A Professor of Petroleum and Natural Gas Engineering and Vice Provost for Global Programmes at Pennsylvania University, USA, Michael Adewumi has stressed the need for the country to focus more attention in training engineers that will be globally competitive.
He said there has to be paradigm shift in the way we think for such training in the 21st century, rather than be confined to what used to obtain in the past . Adewumi who made this known, at the 2017 annual lecture, in Lagos, titled ‘Training Engineers for the Global Century’, of the Nigeria Academy of Engineers (NAE), said, “we can no longer focus on the way we trained them in the 20th century because the world has changed and we have to change with it.”
He said the government has a role to play in supporting creative and innovative ideas by apportioning the right resources, noting, “when I ask colleagues this question, they always talk about money, resources and that is important, government can do it. But frankly speaking, the most important part is ideas, innovations that people can actually sell to the government. Once people are able to come out with creative and innovative ideas, it is the responsibility of the government to support it.”
He expressed concern that organisations prefer to hire expatriates for its technical jobs, saying that they do, this as a result of global mobility of labour and knowledge for the best and the brightest.
According to him, “ you need to have a two-pronged approach; by building capacity while at the centre, you are getting experts to do the job. It should be a short term temporary measure, not a permanent thing. You also need to begin to train high quality engineers who are globally competitive, once this is done, there’s no reason to bring somebody else to come and do the job. So we need to really get our house in order.” The guest lecturer who emphasised on curriculum and policy making, said, “when you look at the National Academy of Engineering, this are the best and brightest minds in the country; so these people should be influencing policy making on behalf of the government. For instance, they have this situation where everybody has to teach the same thing, it does not make any sense. In the university, we have professors, they have to be creative and come up with new ideas and disseminate. It is not the role of the government, the government should hands off.
“In terms of the curriculum, you adapt the curriculum to be locally relevant and globally competitive. Therefore, there is no point training Nigerians who do not understand the problem of Nigeria, unless you train them on that, they would disengage and once they disengage, you are losing the capacity.”
The programme witnessed life achievement awards and induction of new fellows including Senator Barnabas Gemade, the first female engineer to be elected into the executive Committee of the Nigerian Society of Engineers(NSE), Mrs. Mayen Adetiba; a leading international authority on Liquidified Natural Gas(LNG), Dr. Olufunmilayo Coker, a Director in CD Net Limited/Gte, Dr. Elizabeth Nadu Denloye, among others. In her remarks, the President of the Academy, Mrs. Joana Maduka said the programme was aimed at celebrating the academy and drawing the attention of stakeholders to the issues confronting the engineering profession.
“All attention is directed at Engineering education and we are making an impact. If our technician and craftsmen are not taught properly, then they will not be reckoned with in the field.”
She expressed concern that people prefer to import expatriates from Coutonou and other West African countries saying that this is killing the profession.
“That is why we are trying to draw the attention of the public and relevant agencies to some of these problems and people are beginning to take lessons,” Maduka said, adding that over the years, the academy has not relented in its campaign and advocacy.”
She agued that engineering contractors bring in substandard personnel and pass them through the country’s immigration as engineers saying this is one of the problems confronting the profession which must be tackled headlong.
The president stressed the need for the country to improve the quality of its graduates.
The Minister of Communication, Adebayo Shittu who congratulated the new fellows and life achievers said the engineering profession boosts the growth of any society.
While promising his readiness to be an ambassador for the academy in government, he said the country must place emphasis on technologically training noting that Nigeria is yet to get the best out of it.
He disclosed that the government would establish an Information Communication Technology (ICT)-based institution to feel the gap, while urging the academy to partner with his ministry for its success.
“We want to open an ICT university that will be run in a Public Private Partnership (PPP).We want to ensure that we get the best ICT training obtainable in the western world,”Shittu stressed.