‘Shortage of Skills in Construction Project is a Major Challenge’  

A Fellow of the Nigerian Society of Engineers, Samson Ameh Opaluwah has bemoaned the dearth of skilled manpower in the nation’s construction industry.
Speaking on ‘Construction Sector Skills/Craftsmanship in Nigeria’, after his induction into the Hall of Fame of CED Magazine in Lagos, recently, Opaluwah said, “Deficiency and shortage of skills at the operational level of construction project execution is a major challenge in Nigeria today.  The industry is growing without a commensurate growth in the capacity and stock of competent skilled construction workers. 
“Skills shortage and skills gap is a major challenge in the sector.  Ironically, the country is awash with a teeming youthful population without skills.  To quickly address this, government should restore technical education to the former systems of progression from Craft School to Technical Schools and ultimately the Polytechnics. Craft Schools and Technical Schools are fundamental to the production of Technicians, Artisans and Craftsmen.”
The Polytechnics, he said “Must cease to be mini Universities but strictly produce middle level manpower that are technically proficient to provide the needed expertise to meet the skills gap presently experienced on our infrastructure sites.”
According to him, “The National Vocational Qualification Framework, which seeks to compensate and remunerate skills rather than classroom certificate, should be encouraged, supported and propagated. This framework will harvest the non-formally educated artisans & craftsmen, organize their non-formal acquisition of expertise and certify their proficiency with the appropriate remuneration levels.”
This, he said was being handled by the National Board for Technical Education (NBTE) through the Nigerian Institute of Building (NIOB), Council for the Registration of Builders (CORBON), The Industrial Training Fund (ITF) & others.
On procurement of infrastructure, he said procurement and distributive activities should be utilised to stimulate and promote local manufacturing and production capacities.  “This will ensure the setting of benchmark prices of essential goods and services and prevent artificial scarcity arising from hoarding.
“Public Sector capital budget should seek not only to procure capital items such as infrastructure but to stimulate socio-economic activities in the course of the projects implementation. The multiplier effect of government spending should be strategically understood and implemented.”
He said a very significant factor in the poor Infrastructure serviceability levels in the country was due to the lack of a strategic approach to management and maintenance. 
“Preparation and provisions for maintenance in use must be a prime consideration at the design and contract award stages.  This prepares the necessary grounds for the funding requirement at implementation and throughout the life-cycle of the project.
“Facility Management of our national infrastructure is an economic enabler as it has the multiple effects on infrastructure availability, technical/craftsmen engagement, construction materials production & marketing and employment generation.
“Nigeria possesses the potential to develop itself and provide leadership in developing the rest of Africa, when the correct strategies for socio-economic development are embarked upon especially in the area of infrastructural development which consumes a significant portion of our continents annual budgets.”
He recommended that Government should deliberately create opportunities for indigenous Nigerian Firms/Companies to participate in infrastructure projects and development throughout its life-cycle for a maximum impact on our economy.
He said “As a strategy towards attaining at least 70% Local Content, specific incentive should be offered to ensure the capacity building of the local firms; All Infrastructure project designs should be domiciled in Nigeria and Nigerian firms should by policy lead the design consortiums; Materials such as Steel, Cement, etc., must be locally sourced as much as possible. This can lead to new industries and expansion of existing fledging ones.”
According to him, “The inputs for the implementation of National Infrastructure projects should be sourced locally as much as possible from existing (even if dormant) facilities or new facilities; All projects from conception and design, through procurement to post construction management should be implemented in a manner that will ultimately achieve in-country competency as a guarantee to full life-cycle sustainability by the involvement of indigenous Engineers and Managers at all stages.
“Nigerian firms already engaged in manufacturing of products necessary for implementing National Infrastructure projects should be identified and supported to meet the International Standards and requirements of the products. Foreign companies undertaking Infrastructure Projects in Nigeria should not only register their companies in Nigeria as is the case now but should mandatorily form a partnership with an indigenous firms in order to jointly execute the projects and transfer appropriate technology.”
He said Expatriate Quota should be granted for a defined period only in
fields where the qualifications and competency of Nigerian Nationals cannot be ascertained for the purpose of capacity development and job creation, and must be contingent on training at least 2 to 5 Nigerians within the period of its validity.
“Also all projects must be implemented in line with Nigerian codes and Standards and or International codes and standards domesticated in Nigeria and rendered in English Language.
“The template of the Nigerian Content Act for oil and gas sector should be  adopted pending the passing into law of the Nigerian Content Development Commission now before the National Assembly.”