Impacting Nigeria’s Building Sector through Graduates’ Training

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Determined to churn out graduates that can hold their heads high in their respective fields, but are currently undergoing training in vocations like site engineering, block fabrication, carpentry, domestic plumbing among others, the Universal Learn Direct Academia Limited is partnering Bosch Nigeria and UPSKILL, UK to impact lives and the building and construction sector in the country. Funmi Ogundare reports

The need to train and retrain graduates particularly in the building and construction industry has become imperative as this would guarantee the successful and safe completion of a specific project for a given period.

Aside this, they would have acquired the requisite skills to perform optimally with minimal or no supervision to stand on their own in the world of work.

In the last four months, the Universal Learn Direct Academia (ULDA) Limited, a consortium of professionals which facilitates skills training in the field of carpentry, plumbing, site engineering, domestic electrical steel fixing, finishes and concreting, among others, has been training polytechnic and university graduates, as well as artisans to be proficient in these areas.

They were required to spend three months for practical class and another three months on project site.

The institution recently entered into an agreement with Bosch Nigeria, a global supplier of technology and services to introduce and teach the trainees how to use modern technologies and tools used in the building and construction industry.

When THISDAY visited the institution in Ikeja, the trainees were being taught how to identify different modern tools and their uses on project site.

The Dean, Mr. Babatunde Faleye, who explained the partnership with Bosch Group, said it had to recall trainees who are already on project sites to the class to have a feel of how to use precision tools at the training programme organised for them by the organisation.

“They are going to train them in new and sophisticated equipment and the use of the old ones that they have so that they can be proficient in the use and they don’t hurt themselves or destroy the tools while using them.”

He said the institution had to extend the duration of the training from six to nine months because it discovered that the three months practical on the field is not adequate.

According to him, “they will have three months in-house theoretical training and practices at the workshop within the facility. They will then go to the field and get better. One of the reasons why we had to extend the site practice was because they were spending three days of the week at the training institute.

“When they got to the field, we insisted that they have to do six days of the week just like every construction outfit does but they were constrained because already they were doing it there days in those three months.

“So they pleaded that they should continue with their three days period for practical on their field which will now be six days in a week. We have done this so that they can have more hours practicing on site.”

So far, he said the initiative has been challenging and fascinating at the same time, adding that some of the trainees were hand-picked by companies’ project managers and have expressed optimism that they would work with them after their programme in ULDA.

“We are already a month into the practical site training programme, the managers are from Alpha Seven Construction company in Lekki. There are four site engineers with our trainees that we streamlined into two and they are willing to take them on as their permanent staff after their programme. We also have a facility management company that has come to us requesting that they need two site engineers and three plumbers for their facility business,” Faleye said.

Asked about the future of the project, the dean said, “I see it giving birth to a lot of professionals for the construction industry. Right now, we have a new course introduced; we added steel fixing and iron bending into the system. It is looking up positively.

“We have had many construction companies wanting to know about us because they have seen the difference in some of the projects they have been doing from the average street trades people to the trainees that we have brought out who can now read drawings and measure better. They are health and safety conscious and can perform better to task on site with minimal supervision. So our trainees are better to work with.”

The Sales Manager, Bosch Nigeria, Mr. Nurudeen Abduallahi, who is in charge of sales of the tools and training on their use, said it is the first training the organisation would be having with the institution to add value to the trainees, adding that training would be done on a quarterly basis.

“Most of the artisans that we have today make use of hand tools which are the old ones, but now technology has grown beyond that so we need to start introducing new technologies. For instance, we have the laser measuring tape which can be used to measure for instant results. It makes life easy and these are some of the things we are introducing to ULDA so that the trainees can get used to modern technologies when they are out there. Some of them have never seen the tools before, but we are bringing it to them to see and know what the tools look like.

On where he sees the partnership going, he said “I see ULDA growing fast every day, we still have a lot of milestones to cover, we will always be there for them as long as they want us to.”

The President, Chief Olawumi Gasper, who emphasised on the partnership with UPSKILL, noted that it would be assessment, verification and certification based, adding, “ULDA is strategically positioning to take the country’s building and construction training to a new level. The initiative would avail the trainees (site supervisors and artisans) the opportunity to acquire industry required skills to be globally recognised and for well acclaimed industry practice certifications.”

He said the partnership would lead to the award of NVQ5 and NVQ7 in construction management and prospective of the soon to be inaugurated Dubai Train2build Training Institute, and that candidates that are graduates in the built environment, experienced site supervisors and construction technicians will have the unique training and exposure to high end construction sites, as well as mentoring for relevant global professional certification as chartered builders.

Some of the trainees in different programmes who spoke to THISDAY expressed satisfaction with the project, saying that apart from the knowledge they gained from it, there can be no gain without pain.

A Business Administration graduate of Lagos State Polytechnic, Mr. Ayodele Ogunbodede, who is a site engineer at the institution said, “I was motivated in what I learnt in class before the field training. We had lectures that are up to date. The way the theory was explained in class, was what we did as practical on the field. I don’t have any regret, no pain, no gain.”

A Mechanical Engineering graduate from the same polytechnic, but studying steel fixing, said the classes at ULDA have been worthwhile. He expressed concern about the country’s higher education curriculum, which does not align with practical experiences, saying that graduates are more theory based than practical.

“We have been trained on how to use Bosch tools which we have never seen before and other things that would make the job easier for engineers. It is an empowerment programme. At the end of the day, I can establish my own workshop instead of running after white collar jobs,” he said.

A Political and Administrative graduate of the University of Port Harcourt, Rivers State, Ms. Wealth Sogunro, who is handling brick and block, said she was drawn into the building and construction industry because of her love for it.

She said she believes that what a man can do, a woman can do better. “Having studied Administration while in the polytechnic, I can work anywhere and as a bricklayer, I can also work anywhere. My vision is to be the best female contractor in Nigeria. I really love the course and believe that I have made the right choice.”