The Kwara State government, under the administration of Governor Abdulfatah Ahmed, has created a platform that would make youths in the state self-reliant rather than remain job-seekers, through acquisition of vital technical and entrepreneurship skills. Hammed Shittu writes
Youths comprise the largest component of a nationâ€™s population size and their presence in any nation without their proper wellbeing has a direct negative impact on the development process of such a nation. This is because many of the youths, even in Nigeria, are unemployed and lack skills that can make them self-reliant and entrepreneurs without hunting for white collar jobs.
And for any government to add value to the society and make youths to be successful, such government must design programmes that promote economic empowerment of youths, through job creation and entrepreneurship.
On the above premise, the current administration in Kwara state under the leadership of Share-born politician and governor of the State of Harmony, Alhaji Abdulfatah Ahmed, has put in place a programme that would add value to the socio-economic development of the youths, thereby creating a platform that would make them self-reliant rather than job seekers.
The Ahmed administration therefore believes that such programmes should be driven by the need to engage as many of the stateâ€™s youths as possible in the value chain of such interventions.
This led the current administration to establish an International Vocational Technical and Entrepreneurship College (IVTEC) located at Ajase-Ipo in Irepodun local government council of the state, with determination to equip youths with vital skills so as to reduce unemployment rate in the state.
The foundation-laying of the college was done on September 11, 2012, with the vision to equip youths with skills for self-reliance, tackle unemployment, and ease access to vocational training of international standard for students from a variety of skills and educational backgrounds.
Since then, the college has been undergoing series of construction to make it conform to both local and international standard to become a vital institution meant to train youths in skills acquisition and to serve as an international market for those interested in recruiting the trained youths of the college.
The college has five fields of study namely building technology, automotive trade, electric trade, heating, ventilating, and air conditioning and welding. The college’s curriculum was also designed in conformity with global standard so as to assist the students to meet any future challenges especially in seeking of employment opportunities in any part of the country and outside world.
Aside this, the college has partnered the world-acclaimed City and Guilds of London that would afford the students quality teaching on world trade and acquisitions; thereby adding value to their certificates at the end of their courses at the college.
However, the college was recently unveiled by the Vice President, Prof. Yemi Osinbajo to signal the commencement of academic work at the institution.
Speaking at the official unveiling of the college at Ajase-Ipo, Governor Ahmed said, â€œToday marks a milestone in the history of Kwara State, as we take a huge leap towards our dream of providing multi-layered platforms for vocational and technical training to citizens and emerging as a sub-regional hub for skillsâ€.
He said, â€œIVTEC offers a structured approach to providing youths with market-relevant skills and a reliable pathway to economic empowerment that prevents a descent into negative and destructive behaviour often associated with unemployment.
â€œGlobally, technical, vocational and entrepreneurship training have been identified as critical to growth, especially industrialisation. As you are aware, Nigeriaâ€™s previous experimentation with technical education has faltered in the face of neglect and an expanding gap between the schoolsâ€™ curricula and the needs of the economy.
â€œThese lapses have resulted in an educational system that is neither robust enough to accommodate the aspiration of youths nor capable of preparing them for the increasingly competitive economic space. And unless we act promptly, we risk the escalation of the scourge of unemployment into a serious malaise with grave security implicationsâ€ he said.
Ahmed added, â€œOur establishment of IVTEC is therefore driven by the need to offer the best technical, vocational and entrepreneurship training to our young people and prepare them for entrepreneurship or gainful employment.
â€œIVTEC is doing this by benchmarking against global standards in vocational education but also through partnerships with globally recognised certification bodies such as City and Guilds of Londonâ€.
â€œThe College is also partnering institutions like Alfred State College, New York and the University of Wolverhampton; both of which have proven track-records in entrepreneurship and vocational education.
â€œIn line with the mission mentioned earlier, IVTEC is open to students with three basic skill levels: first, fresh school leavers seeking to acquire technical and vocational skills for setting up their businesses; two, tertiary education graduates who want to diversify into other fields by accessing new skills and, three, professionals seeking continuous professional developmentâ€.
He also said, â€œIVTECâ€™s recruitment of students will also target vulnerable and disadvantaged youths in the state to ensure their socio-economic circumstances do not become a barrier to their life aspirations. Indeed, we are already partnering the World Bank to train 17,000 youths identified as vulnerable in the state, starting with an initial 80 students.
