The Nigerian economy abounds with artisans in various fields ranging from carpenters to shoe makers, bricklayers, tailors, mechanics, painters, dry cleaners, among others. In fact, these artisans, almost in every corner of each street are considered huge contributors to the Nigerian economy. They are seen as job creators and job providers as many of them take on apprentices that they train to learn the trade in which they specialize.
Recently, there have been growing concerns that these artisans lack professionalism and competence. Some others have complained that the artisans are lackadaisical and lazy. Currently, foreigners from nearby countries like Ghana, Benin Republic and Togo now carry out similar tasks like local artisans and enjoy the patronage of Nigerians.
Today, industry trends are evolving as consumers continue to demand for quality services. It has become imperative that any artisan that wants to make ends meet in this economy has to hone his skills and learn to adopt new technologies that will simplify his business and delight his customers. To boost the skills of artisans, some organisations have made it their corporate social responsibility to train and empower artisans.
One of such is the OVH Energy Oleum Academy, which the organisation saw as an opportunity to bridge this skill gap for artisans, in this instance, mechanics.
According to the Chief Executive Officer, OVH Energy Marketing Ltd, Huub Stokman, “the Oleum Academy was founded in 2014 as a skills development initiative borne out of a commitment to raise the automotive maintenance standard in Nigeria. It offers automotive-mechatronics, lubrication and entrepreneurship trainings for mechanics and auto-technicians nationwide.
“The mission of Oleum Academy is to contribute to the closure of knowledge gap by 80 per cent and ensure that Nigerians have access to professional and technically sound automotive support, with the overarching vision of training 5,000 auto-mechanics in Nigeria by 2020.”
Stokman said the initiative is remarkable because it addresses a common problem in Nigeria, of ill-qualified automobile experts also known as mechanics, giving uninformed and inaccurate diagnosis of automobile complications; or diagnosing vehicles as suffering great malfunctions which require bank breaking repair costs. “Nigerian mechanics need to imbibe the consciousness of car care as many Nigerians have suffered a great disservice by way of damage to automobiles.
“The Oleum Academy is bridging the skills gap in the automotive industry through adequate training. A well-maintained or serviced vehicle can have an overall impact on human life. There is a strong possibility that a vehicle that has been misdiagnosed or badly repaired will result in an accident, leading to loss of property or life.”
According to the National Bureau of Statistic (NBS), no fewer than 2,598 Nigerians died in road accidents between October 2017 and March 2018. Through training of mechanics, OVH aims to reduce the number of auto crashes and consequently the number of casualties arising from it. This platform provides participants with the necessary information on automobile and machinery repairs, as well as providing the necessary tools to properly diagnose and address faults.
The Oleum Academy extends beyond grassroots training alone. With the level of training provided for participants, a graduate of the programme is equipped to handle repairs and machinery servicing. In addition, graduates receive award certificates accredited by the National Open University of Nigeria (NOUN). Most importantly, the Oleum Academy alumni receive auto-diagnostic starter packs, and other work tools to support their trade practice.
The over 1,000 graduates of the academy are also better equipped to carry out their tasks and as a result, enjoy better patronage and earn more money. The long-term impact is not just improved skills set of the trainees, but also an indirect pay off for the Nigerian economy in terms of diversifying and encouraging other streams of income.
In November 2015, President Muhammadu Buhari asked the Federal Ministries of Works and Lands, Housing and Urban Development to prepare a plan of action for the speedy revitalisation and expansion of the country’s vocational training centres. This indicates that there is a need to upscale the skills of artisans. Since the government cannot do this alone, it behooves on private individuals and corporate organisations to take up the challenge and empower artisans, thus contributing to the growth of the economy.