Reinventing the Wheel of Change Through Skills Acquisition

Hon Lar (middle) with some of the beneficiaries

In an attempt to bridge the unemployment gap, Beni Lar Youth Empowerment Programme, in collaboration with the National Agency for Science Engineering Infrastructure recently empowered 40 youths with solar and auto mechanics skills, Kasim Sumaina writes

It is said that no nation can attain it’s potentials or achieve its developmental strides without investing in its youth. As it is also often said, ‘youths are the leaders of tomorrow’ but, in a country where 40 per cent of its teeming youths are idle, doing virtually nothing, thereby involving in illicit drug abuse, election thuggery, cultism and prostitution, the future is blurry.

To bridge the innovative gap in youth productivity and thereby making them gainfully employed, skills acquisition by whatever good means should be encouraged. Either through entrepreneurship skills development such as, tailoring, mechanical engineering, solar panels systems installations, and several others that will help take the youths off the street.

In other climes, while youths are gainfully employed, being prepared for leadership in government, financial institutions, defense, medical field, religion and several meaningful venture, the reverse is the case in Nigeria.

However, in recent times, skills acquisition in line with government’s policy have been propagated by both public and private entities to help reduce the unemployment rate amongst teeming Nigerian youths.

To ameliorate this trend, Beni Lar, Member, representing Lantang North and South Constituency in collaboration with National Agency for Science Engineering Infrastructure, organised a five-day training programme for 40 lucky youths, who were trained in different fields of renewable energy, specifically solar energy and auto mechanics.

The move by Lar, is to help them become useful to themselves, their families and the society in general.

Beni, the daughter of the late Solomon Lar, while speaking at the sidelines of the five-days event, held in Lantang North Local government area of Plateau State, noted that, one of the things that actually made her run for office was to ensure that she helped the youths to be productive in her community.

According to her, “I noticed that we have a lot of talented youths and some of them have dropped out of school. Some of them are educated but are not gainfully employed, they were just idling around the streets doing virtually nothing. I noticed that a lot of youths will come to my house in the morning, they will say, aunty; give me this, give me that. And I said, Why should I be giving you something when I can help you to use your hands become useful to yourself, your family and the society. So, after my first election, we started a youth empowerment programme. That is why you see we have a workshop. This is the first workshop we trained mechanics, radio technicians, TV technicians, carpenters, in conjunction with Industrial Training Fund (ITF) and the school of relevant technology. We trained about 150 youths between Lantang North and South.

“And, all those youths, I made them write the Federal Government Labour Trade Test (FGLTT) to officially certified them as technicians around the country. Now many of them are gainfully employed as specialists in the police, some are in civil defence. They are all specialists now. So, I realised that, helping our youths through training and empowerment, is one of the best things you can do for this nation.

“Therefore, it brought me to the idea of helping our youths who are naturally innovative, productive and who are already engaged in a skill to become more productive. So, what we did was, we looked at mechanics, artisans and I said, why don’t I add value to what the mechanics, artisans and other entrepreneurs are doing in my community.”

Speaking further, she said: “I noticed that many people don’t like to fix their cars in Lantang, because, maybe the mechanics are not so well equipped. But, today, as you can see, they have more knowledge. We contacted the society of mechanics and the artisans, they provided those that came for the training. So, I think it is very important that we continue with this training. What is next is that, they have the basic tools to set up. Like now, you have seen a sample of how they install a solar panel, and they have a solar system working.

“After these is for them to get into the market space. I think, like they said, they are independent and they can be independent on their own and can work anywhere. So, after this I think, further training, maybe if necessary and if they want to go on further, we will assist them. But, I feel it would be important for them to get the federal government labour trade test as well in the skills that they have.”

On Science and Technology funding, she said, “we know that funding of science and technology has improved significantly compared to when we first came on board, because the National Assembly intervened and made sure that for the government to improve the sector, they must match their words with action by increasing significantly the appropriation for science and technology.

“That’s why if you go round, all our agencies, you will see, first of all, they have more equipped offices and facilities and even, the facilities and the equipment for training, they have most of them. For instance, the Nigerian Building and Road Research Institute (NBRRI). When we first started, their workshop in Ota, Ogun State, was more or less not functioning, but, now; their workshop is functioning very well.