â€œRegardless of educational background, IVTEC will prepare students for the globally-renowned City and Guilds of London qualification, National Business and Technical Education Board (NABTEB) certification and other vocation-specific qualifications.
â€œCity and Guilds of London certification is especially critical to our efforts to economically empower our youths as holders are employable locally, nationally and internationallyâ€.
The governor opined that, â€œTo adequately prepare students for their vocation, graduating IVTEC students will be further trained at five incubation centres across the three senatorial districts of the state where they will be exposed to mentorship and real-life business situations.
â€œThey will thereafter be clustered into vocation-specific cooperatives and provided access to affordable credit to start or expand existing businesses under our Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises (MSME) schemeâ€, he added.
Upon graduation, governor Ahmed disclosed that, â€œstudents will also be designated as Master Artisans and be in the vanguard in our determination to reverse the trend where carpenters, painters and builders and other tradesmen are imported from neighbouring countries instead of engaging people locally. This is even more alarming in view of the high rates of youth unemployment in the country.
â€œDetermined to reverse this trend, IVTECâ€™s curriculum was designed in partnership with the Nigerian Employers Consultative Association (NECA) to ensure that the skills taught here are those required in the local and national economy.”
He maintained that, â€œIn consonance, our resolve is to make Kwara State a net exporter of vocational and technical skills once local needs have been met and thus make our country the hub of vocational skills in West Africa.
â€œTo achieve these aims, a strong management structure is required. We have put in place a robust ownership and partnership arrangement to ensure the collegeâ€™s long-term sustainability. Though established, owned and promoted by the Kwara State Government, IVTEC is operated as a stand-alone organisation governed by a board of trustees comprising professionals in relevant fields.
â€œAlready, the college is leveraging on global partnerships with companies, universities and international organisations to ensure sustained operations and insulation from fluctuations in government prioritiesâ€.
He stressed that, â€œWe have invested approximately N3.2 billion on campus construction, furniture, fittings, partnerships, basic training equipment and tools here at IVTEC.
â€œAn additional N13 billion is however required to cover IVTECâ€™s expansion plans in the next five years. We therefore seek the partnerships from local, national and internal bodies so that we can upscale IVTEC to the level envisaged as its establishmentâ€, he added.
In his remarks, Prof. Osinbajo, who described the IVTEC as one of the major important projects any government could undertake, said the college was tailored around exact needs of the society, particularly with partnership with notable international organisations like the City & Guilds, London, Alfred State College of Technology, US, University of Wolverhampton, and Praxis Atlantis among others.
He said, â€œThe vision of the college to give right type of skill and international certificate that will enable graduates to work in any part of the world is commendable. The partnership with international organisations will also make graduates saleable to the benefit of the country.â€
The vice president, who called on other states of the federation to emulate Kwara state on the project, pledged assistance of the federal government to ensure that the college was replicated in all parts of the country.
He also hinted that the federal government would soon commence establishment of technical centres across the nation that would train the talented youths on skillsâ€™ acquisitions towards making them to be more self-reliant and entrepreneurs.
He expressed concern over the continued importation of skilled artisans from neighbouring West African countries into the country, saying that Nigeria has a high number of talented youth with aggressive mind to succeed in trade, commerce and entrepreneurship.
Osinbajo said the country had, before now, lacked technical centres tailored around existing talents of Nigerian youth and needs of the country.
The vice president added that the vision for establishment of the college tallied â€œwith the agenda of the Buhari administration of producing all we consume in the country.â€
He, however, said Nigeria needed an industrial base to maximise potential and talents of the youth for optimal local production, adding that Nigeria should tap into the potential of the youths for greater change in the country.
By and large, with the unveiling of the IVTEC at Ajase-Ipo, a new stage is now set for youth development in the state. And if this initiative is well sustained, it would serve as an impetus for youth development and help reduce youth unemployment in the state.
Kwara State is setting a positive example in vocational training like some other future-oriented states. If this can be replicated across each state in the country, youth unemployment would diminish drastically, while entrepreneurs and self-reliant youths would increase to contribute their positive quota towards the overall development of Nigeria. That is a worthwhile goal.