ITF blames high unemployment rate on lack of requisite skills

ITF Director-General, Joseph Ari


The Industrial Training Fund (ITF), has attributed the high rate of unemployment in Nigeria to lack of requisite skills to fill vacant positions in many sectors of the nation’s econly.

Speaking at the 2nd national Skills Summit organised by the ITF in Abuja today, its Director-General/CEO, Joseph Ari, also however said the agency had so far trained over 22 million Nigerians whose contributions to the growth of the various sectors of the national economy cannot be easily quantified.

He noted that despite the high unemployment rate in Nigeria, 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 (UNIDO) revealed that “rather than the absence of jobs, vacancies still exist in several 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.”

According to the ITF boss, “The question that arises from this paradox is, how can we plug these gaps using apprenticeship?

“The answer to this question can be found in countries such as Germany, China, Australia, USA and others that at various times faced similar challenges such as we are contending.  What they did was to pour greater investments in skills acquisition and apprenticeship training. For instance, in Germany about two decades ago, there was mass unemployment with roughly five million unemployed people and low employment rates to the extent that it was labelled “the sick man in Europe,” he said.

He explained that in implementing its mandate, as far back as 1978, the Fund commissioned a study of In-plant and Apprentice Training in Nigeria, the outcome of which gave birth to the development of the National Apprenticeship Scheme.

“Consequently, the Fund established a Vocational Apprenticeship Training (VAT) Department that has evolved into the Technical and Vocational Skills Training Department (TVSTD) today, to take charge of the conduct of the scheme. In execution of its function, the Fund promotes apprenticeship/skills training by liaising with employers of labour, appraises companies implementing the scheme, develops curriculum and training materials for craftsmen and Instructors training, and assists industries and training institutions in developing the capability to design, prepare, use training package and aids, supervises, evaluates and offers follow-up services of apprenticeship scheme as well as install/harmonizes apprenticeship schemes in companies.

“In this regard, between 2010 and 2019 alone, the ITF liaised with a total of 1,353 companies for the promotion of in-company apprenticeship activities, visited and appraised 1,146 companies to determine their potential to conduct apprentice training in identified trade areas. In addition, it 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.

“We are also currently working on bringing in some of our skills intervention programmes including; the National Industrial Skills Development Programme (NISDP); Women Skills Empowerment Programme (WOSEP); Passion to Profession Programme (P2PP); Skills Training and Empowerment Programme for the Physically Challenged (STEPP-C); Construction Skills Empowerment Programme (CONSEP) and; Agriprenuership Skills Empowerment Programme (AGSEP) amongst others into the apprenticeship scheme,” he said.

He noted that in Nigeria, apprenticeship had been an age-long tradition and an institution that was jealously guarded by customs, lineage and rituals. “It was a common feature of the traditional setting to see people engage in a vocation such as farming, carving, carpentry, sculpting, building, welding, catering and boat-making amongst others.”

“This practice, which has persisted to date entailed that the apprentices lived with their masters and received no pay except maintenance and training. After the period of training and after satisfying the required standard of proficiency in that particular trade, the apprentice then graduates to a journeyman. The journeyman is a worker who has passed the stage of apprenticeship but is not yet qualified to be a master, and still worked under a master to receive more experience, especially in management, leadership and customer handling, and received a fixed wage for his labour.

“This form of apprenticeship is regarded as traditional apprenticeship, which is not viable to enhance the economic development of a country and has not helped in curbing issues of unemployment and various other societal problems in our country.

He explained that it was in appreciation of the potential of apprenticeship and skills acquisition generally, and to enhance employability and job creation, that the Federal Government established various institutions that would drive the actualisation of National objectives and coupled with the recognition that investments in human capital had greater potential than infrastructural development or the building of machines.

“One of such institutions was the Industrial Training Fund (ITF), which was mandated to:  Provide, promote and encourage the acquisition of skills in industry and commerce to generate a pool of indigenous trained manpower sufficient to meet the needs of the private and public sectors of the economy; Provide training for skills in management for technical and entrepreneurial development in the public and private sectors of the economy; Set training standards in all sectors of the economy and monitor adherence; and, Evaluate and certify vocational skills acquired by apprentices, craftsmen and technicians in collaboration with relevant organizations,”  he said.

This national skills Summit, which is organised by the ITF, was conceived in 2019 to create an enabling avenue for relevant stakeholders to collectively deliberate and articulate strategies and interventions to tackle the lack of employable skills in the country, especially at a time that unemployment and poverty have continued to spiral.

In addition, the summit aims to: Identify and assess existing skills development and labour market contexts in Nigeria; Spotlight and bring to public domain topical issues that have skills development implications and/or require skills interventions; Bring together skills development agencies and practitioners to exchange ideas and facilitate professional networking and technical collaboration; Apply best practices for aligning skills development to market needs and, Propound policy guidelines for skills development.

According to the Director-General, as an outcome of the 1st National Skills Summit, action immediately commenced on several fronts, including the lack of LMI, for which the ITF successfully implemented a sensitization programme, which was aimed at institutionalizing Labour Market Information in Nigeria and we are currently developing a framework that will guide the establishment of LMIs in Nigeria based on opinions aggregated at the programme.

He disclosed that similar efforts were being invested to solve the problem of non-existent Sector Skills Councils, including the conduct of a series of sensitization workshops by the ITF with other partners, leading to the formation of a robust Sector Skills Council in the country.

“This, we believe, will reduce skills gaps and shortages as well as improve productivity in the various sectors of the Nigerian economy. It is our commitment that working together with our stakeholders, all your observations and resolutions during the last summit will be fully addressed,” said the ITF Director-General.

In his address at the occasion, the Minister of Industry, trade & Investment, Otunba Richard Adeniyi Adebayo, commended the ITF for initiating the national skills summit and for its commitment to creating avenues and platforms for dialogue on ways of enhancing skills acquisition for national development in line with the programmes and policy objectives of President Muhammadu Buhari Administration.

He expressed delight with the theme of the summit which, according to him, “aligns with current efforts of the Federal Government to resolve the numerous national challenges that have all been linked with swelling numbers of the unemployed and the poor, despite the committed efforts of the Federal Government.”

Adebayo noted that the Federal Government had, through its Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs), initiated and implemented a number of programmes that have recorded positive results especially in terms of uplifting the living standards of Nigerians as well as developing the National economy.

“For instance, late last year, the Federal Government launched the National Development Plan, 2021 – 2025 which aims amongst others:  to establish a strong foundation for a diversified economy, with robust MSME growth, and a more-resilient business environment; to invest in critical physical, financial, digital, and innovation infrastructure, (3) to build a solid framework and enhancing capacities to strengthen security and ensure good governance and ; to enable a vibrant, educated, and healthy population.

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