“They are doing building schemes all around the country. They have examples of their building scheme here. They have road schemes, they are doing demonstration roads, erosion controls. Before we came, they were not doing erosion control but, the committee has pushed the federal government to make sure they expand government’s involvement in science and technology. So, we still need more findings of course. We have a bill. We’ve already passed the bill and I think it’s one of the bill awaiting assent from Mr. President. We’ve already passed the bill at the National Assembly.”

Similarly, Managing Director, NASENI Solar Energy LTD, Dr. Jafaru O. Mahmud, while speaking to the press shortly after the opening ceremony, said: “This event was initiated or its a collaboration between Hon. Beni Lar and the National Agency for Science Engineering Infrastructure (NASENI). It’s a capacity building event in two parts.

“One of it is on renewable energy, specifically solar energy, and other one is on auto mechanics. She has installed close to about 2000 street lights. We call them stand -alone and she felt that it would be good if there are local expertise that can be maintaining these things. And that will also take some of the youths off the streets and will help them generate income, and also protect the environment the more. She felt that NASENI has a renewable energy outfit, the Naseso engineering limited.

“We have been the people coming to install some of the solar stand-alone street lights. Being encouraged by the performance of our facilites, she decided to call on us to collaborate so that we can the upgrading and preparing the youths to be able to stand alone as a vocation. That’s one part of it.”

He added: “The other part is the discovery that the kind of cars that we use now are not the kind of cars we used to use in those days. Majority of the expertise we have, is through apprenticeship, from hand to hand, father to father’s friend, to a neighbour and things like that. These ones were used to the old ways, where the man who is repairing Peugeot is not in tune with what happened with the Toyota or Honda. So, she also had the feelings that it would be good that they are updated. Now, you use electronic and computers to check what is disturbing the cars, so, she wanted an upgrade of that.

“And NASENI, being endowed with these expertise, was ready to collaborate with her to upgrade the learning. So, in brief, that’s what the programme is all about. So, we have 20 participants across the wards under her jurisdiction for renewable energy for solar and we have another 20 for auto mechanics.”

On collaboration Mahmud said: “Like I mentioned, NASENI Solar Energy, for example, we have been the people installing it. We have installed over 100 poles of solar power stand-alone street lights, some of them are around. So, this is not a new one. In fact, that is what encouraged her to continue with the collaboration. So, it is not new and we very keen about going forward with these and apart from the fact that, it is our core assignment on the solar side, it is also what we are passionate about in extending the goodies or that are related to solar energy, protecting the environment, creating jobs, putting the youths off the streets and removing them from unnecessary restiveness and all that.”

On addressing the epileptic power supply problem in the country, Mahmud said: “first, NASENI Solar Energy has tested the waters and we are present in every part of the chain. Our production has gone beyond mainly assembly of the solar PVs of the solar photo voltaic. So, we have also done installations and we are doing trainings. One of the things that brought us is training. So, we have been able to do for supermarkets, for the Head of Service, the minister and permanent secretary’s office of the Ministry of Science and Technology, individuals, homes and farms. From these experiences, we will tell you that solar works, not just for Nigeria but, it is an efficient way to escape these challenges of power.”

A female participant of the auto mechanic training, Deborah Langying, said: ”I am 23 years of age. I feel overwhelmed being involved in a programme like this. I really want to show my appreciation to Hon. Beni Lar for this empowerment. I actually achieved a lot of things here. I have been involved in auto mobile before now, but I am not really a trained mechanic. I honed my skills from one of my uncle’s down the street. He has been the one training me four years now.

“This programme has really enlightened me the more and I will like to advise the federal government to encourage us (mechanics) the more because, some of us didn’t have the opportunity to go to school.”

On challenges faced as a roadside woman mechanic, she said: “Being a woman and a roadside mechanic, I have faced a lot of challenges because the moment they bring a car to the garrage, most of the people think that I cannot handle it. They feel if they leave me with the car, I cannot do it. I think that’s the greatest challenge that I face. I wish people can just come with their cars and test by themselves and see what I can do.

“My message to other ladies out there is, go out there and work. Being idle will really push someone to do other things that will not encourage your life and will not encourage people around you.”

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