Bridging the Technology Skills Gap

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The commitment of Samsung Electronics to develop technical skills among Nigerian students, no doubt will help address the technology skills gap in the country, writes Emma Okonji

Nigeria’s dependence on oil over the years has widened the technology skills gap in the country because little emphasis was placed on technology skills acquisition.
The decline in the prices of crude oil is beginning to raise concerns in government circle on the need to diversify the Nigerian economy.

Industry stakeholders are already clamouring for the diversification of the Nigerian economy in the area of Information and Communications Technology (ICT) and the President Muhammadu Buhari led government is also singing the same song.

Recently, the Minister of Industry, Trade and Investment, Dr. Okechukwu Enelemah, spoke extensively at a technology forum in Lagos on the need for economic diversification in ICT. He also emphasised the need to impact technology skills on students in secondary schools and higher institutions of learning in order to develop technology savvy students that will drive the Nigerian economy.
Having identified the technical skills gap in the country, Samsung Electronics, through the Samsung Engineering Academy, has shown a lot of commitment and investments in developing technical skills among technical school students, in collaboration with the Lagos State government.

Technology innovation

Innovate or die is a common mantra often invoked when the success or failure of any enterprise is examined. Across the globe, there are painful narratives of organisations that hitherto dominated the economy, which ultimately collapsed due to their failure to embrace innovation, whether in the sphere of technology, human and resource management, service and product improvements, among other factors. Former photography giant, Kodak, easily comes to mind.

On the flip side are companies that have not only embraced innovation as a success driver, but have actually applied it practically in every field of human and business enterprise to transform previously difficulty and innocuous endeavours into global phenomena. A company like Samsung, for example, has not only made technology and innovation the bedrock of its operations, but has creatively applied it even in its corporate social responsibility (CSR) initiatives. A major outcome is the endearment of the brand to consumers across the globe. Other companies as Diageo, parent company of Guinness Nigeria Plc, Coca-Cola, and Nike, among others, are well noted for their innovative approach to CSR.

However, a recent innovation in Nigeria’s education sector, which is capable of transforming the country’s skills acquisition requirements, is worth giving a closer examination.
From its inception as a small export business over 70 years ago, Samsung has grown to become one of the world’s leading brands, specialising in digital appliances, semiconductors, memory and systems integration. In the ICT space, the company has established an reputation in innovation and style. In Nigeria, the company has established its presence in various segments of the economy and society. Samsung Electronics has continued to appreciate the talent and tenacity of people in Nigeria in fulfillment of its mission to make life better for consumers all over the world.
Samsung Electronics believes that success goes hand in hand with robust corporate citizenship. The company ensures the integration of social and environmental concerns in their business operations and interactions with their stakeholders, achieving a balance of economic, environmental and social imperatives, while at the same time addressing the expectations of stakeholders is a key consideration for Samsung.

Bridging technology skills gap
As part of Samsung’s CSR vision that aligns to CSR, research and development in ensuring excellence to its business, Samsung has in the past few years, helped to develop skills among young people in Nigeria, a strategy designed to bring out the best in people by providing necessary tools to support growth and development.

Through the Samsung Engineering Academy, which is a flagship initiative of the company, it focused on developing young skilled technicians across Africa, Nigeria inclusive. The company has shown a lot of commitment and investments in using the academy to develop skills acquisition.
The initiative commenced in Nigeria in 2012, with the opening of the first Samsung Engineering Academy at the Government Technical College, Ikeja in Lagos State. The capacity-building programme is an integral part of Samsung’s vision to reduce unemployment within Nigeria to its barest minimum by investing its resources in training and empowering young Nigerians.

The academy, since its inception, has helped to trim down the huge dearth of skilled manpower in the technical and engineering fields in Nigeria, thus creating clear cut pathways to job opportunities. Part of the company’s broader goal is to develop 10, 000 electronics engineers across the continent by 2015. In Nigeria, the academy has produced 125 electronics engineers. The recent being the graduation ceremony of the Samsung Engineering Academy Class of 2015, held in Lagos in June, 2015.

Commending Samsung initiative
Speaking at the ceremony, a representative of Lagos Eko Project, Mr. Sunday Awefi, stated that the Samsung Engineering Academy remained a great initiative which had given hope to youths with technical skills and had also equipped them to become technicians in electronics engineering, in addition to knowledge relevant in the changing world. “It is a tremendous improvement to the country’s technology sector,” he said.
According to him, “The engineers are now well equipped with sound technical skills, which will help them build a better future for themselves while contributing towards driving Nigeria’s economic growth and development.”

More students’ participation

Last week, Samsung Electronics, through its Engineering Academy, graduated 67 students in Basic, Intermediate and Advanced Technical Training from three Technical Schools in Lagos State.
The programme, which lasted for 21 months was organised in partnership with Lagos State Eko project, designed to assist students in technical schools across the state to become qualified technicians in their chosen technical fields.

The 67 students, who graduated from the academy, were honoured. The Managing Director, Samsung Electronics West Africa, Mr. ChangWook Lee, said at the graduating ceremony that one of major goals of the company was to positively impact the lives of the youth.

“Today, your perseverance doesn’t go unnoticed. Today is a milestone for you as you carve your next steps. As a company, we don’t just think of ourselves as a technology company. One of our main goals is to positively impact the lives of those at the core of our society- the youth,” Lee said.
He encouraged the graduating students to think about the future and develop big ideas that will make them better citizens that will contribute to the development of the country.

The academy’s training programme

The Samsung Engineering Academy, an initiative under the Samsung Hope for Children portfolio, was borne out of the need to positively impact the society by helping to provide students in the scheme with free hands-on, vocational training. The initiative is expected to rapidly close the huge gap in technical skills available on the continent.

Students undergo a one-year programme comprising basic, intermediate and advanced engineering skills and are subsequently introduced to industry-appropriate practices, tools and equipment. In addition to ensuring that Africa develops an adequate pool of engineering skills, the academy also provides learners with well-paying job opportunities, a commitment that supports the Nigerian government’s drive to address youth unemployment.

Speaking on Samsung’s pivotal role in the ICT space, Lee reiterated the company’s dedication to facilitating a better future for Nigeria by training a skilled workforce of technicians who will thereafter become service experts empowered to create wealth.

“At Samsung, we understand the importance of investment in quality education and its role in youth development and empowerment. Samsung’s aim is to build successful partnerships in Nigeria to equip the country’s youth with the technical skills,” he stated.

Undoubtedly, the Samsung Engineering Academy showcases Samsung as an innovative investor in the driving force of any country’s economy, its youth.