THE Industrial Training Fund (ITF) is advocating a complete overhaul of the nation’s education system to enable the government tackle the rising unemployment rate in Nigeria.
The Director-General of ITF, Joseph Ari, disclosed this while delivering his opening address at the 2nd National Skills Summit held on today in Abuja.
The theme of the summit was ‘Institutionalizing Apprenticeship and Traineeship for National Development.’
The event was attended by the Minister of State for Industry, Trade and Investment, Mariam Katagum; the Minister of Women Affairs, Pauline Tallen; the Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Industry; Evelyn Ngige; and other stakeholders involved in skills acquisition.
Ari said the choice of the theme was deliberate because of the soaring unemployment and poverty rate in Nigeria.
According to the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) Unemployment and Underemployment Report of the fourth quarter of 2020, the number of unemployed persons in the economically active or working age (15 to 65) was put at 122,049,400.
Of this number, 69,675,468 Nigerians were willing to work, but only 46,488,079 were in paid employment.
The report showed that over 23 million Nigerians that were qualified and willing to work were without jobs. It also showed that the unemployment rate among the youth (people between 15 and 35 years) was up by eight per cent, from 34.9 per cent to 42.5 per cent, which was the highest among other age groupings within the period under review.
Ari said that despite this high unemployment rate, especially among the youths, a skills gap assessment of six priority sectors of the national economy conducted by the ITF, in collaboration with the United Nations Development Organisation, revealed that rather than the absence of jobs, vacancies still existed in many sectors of the national economy that either could not be filled by Nigerians because of the lack of requisite skills, or were being filled by foreigners.
He explained that the summit would provide the government and private sector players with the platform to finally articulate strategies for a robust apprenticeship scheme in the country.
The ITF DG said, “This Summit is not an admission of a lack of effort but part of the process of galvanising and deepening apprenticeship in Nigeria for national development and a search for practical solutions to some of the impediments we had encountered, some of which include but are not restricted to poor public conception of the apprenticeship system and skills acquisition, lack of necessary policy framework, lack of pedagogical skills by some master craftsmen, and poor funding of the scheme.
“With the high unemployment rate in the country, it will not be far-fetched to conclude that our current model of learning has failed to live up to its purposes and, therefore, the need to consider additional educational options that will serve to boost our national apprenticeship scheme.
“I believe that this summit will provide us with the platform to finally articulate strategies for a robust apprenticeship scheme in the country.”
In its 50 years of existence, the ITF DG said, the agency has pursued its mandate of empowering Nigerians with single-mindedness and vigour, training over 22 million Nigerians.
He said the contributions of these 22 million Nigerians to the growth of the various sectors of the national economy cannot be easily quantified.
Ari added that between 2010 and 2019 alone, the ITF liaised with a total of 1,353 companies for the promotion of in-company apprenticeship activities, and visited and appraised 1,146 companies to determine their potential to conduct apprentice training in identified trade areas.
In addition, Ari said the ITF harmonized 444 existing in-company apprenticeship schemes of companies in line with the ITF National Apprenticeship scheme, installed the scheme in 286 companies, as well as monitored 831 companies, leading to the training of 36,397, most of whom are gainfully employed.
In her speech at the event, Katagum said the theme of the summit aligned with current efforts of the federal government to resolve the numerous national challenges that had all been linked with swelling numbers of the unemployed and the poor.
She said the federal government had, through its ministries, departments and agencies (MDAs) initiated and implemented a number of programmes that had recorded positive results, especially in terms of uplifting the living standards of Nigerians, as well as developing the national economy.
However, the Minister said, what the government found worrisome was that although most of its programmes got the expected outcomes in terms of jobs created, Nigerians with the requisite skills were shockingly lacking even as unemployment and poverty persisted.
“Therefore, dialogues such as we are having today are key to unravelling what the challenges are. To my mind, skills acquisition for Nigerians across the country is vital if we can overcome our challenges,” she added.
Harrison Edeh is a journalist with the International Centre for Investigative Reporting, always determined to drive advocacy for good governance through holding public officials and businesses accountable.