R-L: The former Attorney General, Lagos State, Olasupo Shasore; the Chairman, Tolaram Group, HareshAswani; and the Managing Director, Mark Eddo Media, Mark Eddo, at the 2016 Quramo conference with the theme ‘People Power: Human Capacity for Africa’ in Lagos… recently

In view of the success stories of some industrialised economies of the world,which are linked to the massive investment in human capital development through technical and vocational education. Stakeholders have stressed the need for Nigeria to emulate these countries and upgrade its technical schools. Peace Obi reports

Education as a major tool for human capacity development has remained indisputable. However, sustaining its usefulness as an essential instrument for self and national development depends on the quality and type of education accessible to any people.

In this age of globalisation and its attendant modernised system of production, there is increasing demand for skilled labour than ever before. As a result, individuals, countries and education systems are faced with the challenge of keeping pace with the competitive world. Thus, there is need for an education system that empowers learners with contributory capacities that would lead to improvement of their lives, families, businesses, communities and societies.

For Nigeria,said to be operating at a shortfall for certain key skills, re-establishing, restructuring and re-equipping government technical schools to reposition the country to tackle the problem of misalignment in its manpower and the need of the industry is considered the most urgent step to be taken.

A review of the educational and industrial models of some industrialised countries like Germany, Brazil, China, India, among others showed that they are worth adopting by any country that desires to join the league of industrialised economies and to witness sustained economic growth. Establishing the success stories of these countries hinging on their conscious investment in the upgrading of their citizens’ skills through vocational education to meet up with the global demand for skilled manpower, and the need for Nigeria to consider borrowing a leaf from these countries were some of the recommendations made at the 2016 Quramo Conference, held recently at the Lagos Court of Arbitration, Lekki.

In her opening remarks, the compere, Ms. Angela Ajetunmobi,said the Quramo conference is a gathering where policy makers in the public and private sectors come to discuss global developmental challenges. She said the aims include exchange of ideas, encouraging improvement and to influence change, adding that the forum was designed to be a unique African platform for global thinkers.

“We want global thinkers to exchange and share influential ideas, build knowledge and stimulate development.”
Announcing the 2016 conference theme, ‘People, Power: Human Capacity for Africa’, Ajetunmobi said, “we will be examining issues relating to the human capacity requirement for today’s African economy.

“In Africa generally, we know that people are our largest resource, but it is gift under-utilised. What are the skills Africa needs for the future? Do we need recreative skills or applied skills? And what exactly does business mean from our education system here in Africa? How do we invest to create and nurture people for the economy of the future? What can we learn from the experiences of Asian and European economies? All these and more are some of the questions we will be answering today.”

In a paper titled ‘Investing in People’, the Country Representative, City and Guilds International, Mrs. DesolaEghagha, said there tends to be a misconception about vocational training or studies, adding that most people think it is meant for school dropouts.

While reaffirming the place of vocational studies, Eghagha said it is a different career development path open to academically or technologically inclined persons, who could still rise to the top of their professions.

Highlighting the modern approach to technical and vocational education and human capacity development, she said: “In fact, today to work in a vocational environment, you have to be highly skilled because if you don’t have the requisite skills for a particular job, what you do may become a health hazard that could cause injury to yourself and even to your colleagues at work.”

Regretting the near-absence of Nigerians as key players in thecountry’s industrial scene, Eghagha said, “take a look around the Nigerian industrial scene, it can be observed that the majority of the players are Americans, Europeans, Indian, Arabians and more recently the Chinese. This is a direct result of the huge investment of these nations in upskilling their people with internationally recognised and certified vocational skills.”

Highlighting some of the benefits of vocational training to a country and her citizens, she said it would help to broaden the minds of young school leavers to possible lucrative careers in the industrial sector.

On some of the barriers to Nigerians sufficiently exploring opportunities that vocational studies offer, she said, “in Nigeria we have mostly small and medium size private training providers delivering internationally recognisedcertifications which have invariably made it expensive for the average learner.”

In her recommendations,Eghaghasaid “government needs to take a cue from these nations and invest in the upgrading of its technical schools to enable them deliver internationally-recognised certified vocational skills; partner industries and give incentives such as tax holidays to industries both indigenous and foreign to sponsor traineeship programme.

“Is it therefore not logical that our next step as a nation is to invest in the upskilling of our youths, who make up 78 per cent of our population to feed the industries in this vital sector?
“The nation must recognise the inherent value and prospective contribution of its people to the economy and treat money spent on upskilling its people as ‘investment’ in an important asset and not an “expense” to be kept at the barest minimum.”

Presenting the German model, the Consul-General of the Consulate-General of Germany in Lagos, Mr. Ingo Herbert, said vocational training, which was introduced into Germany’s educational and human capacity developmental plan many years ago, is another success story of the German society.

Herbert said the German model of combination of theory and practice seems to be a model that could be readily adopted by any country willing to join the league of industrialised economies with abundant skilled workforce for sustained economic growth.

“In Germany, every company has to be a member of the local chamber of commerce due to the need of the combination of theory and practice. This means that two or three days of the week, the apprentice goes into a company or a small enterprise and takes training on the job and then, one or two days, it depends on what kind of training the individual is into, he goes to a public school for the theory aspect.

“That is the responsibility of the state in Germany as a federal state. They provide the teachers and the school where they learn what they do. So it is not that they only learn how to do it but they also understand what they do. This has worked for us because it gives us all the skilled workers we need and especially when you compare Germany with most of the European countries.

On some of the lessons Nigeria could learn from the German model, Herbert said: “The lesson is that you get capable and skilled workers you need for growth, for economic development and more industrialisation. You could improve the education system through this model. In this model, people are learning by practically doing the job they desire to do. And people do things better when they understand what they do with some elements of theory and knowing the background of what they are doing. I think that helps a lot to do things more excellently.”

Presenting a paper titled, ‘Industrial Skills and Innovation’, the Executive Secretary, Lagos State Employment Trust Fund, Mr. Akin Oyebode, said societies can only grow when governments and other stakeholders improve the skills of the young population that would in return boost production and productivity.

Adjudging Africa’s productivity to be low when compared with other continents like America, Europe and Asia, Oyebode blamed it on insufficient investment in human capital development. He said while China’s industrialisationwas driven by exports, Brazil’s industrialisation was driven by its strong domestic market.
While attributing the success of industrialised countries to their huge investment in industrial skills using Brazil as an example, he said, “Brazil invested heavily in industrial skills and today it has one of the leading technical education schemes such as the Brazilian National Apprenticeship Service. Every year, about 2.5 million Brazilians enroll for the various technical programmes in the scheme.”

On his part, the Special Assistant to the President on Job Creation, Office of the Vice-President, Mr. AfolabiImoukhuede,whose paper was titled ‘Nigeria Industrial Revolution Plan’,stated that Nigeria does not have a skills development policy to set the direction of skills development and that currently, the country is operating at a shortfall for certain skills.

Imoukhuede advised that a consortium of public-private industry sector boards should set the skills agenda and certify training providers and beneficiaries to ensure that the right trainings are delivered at certain standards, among others.

Presenting short and long-term recommendations, Imoukhuede said: “In the immediate to short-term, government can pick winners among existing Technical, Vocational Education and Training (TVET) and training programmes to scale up and re-route the Industrial Training Fund (ITF’s) funding for this purpose.

“In the longer term, overhaul of the education system is required, and the focus here is on vocational education.”