The horrendous unemployment crisis in Nigeria could only be solved with the change of the current perception of skills acquisition as a preserve for the never-do- wells, the poor and the wretched in our society.
If we successfully change the perception of about technical skills, the problem of unemployment and other development issues would have been half-tackled.
The Director-General of Industrial Training Fund (ITF), Mr. Joseph Ari, advised at a briefing in Abuja on the activities of ITF.
Despite government’s best efforts, unemployment was still on the rise.
Painting the gloomy picture of job situation in Nigeria, he said, that projections suggested that the country’s population was expected to hit the 500 million mark by 2050, making it the third most populous country on earth.
“Much as accelerated population growth could be an advantage, it becomes a huge disadvantage and a severe dead weight where this population is neither employed nor equipped with the requisite skills for sustenance.
“And if the current unemployment rate is responsible for the high incidences of violence, criminality and other social vices that are rampant today, it would be safe to conclude that such incidences will conceivably escalate exponentially, if deliberate actions to equip Nigerians with competitive skills for job creation and growth are not taken.’’
He explained that some disturbing facts have emerged in a survey, the report of which was presented to stakeholders in Abuja in April this year.
The report, he said, indicated that despite spiraling unemployment, 925 trades were either difficult or hard to fill in the country’s labour market.
“The breakdown showed that 19.7 per cent vacancies were in the housing sector, 13.9 per cent in petro-chemical sector, 14.7 per cent in other goods, 11.4 per cent in the auto industry.
“Others are 10.3 per cent in textiles, 10.1 per cent in steel, 8.9 per cent in the services sector and 3.3 per cent in the leather industry.
“The report also noted that 15.7 per cent of all hard to fill vacancies were due to lack of technical skills, 11.8 per cent due to lack of basic IT skills, 9.2 per cent due to lack of advanced IT skills and between 9.2 per cent and 7.5 per cent of the vacancies were due to the lack of requisite soft skills.’’
He said that the report which further corroborated in-house skills gaps surveys of ITF, showed that despite rising unemployment, numerous vacancies still existed in several sectors of the National economy.
These vacancies could not be filled by Nigerians because of the absence of the requisite skills or were being filled by foreigners.
In order to address the problem and stem the spiraling unemployment, President Muhammadu Buhari’s job creation efforts, management came up with a list of implementable programmes for year 2018.
The programmes are aimed at skill acquisition in all the sectors already identified as well as in the building and electrical industry, and agriculture, all on various platforms to train 13,000 Nigerians in five months.
These platforms are the National Industrial Skills Development Programme (NISDP), Women Skills Empowerment Programme (WOSEP), Air-conditioning and Refrigeration (Training on Wheels), and Designing and Garment Making (Training on Wheels) for Nigerian youths.
Others are Skills Training and Empowerment Programme for the Physically Challenged (STEPP-C), Post-Harvest Techniques and Project Development, Aqua-culture/Fish Farming, Manure Production, Crop Production/Greenhouse Technology Poultry farming, Training Programme Development on International Marketing.
In the face of this bleak outlook and in line with our mandate, the Fund has also accordingly unveiled one of its most ambitious plans, tagged the “ITF Reviewed Vision: Strategies for Mandate Actualization’’.
“It is a six-year plan divided into Quick wins, medium and long-term goals. The implementation of the plan, which commenced in late 2016 will terminate in 2022.
“The key objectives of the plan was to accelerate the impartation of technical vocational skills to Nigerians, aggressively address service challenges, tackle infrastructural deficits, expand revenue generation and a gamut of other strictures impinging the actualization of the Fund’s mandate.
“About two years into its implementation, I am pleased to say that, it has almost exceeded expectation by training over 150,000 Nigerians, who are today earning sustainable livelihoods as paid employees, or as entrepreneurs that are employing others. ‘’
ITF has expanded the existing skills acquisition programmes and introduced new initiatives.
These programmes include the National Industrial Skills Development Programme (NISDP), the Women Skills Empowerment Programme (WOSEP), Passion to Profession Programme (P2PP), the Skills Training Empowerment Programme for the Physically Challenged (STEPP-C) and the Construction Skills Empowerment Programme (CONSEP) among several others.
In addition, unlike in the past where the ITF depended on state governments to assist trainees with start-up kits, all the beneficiaries of the programme were provided with start-up kits by the Fund.
“The essence was to ensure that they started their businesses upon graduation. The decision to provide start-up packs was based on results of our tracer studies of earlier phases, which revealed that in all cases where the trainees were provided with the kits, over 90 percent earned reasonable livelihood as entrepreneurs.’’