its campaigns for skills acquisition to the 36 states of the federation and the Federal Capital Territory (FCT). It requested the Nigerian Governors Forum and the private sector to partner with the ITF in providing requisite skills to fill in the skill gap in order to boost the country’s economy.
The Director General of ITF, Joseph N. Ari believed that the twin blights of unemployment and poverty and their attendant effects, which have manifested themselves in the form of terrorism, banditry, kidnapping and unimaginable social vices, could only be effectively tackled if agencies and parastatals such as ITF that were expected to provide Nigerians with life skills effectively actualise their mandate and lead the way.
Worried by these challenges, the fund stepped up the tempo of its activities by deliberately initiating policies that have had varying impacts on every sector of the national economy.
In 2019, the fund acknowledged the fact that the country was grappling with the problems of poverty and unemployment but despite this, vacancies still exist in various sectors of the National economy.
The skills gap survey of six priority sectors of the national economy, that was conducted by ITF and the United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO) indicated that vacancies existed in four sectors; services, agriculture, construction and transportation.
Sadly, these vacancies were in some cases being filled by non-Nigerians because of the absence of Nigerians with requisite technical skills.
Ari said “To prepare Nigerians to effectively take over these sectors, beginning from 2016, the Fund initiated a number of skills acquisition programmes targeted at these sectors.
“The programmes include; the National Industrial Skills Development Programme (NISDP), the Women Skills Empowerment Programme (WOSEP), Construction skills Empowerment Programme (CONEP), the skills Empowerment for the Physically challenged (STEPP-C) and the passion to Profession Programme (P2PP).”
Ari noted that through these programmes, most Nigerians are earning sustainable livelihoods as paid employees or better still entrepreneurs that are employing others who are equipped with skills in diverse trades.
He said the fund expanded the scope of the programmes to ensure that more Nigerians benefit. “Under the NISDP, the Fund trained over 11,000 Nigerians across the 36 States of the Federation and the FCT in eight trades, namely; autogele and beauty care, leather works (shoes/bags making), catering and events management, solar installation, welding and fabrication, furniture making, domestic electrical wiring and installation and tiling, production and laying interlocking tiles.”
Ari informed that under the Women Skills Empowerment Programme, hundreds of women from Enugu, Ekiti, Kaduna, Katsina, Nasarawa, Ondo, Rivers, Taraba, and Zamfara States were equipped with skills in tailoring, and fashion design.
This was to increase the capacity of women to earn sustainable livelihoods and reduce their over reliance on relations in the society.
The DG lamented that the construction sub-sector has been the one most blighted by lack of Nigerians with requisite skills leading to the reliance on imported labour from neighbouring countries.
“To reverse this trend, the fund equipped Nigerians from Abia, Bauchi, Edo, Ekiti, Katsina, Kogi, Niger,Osun and Sokoto states with skills in pipefitting, paints production and painting, iron bending and masonry,” he noted.
Ari noted that the physically challenged, who are the most vulnerable group in the society, are not left out. “The Fund implemented STEPP-C, which trained hundreds of the physically challenged in manual cloth design and embroidery in order to be useful to themselves and the larger society.
“The greatest hindrance to skills acquisition in Nigeria is the dearth of requisite infrastructure, particularly for Nigerians on far flung and hard to reach areas of the country. To overcome this obstacles, the fund acquired some mobile training vans from SENAI of Brazil.
“In 2019, the fund deployed the vans to train youths at Azare in Bauchi, Mbaise in Imo State and relatives of soldiers deployed to the warfront at the 3rd Armoured Division in Jos.”
He explained that the fund engaged in other skills acquisition activities that equipped Nigerians with skills in various trade areas such as Infotech Skills Empowerment Programme (ISEP).
The programme, which graduated trainees recently, became necessary due to evident gaps in knowledge and skills in the information and Communication Technology (ICT) sector of the Nigerian Economy and overwhelming evidence of the untapped potential economic benefits derivable from ICT.
“As the biggest economy in Africa and with the largest population of youths in the world, Nigeria is well positioned to develop and harness ICT to fast-track its economic development and thereby reduce poverty and create jobs.
“The trainees who were mostly degree holders, were carefully selected and equipped with specialised ITC skills and enrolled for international ICT certificate examination in Advanced Computer Hardware Maintenance and Repairs.
“Over 80 per cent of the trainees that were enrolled passed the certificate examination. With the international certificate, the beneficiaries can compete for jobs outside the shores of the country.”
The Director General noted that in order to encourage training of students in technical skills in various institutions in the country, it disbursed N2,094,407,000 as students and supervisory allowances under the Students Industrial Work Experience Scheme (SIWES) in 2019.
“In the year under review, ITF disbursed a N2,094,407,000 as students and supervisory allowances. Of this, N1,645,454,000 was distributed as students allowances to 142,462 students from 325 tertiary Institutions and N448, 953,000 was paid out as supervisory allowances.”
Ari noted that despite the challenges confronting the fund, ranging from under appropriations in the face of soaring number of participants as a result of the establishment of new institutions, the fund remains unwavering towards handling the situation.