Like most sectors in the Nigerian economy, the power sector is to a large extent under-skilled, a gap that easily reflects in the state of the industry in the country. Emmanuel writes on the efforts to close this gap.
At several fora, operators in the power sector have raised the alarm over the shortage of engineers needed to solve energy challenges in Nigeria.
While several other sectors suffer almost the same fate, it’s easily noticed in the electricity supply value chain because of its critical nature and how it powers every other segments of the economy.
The skills gap is obvious. For instance, a senior engineer in the sector, John Ayodele at the 11th Ralph Alabi Memorial Lecture organised by the Ikeja Branch of the Nigerian Society of Engineers (NSE) in Lagos as far back as 2020, said the trend was assuming a dangerous dimension, which must be tackled through massive grooming of young engineers into the sector to address power challenges.
Speaking on the theme: “Challenges in Electricity Distribution in Nigeria: What Engineers Should do Differently,” he traced the scarcity of power engineers to around year 2000 with the decline sustained since then.
He called for measures and massive education to ensure that more young engineers see the need for specialisation in the power arm of the profession to bridge the skills gap.
“There is a deficit of competent electrical/electronic engineers to solve the problem. Most of our undergraduates do not have power background and it is usually difficult to indoctrinate them,” he lamented.
Other stakeholders at one point or the other have raised danger of allowing the same issue continue.
At the graduation ceremony of the second set of students from Momas Electrical Meters Manufacturing Companies Limited (MEMMCOL) Metering School in Lagos, sometime ago, Chairman of MEMMCOL, Mr. Kola Balogun, while lamenting the situation, highlighted inadequate manpower as one of several factors responsible for the widening metering gap in Nigeria.
TAKING UP THE GAUNTLET
Taking a cue and in an attempt to fill the gaping vacuum, the Niger Delta Power Holding Company (NDPHC), started a scheme to close the skills gap in the industry.
The internship programme, a Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) initiative, THISDAY learnt, focuses on career growth and development for the Nigerian engineering graduates to work and learn for a period of twelve months.
In addition participants are selected from the six geopolitical zones, giving the young professionals an opportunity to garner experience across the power value chain.
Besides, they are given an opportunity to move and work across different departments of power plants within the power plant during the period in order to close the skills gap in the sector.
UPSKILLING THE SECTOR
It was in furtherance of this that as part of efforts to boost manpower capacity for the Nigerian Electricity Supply Industry (NESI), NDPHC, engaged 36 fresh engineering graduates for the one year internship programme.
The company said the move, which would become annual, is intended to offer hands-on opportunity to young Nigerian engineering graduates for a possible career path in the power industry.
Recall that Nigeria with a population of 200 million people generates under 5,000 Megawatts of power. The country is also rated one of the poorest in the world in terms of power supply. According to the World Bank, one out every 10 persons globally without access to electricity lives in Nigeria.
During an orientation ceremony for the interns, the Executive Director, Corporate Services, NDPHC, Nkechi Mba explained that the 36 interns were selected from the six geopolitical zones across the country with each zone producing six.
Mba noted that the concept of the internship programme will give beneficiaries access practical knowledge which would be difficult to find elsewhere, given the robustness of the assets of the organisation.
“This will enable graduates of engineering to have practical experience because we found out over the years that we had the best resources in NDPHC in terms of power sector engineering knowledge and we wanted to pass that on.
“And also , we want to help young engineering graduates to be able to access that knowledge that would give them an advantage in trying to find jobs in the sector or finding a career path.
“It is not really a recruitment exercise but because NDPHC has the largest power sector assets, the programme gives the graduates an advantage,” she stressed.
Also speaking, the Executive Director, Generation, Mr. Kassim Abdullahi said the interns would be sent to Calabar, Benin, Sapele and Omotosho power plants to gain hands-on experience.
He noted that the plants were very efficient and had contributed a lot to the national grid, adding that the interns would learn about the entire value chain of the Nigerian power sector.
“The will learn a lot from participating in the daily activities of the plants including generation, troubleshooting, maintenance and a lot of things from the capable engineers we have at these stations,” he explained.
Earlier, the General Manager, Human Resources, Mrs. Funke Nwankwo said the NDPHC graduate internship programme was a corporate social responsibility programme aimed at improving manpower capacity for the power sector in Nigeria.
“It ensures that young engineering graduates get the right training from seasoned professionals across our power plants. They will get first hand interaction with how our power plants work in real life,” she added.
The program, she noted, is a CSR initiative, designed to provide engineering graduates with hands-on experience in the operations and maintenance of gas turbine power plants.
The NDPHC says it’s best suited to carry out this training given its standing in the sector. The NDPHC has 10 generation plants with eight already commissioned with a current installed capacity of close to 4,000MW.
A self sustaining company, the company also intervenes in transmission and distribution projects and is responsible for close to half of generation and distribution infrastructure.
The NIPP was conceived in 2004 as a fast-track government funded initiative to stabilise Nigeria’s electricity supply system while the private-sector-led structure of the Electric Power Sector Reform Act (EPSRA) of 2005 took effect.
NIPP was originally designed around seven medium-sized gas fired power stations in the gas producing states, and the critical transmission infrastructure needed to evacuate the added power into the national grid.
A commitment to electrify host communities in the vicinity of the power stations and major substations gave rise to the distribution component of the project.
In August 2005, the National Council of State and the National Assembly approved an initial funding for NIPP from the excess crude savings account’ (ECSA) which statutorily belong to the Federal, State and Local Governments.
The federal government therefore incorporated the NDPHC as a limited liability company to serve as the legal vehicle to hold the NIPP assets using private sector-orientated best business practices.
The NDPHC was set up to manage the National Integrated Power Project (NIPP) scheme of the Nigerian Federation. NIPP is a fast-track intervention scheme with the largest fleet of Power Plants in Africa.
Some of the interns including Faisal Yahuza, a Mechanical Engineering graduate from Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria; Zainab Olomowewe, a Chemical Engineering graduate from Afe Babalola University and Franklyn Ifegbo, a Mechanical Engineering graduate from Federal University of Technology, Owerri were full of thanks for the NDPHC and its stakeholders for the gesture.
“It was based on a selection process which are online and online interview. I am happy to be here.
“At the end of the programme I would like to know more about the statutes in the power sector and to know more about the practical and technological knowledge to contribute to the advancement of the industry,” Ifegbo stated.
Faisal, in his remarks said he went through the entire to be selected, noting that he was excited to know how the power sector works.
Also, Olomowewe stated that as a beneficiary, it was an opportunity which she would not take for granted.
“During this programme, I will be able to translate my theoretical knowledge to practical and this is an opportunity to also build a career in the power sector and contribute my quota,” she added.