Seriki Adinoyi looks at how the Industrial Training Fund is trying to reduce the unemployment rate in Nigeria through skills acquisition training 

Unemployment is a major challenge to Nigeria’s stability. It is widely believed to be a key incentive for many of the troubles plaguing the country, like youth restiveness, the Boko Haram insurgency, kidnapping, and drug abuse. Many think that if the youth, who are most vulnerable to those vices, are gainfully employed, the motivation to give in to negative pressures would be greatly reduced.

According to projections by population experts, by 2050, Nigeria’s population would have soared to over 500 million. It is a projection many fear will escalate societal vices if drastic action is not taken to tackle the burning issue of unemployment.

 

ITF to the Rescue 

 The Industrial Training Fund (ITF) is determined to tackle the unemployment problem through skills acquisition trainings. The fund has taken upon itself the duty to reduce joblessness by not only training, but also empowering trainees to turn around their fortunes. ITF has been doing this since over 10 years, and the gains have been enormous.

ITF believes that if Nigerians are equipped with the requisite skills, it would be hugely advantageous and the recent dimension to this has been mindboggling. Since the administration of the current Chief Executive Officer of ITF, Sir Joseph Ari, the fund has not only stepped up its training capacity, it has also churned out thousands of trainees, who have been empowered to start up something for themselves, and are being progressively monitored to self-dependence.

In 2017, the ITF trained over 150,000 Nigerians in various trades and crafts who are today earning sustainable livelihoods either as paid employees or as entrepreneurs that are even employing others. Rather than being liabilities to others, they have become trainers and employers of labour.

 

 Appeal to Stakeholders 

 

The ITF has also appealed to stakeholders to collaborate with the organisation in order to equip more Nigerians with skills for employability and entrepreneurship as a means of stopping illegal migration to Europe.

Explaining this, Ari, who received some stakeholders of the ITF recently, said equipping Nigerians with relevant skills was not only in line with the federal government’s efforts to create jobs but would also stem the current wave of illegal migration, especially by the youth, which has culminated in enormous loss of lives and enslavement of thousands of productive Nigerians. 

Initiatives

Ari disclosed that it was with a view to equipping Nigerians with skills to fill existing vacancies that the ITF embarked on a number of initiatives and expanded existing programmes to ensure that more Nigerians are empowered with skills for employment and entrepreneurship. He listed the programmes to include the National Industrial Skills Development Programme (NISDP), Passion to Profession, Training on Wheels Using Mobile Training Units, the Women Skills Empowerment Programme (WOSEP), the Technical Skills Development Project (TSDP) as well as the Vulnerable and Indigent Youth Empowerment Programme (VIYEP) among several others.

Throwing more light on NISDP, which has trained over 100,000 Nigerians since it commenced, Ari said under the current phase that was on-going in the 36 states and the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), the ITF was training 11,100 trainees with skills in welding and fabrication, tailoring and garment making, and plumbing and pipe fitting. He revealed that in the last one year alone, over 70,000 Nigerians had benefited from the skill acquisition programmes, adding that all the beneficiaries were given starter packs to start their businesses.

He said about 90 per cent of the beneficiaries were either currently successful entrepreneurs, or earning livelihoods as paid employees according to the monitoring and evaluation of graduates conducted by the ITF.

Ari noted that some of the programmes were carried out in collaboration with several organisations and agencies both private and public in order to check unemployment and promote entrepreneurship.

Aside training the youths, ITF has extended the gesture to women through its WOSEP. The fund had selected 30 women from two states in each of the six geopolitical zones, trained and empowered them with starter packs to enable them start their own businesses. He also said ITF was planning to partner Galilee International Management Institute in Israel on agriculture which enables ITF to align itself with the Federal Government’s diversification programme, adding that the fund was ready to provide dynamic and proactive services aimed at achieving its mandate in line with government agenda.

Review 

Ari said the ITF had reviewed its vision and come up with policy and implementation strategies to enable it play a leading role in human capital development. According to him, ITF intends to convene a Nigeria Skills Summit with the following deliverables: setting actionable steps for developing employable skills in Nigeria and examining best practices for aligning skills development to market needs.

