Harnessing Human Capacity to Boost Industrial, Economic Devt

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In this analysis, James Emejo assesses efforts to boost industrial development as well as skilled manpower through the Industrial Training Fund

No doubt unemployment constitutes the most disturbing challenges of the President Muhammadu Buhari-led administration.
The National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) put the country’s current unemployment rate at 23.1 per cent while noting that about 20.9 million qualified adults are without jobs.

The situation is further compounded by the fact that the country has been found wanting in terms of its human capital development, given that it constitutes a key driver of sustainable, inclusive economic growth in any economy.

The World Bank Group had ranked Nigeria 152 out of a total of 157 countries surveyed in its Human Capital Index (HCI) in 2018. Only recently Director General, Nigeria Employers’ Consultative Association (NECA), Mr. Timothy Olawale and National President, Nigerian Chamber of Commerce, Industries, Mines and Agriculture (NACCIMA), Hajiya Saratu Iya Aliyu, both submitted that the country’s quest for industrialisation is currently constrained by dearth of technical skills adding that industries have continued to struggle over the years.

They regretted that the shortage of talent and skilled labour had necessitated the need to employ expatriates to do the jobs which Nigerians should ordinarily execute, adding that “There are jobs but we don’t have skilled manpower.”

The scenario is further dampened by a presentation of Human Capital Group at the FSS 2020 International Conference. The report on the state of the Nigerian education system had concluded that “Emphasis in Nigerian institutions has been on verbal activity rather than skill acquisition and problem solving activities.”

The report noted that there are currently only 46 tertiary institutions in Nigeria providing education covering all functional areas, adding that out of the 42 million Nigerian children who ought to be in primary school, less than 24 million are in school. It added that out of the 33.9 million children of secondary school age, only 6.4 million are in secondary schools

The report essentially concluded that, “The Educational system has not been tailored to meet developmental needs of the nation, adding that the federal higher institutions have suffered decay due to poor planning and mismanagement of funds.
The ongoing scenario partly explains why tertiary education graduates are largely deemed to be unemployable and justifies the skills dearth in the economy, a situation which resulted in high unemployment.

Meanwhile, in a deliberate efforts to reverse the ugly situation and reduce unemployment in the country, Industrial Training Fund (ITF) has taken the bull by the horns on ensuring that in the four decades of its existence, it has not only “raised training consciousness in the economy, but has also helped in generating a corps of skilled indigenous manpower which has been manning and managing various sectors of the national economy.”

The fund had within the last two years, trained over 450,000 Nigerians in various skills acquisition programmes.
The Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Mr. Boss Mustapha, who disclosed the figure at the closing ceremony of the National Industrial Skills Development Programme (NISDP) where more than 11,000 youths were equipped with start-up packs by the fund.
The NISDP is one of the numerous skills acquisition intervention programmes introduced and implemented by the ITF, to reduce unemployment through acquisition of skills.
Mustapha had noted that the federal government would do all that was necessary to ensure that the entrepreneurial capacities of Nigerian youths are developed and fully utilized in a manner that would grow the economy to a path of sustainable development. He said while the federal government is implementing various social investment programmes such as the N-Power, and trader money among others, time had come to harness the potentials of the very youthful population for them to contribute meaningfully to the growth of the national economy as entrepreneurs.

He said the government is building mechanisms and institutionalised processes, especially in the informal sector towards tackling youth unemployment.
The Director-General, ITF, Joseph Ari, also explained that beyond the demands of its mandate, the commitment to skills acquisition was premised on the fact that it remains the most viable and sustainable solution to combating the rising unemployment and poverty which have continued to defy best efforts by government and non-government actors. He said going forward, the objective of the NISDP would be to ensure that as many Nigerians as possible are equipped with the skills for entrepreneurship and employability in order to avert the attendant effect of and unemployment..

