In an effort to ensure the delivery of Nigerian Skills Qualifications Framework, which emphasises development, classification and recognition of skills, knowledge, understanding and competence by individuals, the National Board for Technical Education recently facilitated a three-week intensive training for the formal and non-formal sector to bring about quality and promote economic development. Funmi Ogundare reports

In April 2013, the Federal Executive Council (FEC) approved a six level framework for national vocational qualifications developed by the National Board for Technical Education (NBTE), in partnership with stakeholders.

The approval led to the institutionalisation of Nigerian Skills Qualifications Framework (NSQF), designed to improve the quality and relevance of skills development; provide a clear strategy for skills development in the country; and widen access for groups such as women and people with disabilities; establish more flexible and responsive mechanisms that will better service the needs of the labour market, individuals and industry.

Other objectives are: encouraging participation in skills development by industry organisations, employers and workers; improving skills acquisition in communities; as well as enabling more effective planning, coordination and monitoring of skills development activities by public and private providers.

To ensure a successful implementation of the Nigerian skills qualification assessment and certification, as well as provide a system of instructions that would ensure that all stakeholders, industry partners, technical/vocational instructors have a shared understanding of the activities that needed to be undertaken, a three-week intensive training was organised for these groups.

From various parts of the country, agencies of government, institutions and private organisations, all with different professional backgrounds converged on the Digital Bridge Institute, Oshodi, Lagos with a list of activities in mind; to gain up-to-date nationally recognised qualification that will provide confidence in their ability to carry out the job role they operate at that level; advancement within a company or assistant with a career change with the feeling of personal achievement; and enable businesses to move ahead, among others.

In an interview with THISDAY, the Desk Officer, NSQF, Mr. Suleiman Yusuf said the training was interactive and comprised lectures, individual and group activities and simulation, adding that the board is supposed to oversee the delivery of NSQF and ensure quality for the formal and non-formal sectors.

“We are spearheading the training of the quality assurance managers that will support the delivery of NSQF. The categorisation is that we will have a centre where we will have assessors and internal quality assurance managers.

“There is also the external quality assurance manager who comes from the awarding body because in a skill delivery, it is not the same person that delivers the training that gives out the certificate. It is another external assessor that will come to quality assure and check what has been done and to be sure that due process was followed before they award the qualification.”

After the training, he said the trainees will go to the field within a period of six to eight weeks to practice what they have done and cover the units, adding that while on the field, they will report back to NBTE on what they have been able to achieve with the required facility they are going to practice on.

“By doing that, we are going to attach you to a lead assessor and internal verifier that will be supporting you. They will be responsible for the day-to-day development of your programme while the internal verifier will sign you off when you finish your field assessment and collect the form and send back to the centre.”

Yusuf said through evaluating the trainees/learners, they were able to appreciate the concept as it will add value to them and improve their assessment system.

“From all the trainings, you are open to many assessment systems used to assess a learner. They also confessed that by getting them close to you, you can talk heart-to-heart with them so that you can support and mentor them. From time to time, we have been having this kind of activity to remain focused and how to achieve the goals in the centre.”

The Head of Unit, NSQF, Reverend Canon Timothy Ighodaro described the NSQF as very important and that which brings back new ways of doing things based of job performance.

“Quality is transformative, which is what we want. It is unlike before that things are being done arbitrarily; this one is evidenced-based that you have demonstrated knowledge, understanding and skills in the area. This is the reason NBTE and others came together to generate a National Occupation Standard (NOS). It is a goal for carrying out your job role. It is not static but ever changing because of new and safer ways of doing things. It is a continuous learning as a result of change.

Divided into six levels, he said each of the framework has entry qualifications with minimum skills acquisition before one can be admitted, adding that one must go to the training centre and demonstrate skill and understanding before one could be certified as competent.

“It is a 100 per cent process, 99 per cent means you are not competent. All the performance criteria are there as contained in the NOS, which must be reliable such that when an assessor comes, he will achieve the same result. It doesn’t lower standard, but supports you and removes any obstacle on your way without tampering with the quality.”

