Bridging unemployment gap through skill acquisition

unemploymentWITH white-collar jobs disappearing and number of students graduating from the higher institutions increasing on annual basis, time to rejig the employment landscape is indeed near.

In time past, skill acquisition is reserved for school dropouts and people who could not cope with academic work. But with the pivotal roles skill acquisition has played in the buoyancy of the economies of the Asian Tiger countries coupled with the modernization of training methods, skill acquisition is emerging a breeding ground for the creation of massive employment.

Speaking on the importance of skill acquisition in bridging the unemployment gap at the commissioning of the National Directorate of Employment (NDE) model skill acquisition centre in Onipanu, Surulere local government are of Oyo state recently, the Permanent Secretary in the ministry of Labour and Productivity, Dr Clement Illoh, said unemployment challenge in Nigeria has serious socio-economic consequences.

To confront the challenge, Illoh said: “Every effort to deal with the scourge of unemployment must not only be supported by government, but all well-meaning Nigerians.”

While stating the multiple presence of the centre in all the 774 local government areas of the country can play a major role in addressing the unemployment challenge, Illoh declared that the model training centre should be seen as prototype by all the stakeholders in the job creation sector, which could be replicated at the local council level.

He added: “I am convinced that if facilities of this nature exist in every local government area across the country, we will be more than half way out of the cycle of unemployment and poverty. To this extent, I want to reiterate that another objective behind the establishment of this centre is for it to serve as a model to all stakeholders in the job creation sector. May I also use this opportunity to invite Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs), Faith Based Organizations (CBOs), Community Based Organizations (CBOs), and other well-meaning individuals to also follow in the footsteps of the NDE.”

On his part, the Director General of the NDE, Abubakar Mohammed explained that standard has been improved upon since 2008 when the Directorate took a step to establish its own skill acquisition centres.

His words: “Things have been quite good since we adopted a new paradigm shift that lays emphasis on us setting the standard through setting up our own skill acquisition centres across the country. But let me say quickly here that we did not completely abandon our master craft men and craft women system. The  NDE could not abandon the system simply because we do not have skill acquisition centres in all the 37 states of the federation. Therefore, we know the merits of having our own skill centres. Our ultimate aim is to have a skill centre in each local government area of the country. But, where at it and in those states where we do have centre, we still engage the master craft men and women.”

The NDE boss was quick to add that though the centres are established by the Federal Government, communities where the centres are located must claim ownership of the structures, nurture and sustain its operations for years to come.  

“The issue of NDE owning skill centre calls for the attention and concern of the host community. Like I always say to the host community that while it is true that the Federal Government establishes the skill centre, a day will not come when those centres will be uprooted and taken to Abuja. It therefore means that the centres will be at the communities forever and therefore it truly belongs to them. If this is true, there is a need for state governments, local government councils and communities to pay attention to the upkeeps of these centres,” he explained.

Though he said the NDE could not longer run centres where free meals and payment of stipends to trainees are provided, providing trainings free of tuition fee has ensured maintenance of the standard.

His explanation: “Though funding can go up and down, I insist that there is no reason why the centres should remain idle because of lack of funding. Though the NDE tried to operate what have been termed ‘miracle skill acquisition centres’ where everything was free which included training, paying of stipends to trainees and feeding but such could not be continued with because of dwindling funding profile of the Directorate. So, we have now cut off payment of stipends and feeding while we concentrate on impacting skills. I believe the continued construction of centres by the NDE has its own merits because high standard is maintained and quality of training is monitored. The primary purpose of taking control of training, standard and curriculum and monitoring of training activities will be achieved.”

He hinted that the Directorate now has 74 training centres across the country, which is only 10% of the local government councils in the country.

Abubakar submitted that the 74 centres should be seen as laying a foundation for the establishment of more centres.

His added: “So far, we have constructed 74 skills acquisition centres. This means that we have established 10% of what is required in all the 774 local government councils in the country. This should serve as a foundation upon which successive leaderships of the NDE can build. For instance, the Abuja centres which are located in Bwari in Abuja and the one in Rimaye in Katsina state will one day become universities of vocational skills because they have good structures and well located. There is no doubt that the future is very bright for skill acquisition in Nigeria.”

The NDE helmsman disclosed that by establishing of its own skill acquisition centres, NDE has come out of the days when it sends trainees to some master craft men and women that are not well equipped and are also used for other errands apart from training.

NDE can now boast of qualified teachers, proper classrooms and conducive atmosphere for learning in all its centres.

The NDE chief cautioned that there is still a lot to be done saying, “we still have a lot to do in terms of renewable energy and latest building construction skills among other emerging skills. The NDE is starting with skills that our budget could afford. I am not claiming that the NDE centres are perfect, but I believe that we have established a modest foundation upon which subsequent administrations can build. The most important things are to lay a solid foundation upon which subsequent administrations can build.”

Abubakar opined that with the dwindling finances, the time for government agencies and departments to embrace the Public Private Partnership has come to deliver qualitative service going forward.

His argument: “I think the time has indeed come for government businesses to embrace the Pubic Private Partnership going forward. Why did we come into partnership on the Bwari centre with Carrier Intelligence? We found that the firm has similar objectives with the NDE with profit making aspect being the only difference. But the advantage our trainees will have is that they will benefit from heavy discount that will be charged. Considering the budget profile of the NDE, it cannot continue to offer free services. The next thing for us to do in order to survive is to find a way to partner with relevant stakeholders to continue rendering the services.”

He argued that lack of superstructure built on discipline that is encapsulated in nationalism is to blame for the slow pace of Nigeria’s development.

“The truth of the matter is that the time has come for Nigeria to develop. The issue that has devilled development in Nigeria is the absence of superstructure upon which development infrastructure can be built. With indiscipline, corruption, impunity and all other negative attitudes toward public resources, there is no way development infrastructure can work. I think that the change mantra of the current administration, which is anchored on elimination of corruption permeates every fabric of the nation, we can then successfully establish development infrastructure. It is only then that security will work and power will be available. Once there is are security and available of power, the private sector will do the rest such as the provision of health, transportation among others. The missing gap in our development efforts in the past is the superstructure of discipline,” he added.

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