Nigeria is rapidly advancing on its path towards an industrial economy. This will position Nigeria as the main manufacturing hub for the West African region. This growth is supported by a young population rapidly acquiring skills in order to meet the demands of industrialisation.
Demographically, Nigeria has one of the world’s youngest populations. This is a competitive advantage, but a young country also needs education to drive economic growth.
In fact, as growing demand for workers in the manufacturing industries increases, certain skills are commonly sought after by employers – one of them welders. Welding remains a most critical key to economies based on manufacturing.
Sadly, despite the high demand for welding skills by Nigerian companies, there are few local training schools. Nigeria’s need for welders is in fact driven by the ever increasing demand for energy. Nigeria is a currently a major energy producer and will continue to increase its production in the coming years. This is also attracting increased investment in local infrastructure for the local oil and gas industry. It is strategically important for Nigeria to match the skills of its population to the future needs of the Nigerian economy. The oil and gas industry is a significant user of steel and other metals and will be increasingly supplied by local providers. Only by training welders now will there be enough welders for industries such as shipbuilding, construction and manufacturing.
Samsung Heavy Industries Nigeria (SHIN), the local subsidiary of leading Korean shipbuilder, Samsung Heavy Industries, has consistently been providing these skills to a young generation of Nigerians. The company has not only provided that learning and employment platform for Nigerians, but has also offered lessons that can be learnt in the effort to grow local content as demanded by the Federal Government.
Without doubt, the SHIN operated Lagos-based SHI-MCI yard, Africa’s leading integration and fabrication shipyard, has constructed vessels for the oil and gas industry, including the Egina FPSO, the world’s largest floating production storage and offloading vessel now active in the Egina oil field.
Recognising the human potential of Nigeria, SHIN established a Welding Qualification Centre (WQC) in Tarkwa Bay, Lagos. As the provider of Nigeria’s only international welding certification, SHIN believes in nurturing home-grown talent in order to power Africa’s industrial future. The centre is accredited by the International Institute of Welding (IIW) as an “Approved Training Body” and offers certified courses in international fillet, plate and tubular welding. Since it was established 530 students have graduated from the WQC as qualified welders.
The centre has facilitated the transfer of Korean knowledge and skills to Nigerian students. Korea, no doubt, has been a leading shipbuilder for decades and has achieved economic success by harnessing manufacturing as a platform to support the growth of more developed industries.
As part of this training initiative, many success stories have appeared which are hardly told nor celebrated in Nigeria. We would rather chose to celebrate our failures and tragedies which neither enobles or inspires. Yet the younger generation need inspiration through stories that are real to forge ahead.
One such story is that of Godwin Oghenegueke, who in recent months has been inspiring many young Nigerians. Godwin was one of the first participants in SHIN’s free welding training courses. He initially started his career working at the SHI-MCI yard as a cleaner, but went on to become a certified welder. Godwin was complimentary of the open-minded nature of the programme saying, “some people came in as helpers and now they are assistant managers, scaffolders, welders, operators or riggers.”
The cost of education can be a barrier to many as Godwin noted, “I would not have been able to afford this training without Samsung’s help. I know of many lives which improved thanks to the project. Samsung has equipped my life with so many skills. Everything about me has changed.”
Besides Godwin, there is the story of Ms. Chinonye Okonkwo has also been an inspiration as one of the first certified female international welding specialists. She is now a welding training coordinator at SHI MCI yard.
The sight of her working in a field considered as exclusive to males is very uplifting.
That the international culture of SHIN is composed of many different nationalities has also proved very helpful for these indigenous welders. Nigerian welding trainer, Hadisa Olayinka shared his experience of working alongside Korean colleagues. The Korean supervisors are different he says, because in a shipyard work must be closely monitored – not just for efficiency but also for safety reasons.
For this reason it’s important to ensure people are motivated to do their best and bring the right “attitude towards the job”. Olayinka continued by saying that, “they don’t want to simply use you, they want to know about your personal life and how they can help make an impact.” SHIN’s WQC is a concrete example of how educational investment can create success stories like Godwin’s and Chinonye’s as more young people benefit from Nigeria’s evolution into a truly sophisticated regional manufacturing hub.
Okon, writes from Warri