He assured that the graduates from ITF new possess skills that could compete globally.
Ari said: “I make bold to say that these graduates can compete with the best anywhere in the world. Apart from having the benefit of the best equipment and tools, especially the mechatronics and facility technology department, our trainings are structured to equip them with requisite skills to start up on their own and from our tracking and monitoring system, we have largely succeeded in this regard as over 65 per cent of graduates of MSTC in the last six years are successful entrepreneurs.
He said the federal government had through the fund, equipped over 218,000 Nigerians across the country with skills for employability and entrepreneurship since the commencement of the National Industrial Skills Development Programme (NISDP), adding that 18,000 beneficiaries were from the Federal Capital Territory (FCT).
According to him, the NISDP represents one of the numerous skills acquisition intervention programmes introduced and implemented by the Fund to facilitate the achievement of the federal government policy on job and wealth creation.

Speaking at the closing ceremony of the 2019 National Industrial Skills Development Programme (NISDP) he said skills acquisition remains the most viable and sustainable solution to rising unemployment and poverty which had continued to defy the best efforts of government and non-governmental initiatives. He said though President Muhammadu Buhari’s administration had made tremendous efforts to create jobs, “there is no doubt that unemployment has wrought a terrible damage on all facets of our national life. No reasonable analysis will divorce unemployment from the needless incidents of violence that have claimed thousands of lives across the nation”.
He said: “Consequently, our population that ordinarily should be a resource, may become an albatross if we cannot provide a greater proportion of our population with a source of livelihood.”

The ITF boss said it was difficult to separate rising criminality and harmful social vices that are being perpetrated by Nigerians because of unemployment and the attendant poverty, adding that the last phase of the programme commenced in the last quarter of last year, while the training lasted between three and six months, depending on the trade.
He said though President Muhammadu Buhari’s administration had made tremendous efforts to create jobs, “there is no doubt that unemployment has wrought a terrible damage on all facets of our national life. No reasonable analysis will divorce unemployment from the needless incidents of violence that have claimed thousands of lives across the nation”.
He said: “Consequently, our population that ordinarily should be a resource, may become an albatross if we cannot provide a greater proportion of our population with a source of livelihood.”

Ari added that a total of 11,000 Nigerians were equipped with skills in nine trades namely, leather works (shoe and bag making), welding and fabrication, catering and event management, tiling, production and laying of interlock tiles, furniture making, domestic electrical wiring and installation, solar energy installation, plumbing and pipefitting, and ‘autogelle’ and beauty care.
He said 300 youths were trained in welding and fabrication, domestic electrical wiring and installation, catering and event management, solar energy installation and ‘autogelle’ and beauty care in the FCT.

He however lamented that the federal government’s efforts was clearly not enough in view of the magnitude of the unemployment confronting the country.
Ari therefore appealed to state governments, the organised private sector (OPS), non-governmental organisations (NGO), faith-based organisations, politicians and other stakeholders to collaborate with the ITF in order to train more Nigerians.

But the ITF boss said given the intensity and the very practical nature of the training, which was 80 per cent practical and 20 per cent theory, participants were equipped with the necessary skills and attitude for them to thrive as entrepreneurs. He stressed that when tied with the trades, which according to him were chosen after careful and in-depth need analysis of their locales, the management of ITF has no doubt that the beneficiaries would excel based on the conviction that the trades that the participants have learned will always be needed.

He said, “Our commitment to skills acquisition is premised on the fact that it remains the most viable and sustainable solution to rising unemployment and poverty that have continued to defy the best efforts of governmental and non-governmental approaches. There are countless reasons for us to worry as government, and as institutions vested with the arduous task of equipping Nigerians with the life skills for employability and entrepreneurship.
“There is no doubt that unemployment has wrought a terrible damage on all facets of our national life. “No reasonable analysis will divorce unemployment from the needless incidents of violence that have claimed thousands of lives across the nation.”
Ari said it would be difficult to separate rising criminality and harmful social vices that are being perpetrated by Nigerians because of unemployment and the attendant poverty.
“Consequently, our population that ordinarily should be a resource, may become an albatross if we cannot provide a greater proportion of our population with a source of livelihood,” he added.

Nevertheless, Chairman, Senate Committee on Industry, Sikiru Osinowo, prevailed on beneficiaries of the programme not to sell away their start-up kits but to use them effectively to create jobs for themselves and for others, nothing the National Assembly through the joint senate and house committee on industry will undertake an oversight inspection of some of ITF critical projects and programmes.