The fund has crisscrossed the length and breadth of the nation giving requisite training to youths and women with the sole aim to reduce unemployment and fight social vices.  

Anambra’s 300 Trainees

 As part of its nationwide drive, the ITF train recently reached Anambra State. For three months, 300 youths selected from various communities were exposed to a rigorous training organised by the fund under its NISDP. After the training, they were given starter packs to begin a new phase in their lives. The programme was part of the federal government’s job creation and poverty reduction programme under which 11,000 youths were targeted across the country. 

The 300 youths trained were the first set to receive starter packs for their businesses. Even during the period of the training, the youths were paid stipends by the Federal Government to enable them transport themselves to and from the venue of the training. 

At their passing out in Awka, one of the trainees, Mr. Chris Arinze lauded ITF, noted that with the equipment given to the beneficiaries, the sky had become their limit. He said, “With this gesture from ITF, I have been made. ITF is the only organisation that truly empowers youths as others are merely used to achieve political purposes.” 

In the period under consideration, they were trained in tailoring and fashion design, welding and fabrication, as well as in plumbing and pipe-fitting and at the end, the beneficiaries said with what they got from ITF, they were ready to face life challenges, which they hope to surmount since they have skills to prove their worth in the society. 

Anambra State governor, Chief Willie Obiano, who was represented at the graduation ceremony, commended ITF for introducing the programme and urged the organisation to make the empowerment more frequent to accommodate more youths. He also advised the beneficiaries to make maximum use of the opportunity, noting that with what they had received from ITF, the sky had become the limit for them.

 

Plateau 500

In Plateau State, it was a similar gesture, when the fund graduated 500 Plateau youths in the 2017 NISDP. At Crest Hotel, Jos, during the graduation of the 500 Plateau youths who participated in the programme, the ITF boss warned the youths against selling the start-up packs presented to them to commence their personal businesses.

He said, “Today’s event marks a watershed since we commenced implementation of the NISDP as we have taken a step further from merely training and equipping the youths with knowledge and skills, to providing them with start-up packs to enable them set-up their businesses and hit the ground running. 

“The decision to provide the packs was informed by our tracking and monitoring of trainees of earlier phases, which revealed that where supported with start-up packs, 90 per cent of the trainees went on to be successful entrepreneurs, or even employers of labour. Conversely where they were not, they were not as successful.

“This phase of the programme will benefit over 11,000 trainees across the 36 states of the Federation and the FCT. The start-up packs that are being distributed today should be viewed as our practical example and message to our stakeholders especially State Governors and other members of the Organised Private Sector (OPS) that training without corresponding support will not lead to expected outcomes.”

While warning the youths not to trade their start-up packs for anything, Ari said, “Here is a word of caution to the beneficiaries; the start-up packs presented to you are of high standard and therefore cost the ITF several millions of naira to procure. Do not contemplate selling any of the items presented to you. Please, go out and prove to the world that the three months you endured were worth the while. Your destiny is in your own hands, do not toy with it.”

He said the trainees, who were carefully selected based on their potential value and trained in tailoring and fashion design, welding, fabrication, plumbing and pipe-fitting, are expected to start their own businesses with the equipment presented to them and train others. He also urged the state governors who have not equipped their respective trainees with start-up packs to emulate their colleagues from different states who have done so to make them self-reliance.

Ari said, “I commend the governors that have so far equipped trainees in their states with start-up packs. We want to urge all states governors and other office holders to follow the examples of their colleagues if the objectives of empowering their citizens with skills acquisition will meet the expected objectives.”

While urging the beneficiaries to take advantage of the training to make them better citizens, the state governor, Simon Lalong, who also commissioned ITF-NECA Computer Laboratory Centre at Government Science Technical College, Bukuru, said the school had done the state proud as one of its students constructed a tractor. The governor promised to support the student with scholarship to study in China to enable him bring to bear new initiatives that will announce the state in the comity of nations.

 

Kwara’s 2, 500 Beneficiaries 

 

In Kwara State, where the fund trained 2,500 youths in NISDP, Ari said the programme would equip 300 youths, aged between 18 and 35 years, with skills in wielding, metal fabrication, tailoring and fashion designing, plumbing and pipe fitting.

