‘Vocational training key to Nigeria’s economic development’
Improved access to vocational education has the capacity to add impetus to, and help the Federal Government’s to realise its youth empowerment goals, so says the Managing Director of Pearson Nigeria, Muhtar Bakare.
According to the chief executive of the world-renowned learning company, unemployment strategies put in place by the Muhammadu Buhari-led administration, necessarily needs to include technical and vocational education and training.
According to Bakare, “Nigeria faces many education challenges, to which finding solutions will be essential in securing the country’s long-term social and economic prosperity. However, Nigeria’s youth unemployment problem cannot be overcome without comprehensive and sustainable reforms to our vocational education system. At the heart of such reforms must be a commitment to bringing vocational education closer to the needs of our communities, reflected in the demands of the labour market and the specific requirements of employers.”
At approximately 50 per cent, Nigeria’s youth unemployment rate poses significant risks to the country’s security and economic development. The country’s potential to grow into a regional economic powerhouse depends on curbing its youth unemployment problem and channeling the energies and talents of its 167 million people between the ages of 15 and 34 years into productive work.
While improving enrolment and attainment rates are no doubt a fundamental feature of addressing this problem, international experience has shown that unemployment and underemployment can still occur in countries with a high proportion of university graduates. With tertiary graduates making up 20 per cent of Nigeria’s youth unemployment figures, achieving a university degree is by no means a guarantee of secure and meaningful work in the country – evidencing a mismatch between the education system and the needs of employers.
Bakare who noted that overcoming this mismatch is key to improving the prospects of Nigeria’s youth, added that this can only be achieved by the alignment of curricula with demand side factors.
“Despite the country’s high youth unemployment rate, there are many positions in many organisations throughout the country, from artisanal to managerial roles that cannot be filled by Nigerians. The problem is candidates simply do not have the necessary skills and qualifications to perform in these roles. Now, more than ever, Nigerian organisations across a number of industries are seeking candidates with high quality technical and vocational training. Employers are looking for internationally accredited qualifications providing expertise and skills delivered by experienced and motivated teachers. Course and curriculum design needs to be developed in closer conjunction with employers themselves so that technical and vocational programmes – new and existing – are more closely aligned with market forces. Countries with enviable youth unemployment rates, such as Germany, generally have a strong vocational education system, characterised by a productive relationship between industry and educators. This is something we need to look at replicating here in Nigeria if we want to reverse youth unemployment and the negative personal and national consequences this problem breeds.”