Repositioning ITF for enhanced industrialisation

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The Industrial Training Fund Act (ITFA) came into existence on the 8th of October 8, 1971 to establish a fund that would cater for the promotion of and encouragement of skills acquisition in Nigeria with a view to having enough indigenous trained manpower to meet the needs of industries for the growth of the economy while providing jobs and creating wealth.

This idea brought about the Industrial Training Fund (ITF).

There cannot be any meaningful development in a country where the real sector lack human and natural resources to thrive. The ITF is not, in any way, responsible for industries’ natural resources but its main concern is for the availability of the manpower that would turn the natural resources into finished products for the use of the people and sustainability of the industrial sector.

Despite glaring fact that Nigeria’s share of unemployment is on the high side, the reality of government agencies and individuals importing artisans from other African countries to do menial jobs in most big cities in the country is not deniable.  The excuse has always been that Nigerian artisans cannot deliver on quality jobs required.

So it is commonplace to see a Togolese carpenter, a Ghanaian bricklayer or a Zimbabwean plumber at construction sites across the country.

The resultant effects are more jobless youths roaming the streets and capital flight to other countries and again like in some other sectors of the economy, Nigeria bears the brunt and is left in the cold.

With the realization of this dangerous trend, the 10th Director-General of the ITF, Dr Juliet Chukkas-Onaeko, upon assumption of office in May last year set as parts of the goals to be achieved in her one year in office a plan for the training of two million Nigerian youths yearly in order for industries in the country to have employable artisans and technicians without the country having to bring foreigners to do the same jobs Nigerians are able to do.

Part of the strategies put in place to achieve this is the utilization of the agency’s Model Skills Training Centre (MSTC) where students undergo a two year course in different fields ranging from ICT, Mechatronics for those interested in the upcoming automotive industry and the Technical Vocational Education and Training (TVET) project.

Although Chukkas-Onaeko said at a forum in Abuja recently that the fund was not able to meet the 2 million targets, but it was able to train over one million youths in the year under review.  Explaining the rationale behind the training, the ITF boss said: “Our plan is to train 2 million people yearly and we have facilities in our area offices in the 36 States of the federation.

We have five vocational training centres in different states.   We are partnering with other training institutions both inside and outside Nigeria and the aim is to provide internationally acceptable training for Nigerians so that they can use the certificates earned anywhere in the world.

It is only when we do this that our people can leave Nigeria and get good jobs outside the country.  We want to empower people that can work locally and internationally’’

She said the fund had established collaboration and networking with institutions and agencies such as the German Chamber of Crafts and Commerce to train apprentices in line with German Dual System., SENAI  in Brazil, Institute of Technology Engineering and Education Services (ITEES)  in Singapore, Galilee International Management Institute(GIMI)  in Israel, the SURE-P, Dangote, the Nigerian Employers Consultative Association (NECA), Manufacturers Association of Nigeria  (MAN), Cement Technology Institute and the Ajaokuta Steel Rolling Company.

The whole aim of these collaborations, she said, is to see a revitalized economy as evidence from developed and emerging economies show that requisite skills constitute a major platform for attaining sustainable economic development.

For instance, the NECA/ITF Technical Skills Development Project was able to achieve an employment of over 80 percent of the two sets of trainees after graduation while those who took part in the training with Cement Technology Institute of Nigeria (CTIN), a subsidiary of the Dangote group were absorbed by different construction companies.

The fund had earlier signed a Memorandum of Understanding with Dangote for the training of 4000 artisans in the construction industry and the training is ongoing in phases.

The fund also graduated 30 of its students who had completed the required courses in electronics and computer networking and information and communication technology in Abuja.

In the Oil and Gas sector, the ITF boss initiated a sizeable number of collaborations at National and International levels to boost training program and equip with employable skills.  These include the ITF /SHELL collaboration on training, ITF/ONNE Oil free zone collaboration and the ITF/OGZA (Oil Free Trade Zone).

The fund also strengthened its partnership with the Wavecrest college of hospitality for revamping the culinary department of MSTSC Abuja into a full blown world class international Hospitality training Centre.  Currently, the culinary department is taking students through courses on how to prepare both local and international cuisines.

She said the fund had to embark on Industrial Skills Gaps Assessment Survey in Nigeria when she assumed duty and realised that that the country is witnessing a situation where the chunk of graduates from Nigerian tertiary institutions could not be employed because of the wide gap that exists between the quality of graduates and the requirement of employers of labour.

‘’The project was able serve as a basis for government’s investments in skills development in Nigeria, it assisted in identifying skills availability, skills mismatches in demand and supply which frequently leads to skills misallocation and skills gap”.

She said the survey done in collaboration with NECA and the United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO) revealed critical areas of specialised needs in which the fund has been able to train youths in those areas.  Part of this she said is the training of 37,000 artisans across the 36 states of the federation including the FCT under its National Industrial Skills Development Programme, NISDP.

Under the same programme, ITF is to establish 44 skill acquisition centres across the country, 38 of the centres would be for industrial skill training and another six would be used for advanced skills training to provide direct employment and empower youths with employable skills.

The DG said this move stemmed out of the determination of the fund to give the requisite skills to the teaming Nigeria youths, make them independent of government jobs and turn them to entrepreneurs and employers of labour.

She, however, said the fund may not be able to achieve this laudable plan without the support of government and other stakeholders, especially in expanding skills acquisition opportunities for Nigerians. She maintained that technical vocational skills training are capital intensive due to huge number of workshops and laboratory equipment, tools and consumables required for effective training delivery.

However, in order for the fund not to over concentrate its activities in the cities alone, it acquired World Class Mobile Training workshops, aimed at taking training and skill development to all the nooks and crannies of the country.

In order to reposition its teachers and make them key into the new teaching curriculum introduced into the country and move away from old norms to join the rest of the world in what is the trend in the education sector, the DG said the fund rolled out a three Years Comprehensive Improvement Program and capacity building training program for its employees at the Staff School located in Jos while at the same time equipped the computer laboratories of the school with Computers to meet best practices and global standards.

The school was also renovated and construction of Makeshift Classrooms was done to cushion the effect of the over-crowding of students in the school.  The playground was also renovated while the welfare of the pupils was enhanced by sinking a borehole to provide adequate water supply and over head reservoir constructed.

The DG said part of the feat that was achieved by the fund under her administration was the payment of 100 percent SIWES allowance to students undergoing their industrial training (IT) in different companies and institutions across the country.  She said her administration inherited a backlog of allowances owned the students and she ensured that the students were not surcharged.

Her words, “The ITF is mandated to collect training contribution of 1 percent from the annual budget of every industry in Nigeria.  This money is to be put into the training of Nigerians.   Though a lot of industries were not complying before i came on board, but we were able to collaborate with other stakeholders these industries do business with in order to enforce compliance.   We were able to set up a Revenue Collection Portal with integration of online payment gateway and bank payment to aid easy and convenient payment of the contribution by the employers.’’

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