From Gyang Bere, Jos
The Federal Government agency, the Industrial Training Fund (ITF), has put in place mechanisms to impart relevant skills to Nigerians to tackle the soaring challenges of poverty and unemployment that confront Nigerian youths, in spite of the emergence of the Omicron variant of COVID-19.
The effort of equipping Nigerians with skills has yielded positive results since 2016 when the director-general, Sir Joseph Ari, who was appointed by President Muhammadu Buhari, prioritized skills acquisition in rural communities of Nigeria.
Since then, the ITF designed and developed an entrepreneural scheme in collaboration with some international partners who brought to the bear expertise and innovation that led to the glowing experiences among Nigerian youths.
This task did not come without challenges, as the 2016 recession and COVID-19 pandemic, which led to loss of jobs, were impediments to the efforts of the ITF in providing requisite skills.
The fund has redesigned its strategies to ensure sustainability of the deliverables of skills among Nigerians through the fourth industrial revolution plan.
During a media forum with the correspondents’ chapel of the Nigeria Union of Journalists, Plateau Council, Ari recognised the role of the media in driving ITF programmes in Nigeria.
He said: “Our decision is further informed by the fact that we are on the cusp of the fourth industrial revolution, which, among other things, will lead to greater automation substitutes for labour across the globe.
“Beyond job losses, this new reality has come with a new world that is popularly referred to as the VUCA world, that is, volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous. Already, across the country today, we are contending with elements of the VUCA world in varying degrees.
“Daily are reports of acts of criminality that could only have been imagined some years back, among other numerous usual challenges that are confronting us as a nation. To overcome the challenges of VUCA, nations are devising strategies to reduce unemployment, poverty, increase social inclusion and other initiatives.”
Ari explained that it was perhaps in response to these threats and other considerations that the Federal Government recently unveiled the five-year National Development Plan (2021-2025) to replace the Economic Growth and Recovery Plan (EGRP).
According to him, “The plan, which projects the creation of 21 million jobs, with 35 million Nigerians lifted out of poverty, affordable housing for Nigerians and an export-led economy, among others, and is expected to cost N381 trillion to implement, has six focal areas: economic growth and development, infrastructure, public administration, human capital development, social development and regional development.”
The DG said ITF, as a leading human capital development institution in Nigeria, has commenced the process of repositioning its programmes and activities to effectively prepare the nation’s workforce, in line with the mandate of developing a pool of qualified Nigerians to man the public and private sectors of the national economy.
He said the plan required all Nigerians, as individual citizens and as institutions, to contribute their bit to enable it succeed.
Ari explained measures put in place by ITF to stem the effects of Omicron on the organization and said, despite the pandemic, the organization would continue to device means of doing business with the international community.
He noted that ITF had embraced technological innovations to keep in touch with its international partners and this has aided its operations in recent times, yielding good results.
“One thing I need to say here is that the natural environment does not believe in skills acquisition. A lot of people are averse to it. The ITF has been in the forefront of advocacy, for Nigerians to understand that that is the only thing that can save the situation and the challenges bedevilling the society.
“As I speak, a lot of other organizations, non-governmental bodies, public and private organizations, are falling in line and also coming to key in and realizing that the issue of skills acquisition is one central point that can take us off the streets in terms of restiveness and all the challenges we are facing, like kidnappings, robbery, unemployment and so on.
“I need to say that, even before now, the new world order has made it imperative for online programmes to come to be and so the ITF, as part of ways to handle some of these developments, has also veered into ICT and online programmes via Zoom virtual meetings with its collaborators and partners in the other parts of the world. And today, it’s very easy that you are here and you link up to Germany to Singapore to Canada via Zoom and you get what you want.
“It was also part of what the ITF did in order to keep alive. We rolled out nine programmes online free of charge on how businesses can be run for profit to be actualized in this period of COVID-19. So, that has not hindered our relationships with international organizations, the online programmes provide for that.
“The ITF, as a leading human capital development agency, is already shoulders above in terms of planning the processes to be able to tackle some of these challenges.
“We saw the reaction of the world towards Nigeria with the emergence of Omicron, which is very unfortunate, but I believe we, as a country, will continue to take measures that will keep us on the path of growth and development,” he explained.