Ighodaro expressed hope that the Nigerian society will accept the initiative and depart from the old ways they used to do things. “If the Nigerian economy is to grow, we must go back to the NSQF; the universities too will know their limit because arrogance in ignorance is becoming the order of the day.”

A staff of the NBTE, who is the Deputy Director, NSQF, Mr. Daniel Majiyagbe, said the essence of the concept was to give Nigerians value for their money through work-based training, adding that the trainees will be assessed on the job based on the standard and at every level.

“You are going to be assessed and you must be able to demonstrate competency within that level and at the end of the day, you will be certified competent for that level. If you are ready for a particular level, all you need to do is to go to a centre. The framework is in such a way that NBTE is the regulatory body and we give approval to an awarding body that also coordinates the training centres. Those we are training now are the workforce that will help us to guide the entire framework.

Facilitators from Empower Learning Development, UK expressed delight about the participation of the trainees, saying that the NSQF is gaining ground.

The Chief Executive Officer of Empower Learning Development, UK, Dr. Adunni Akindude said: “The training is extensive and in-depth of what quality assurance is and how it cuts across what they will be doing, particularly in the sector they are representing. We have people from different states and industries and organisations are fully represented. We need to know the people we are training and what they intend to get out of it. We need to look at their interests. For employers to leave their businesses is a lot of sacrifice. The NSQF is gaining ground and we are happy that people are stepping into it.”

Another facilitator, Dr. Harrison Onyekwere said quality begins from understanding the learners in order to ensure standard, adding that the move helps them to carry out a constructive plan on how to support the learners along the way, rather than taking everybody as a group.

On the impact of the training on the country, he said: “It is about the economy; when we look at skills acquisition and development, we are looking at employment and ensuring that people who are skilled and have been trained are of quality that can measure with international standard. So many things have changed especially in developed countries. This is what they are doing in countries like Malaysia, UK, America and Germany which will go a long way in helping our economy.”

Participants at the training said it was an eye opener for them and it will ensure that standards are being maintained, as well as solve the deficiency especially in the education sector.

Mr. Smart Ikem from Delta State Technical and Vocational Education Board, who was undergoing such intensive exercise for the first time, told THISDAY that “quality assurance is something that has been lacking in the education sector. The kind of assessment we have been having before is the informal form of assessment whereby people are not equipped and when there is no quality in what you are doing, the end product will be defective.”

On the impact of the training on him, he said, “in whatever I am doing, I have to start with initial planning and think of the end in terms of assessment.”

Another participant and a lecturer at the Department of Hospitality Management and Tourism, Akanu Ibiam Federal Polytechnic, Ebonyi State, Mrs. Lillian Managwu, expressed concern about the gap between what students are being taught and industry requirements, saying that the industry most times complain that what students are taught are more theoretical.

She said the training encompassed skills acquisition, adding, “our industry is a practical one because we are after customer satisfaction which comes when you provide the right services.”

Asked how she would impart the knowledge she has acquired in her students, she said: “This is the time to inspire them, you may have the paper qualification, but once it is not backed by skills, you can’t fit into the industry. I will also encourage them to do the NSQF course.”

The Dean, Universal Learn Direct Academia (ULDA), Mr. Babatunde Faleye recommended such training for every individual in the country irrespective of the field, saying that it will ensure standard and bring out the potential in everyone.

Asked what he gained, he said “the crash course was a bit tedious, but much was covered in terms of assignments, case studies, log book, enormous skills on how to assess individual learners, verifying and recognising prior learning experience of trainees, as well as discipline.”

The Chief Executive Officer of Automedics and a member of the National Automotive Design and Development Council (NADDC), Mr. Kunle Sonaike also recommended the training to all Nigerians so that it will change their psyche and how they look at the system.

“The training teaches you how to plan and carry out an assessment of your plan and how it will help the larger society and its benefits. Once you are able to apply it, the room for error will be minimised.”

He said he hopes to apply it in his business by empowering his trainees. “I am going to use the methodology for everybody that passes through me so that this nation can get better. Rather than criticising people, my approach is going to be different. I have to apply everything I have learnt at the training.”