Ari, who was represented by the Area Manager, ITF, Ilorin Area Office, Mr. Ogbonna Simon, said the selected trades and crafts were chosen based on an in-depth study that revealed their projected value addition to the beneficiaries, and their potential to provide sustainable means of livelihood for the trainees upon graduation. He added that up to 90 per cent of the beneficiaries of the programme had sustainable means of livelihoods, either as paid workers, or as entrepreneurs.

According to Ari, “the roll-out today in all states is the first indication that the fund has expanded the programme so that more Nigerians will benefit. In future, the fund intends to run several streams within a phase. The expansion is premised on our belief that skills acquisition is the way to go if the country will create jobs and diversify the economy as envisioned by the administration of President Muhammadu Buhari.”

He said the most sustainable solution to combating unemployment, reducing poverty, achieving growth and realising the government’s goals, including economic diversification, job creation and wealth generation rested on the ITF’s ability as an institution and government at all levels to equip as many Nigerians as possible, with technical and vocational skills for employment and entrepreneurship.

Simon, in his speech, urged the beneficiaries to shun all vices capable of undermining the noble objectives of the programme, and advised them to join hands in building synergy for the greatness of Nigeria.

Kwara State Governor, Alhaji Abdulfatah Ahmed, represented by his Senior Special Assistant on Youths Empowerment, Mr. Babatunde Saka, noted that skill acquisition and employment generation were essential for national development. He reiterated the commitment of his administration to job creation and youth empowerment.

Similar programmes were held in Osun, Sokoto and other states where the governors were elated to see the youths in their states empowered to become self-reliant.

 

Renewed Effort

In its renewed effort to equip more Nigerians with skills in line with its mandate and to ensure the achievement of the federal government’s policy on job/wealth creation, the ITF boss declared 2018 as a year of delivery. The fund said in line with the declaration, it was set to train another 13,000 Nigerians across the country in 11 vocational skills, adding that the implementation of the programmes will commence on various dates between July and August and end in November.

Ari, who was addressing a meeting of area managers of ITF Area Offices and Managers of the Fund’s Training Centres at the ITF Centre for Excellence, Bukuru, Jos, explained that the declaration was informed by the growing realisation that accelerated skills acquisition was the only way to stem the rampant unemployment especially among the youth. He said governments all over the world had turned to skills acquisition, which is the universal currency of the 21st century, to arm their citizenry with skills for employability and growth.

He listed the skills programmes billed for implementation in this phase to include NISDP, WOSEP, Skills Training and Empowerment Programme for the Physically Challenged (STEPC), air conditioning and refrigeration and designing and garment making. 

Within the same period, he said five other training programmes including Post-Harvest Techniques and Product Development, Aqua-Culture/Fish Farming, Manure Production, Crop Production/Greenhouse Technology and Poultry Farming, that are aimed at equipping Nigerian farmers with the requisite skills for improved farm yield will be implemented using the Galilee International Management Institute (GIMI) Model. 

Noting the focus on agriculture, Ari added, “The emphasis on skills for the agricultural sector was informed by the fact that it is the occupation of majority of Nigerians and a key component of the economic diversification agenda of the Federal Government. 

“The programmes, which are mostly targeted at the youths, women and the physically challenged, were carefully selected based on projected value addition to nation’s economy and the individual beneficiaries.”

Apart from the NISDP that will be implemented in all the states of the federation and the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), he said the other training programmes will only be implemented in some selected states.

He called on the states and even the local governments to collaborate with the Fund for a multiplier effect of programmes. He also urged the state governments and other stakeholders to sponsor additional trainees for the programmes and noted that such stakeholders would be required to cover the monthly stipends of the trainees, provide start-up packs for such additional trainees and also offset any allowances for the master-craftsmen that would be retained as a result of the additional trainees.

With this renewed vigour brought into the fund by the current ITF boss, the onus is now on the federal government to do everything to ensure that ITF is empowered with necessary requirements to do even more of the good job it has started.