Since his appointment as the Director General and Chief Executive Officer of the Industrial Training Fund (ITF), by President Muhammadu Buhari in September 2016, the Sir Joseph Ari-led Management has recorded commendable strides in attaining the renewed mandates of the Fund. Anchored on the need to closing the skills gap survey through the provision of skill acquisition efforts, Ari’s appointment was hinged on “addressing and redressing these challenges through aligning functions of the Fund with the Federal Government’s policy thrust of economic diversification and industrialization.” SEGUN ADEBAYO writes on the deployment of visionary leadership in realising the mandates of the Fund
In an attempt to tackle the challenges of the renewed ITF, the leadership had devised an effective approach to the provision of employable Skills for job and wealth creation in the following areas where Nigeria has comparative advantage: The areas identified are Agro – Allied, Construction, Services, ICT and Digital jobs, Metal and Solid minerals, Light Manufacturing and Oil and Gas.
To arrive at the highpoint of the renewed vision, the management of the Fund streamlined their targets into three groups: quick wins, short term and long term objectives.
Quick Wins Goals
Realising the need to combat present challenges and work towards tackling the skill deficits among the nation’s teeming youths, the Fund categorised some of its visions into quick wins, medium and long term goals. The quick wins aim at resolving key challenges and turning the tides in favour of development, providing skills acquisition expertise, the quick wins goals also provide a “ platform for the proactive participation of employers of labour in Skills Development; ensure full optimization of employers training facilities for improved opportunities,” the ITF-NECA Technical Skills Development Programme (TSDP) .
Under the Job Matching System categorised under quick wins, the Fund said it was aiming at achieving the objectives of creating a “platform that will contain work skills proficiencies, levels of work experience, and professional reference of employable youths; provide a platform for employers to search and find candidates that meet specific skills/experience profiles they require; reduce search costs for qualified candidates and significantly enhance the ability of Nigerians to put their skills to work and unlock the market for work.”
Under the medium term vision, the agency’s main target is to “provide relevant knowledge, skills and attitude for productivity improvement; offer opportunity for the employed to enhance performance on the job and offer opportunity for the under-employed to upscale their skills for better job placement. Under apprenticeship, the ITF resolves to develop technical skills for job creation. The new plan also envisions a standardised curriculum for effective training delivery and generate a pool of competent craftsmen and artisans. The objectives of the Apprenticeship programme is aimed at assessing company facilities, personnel and training content; standardise training facilities, instructional materials and learning modules; monitor training implementation and compliance; grant approval; collaborate with relevant agencies for competency certification generating a database of Apprenticeship Scheme.”
Another medium term goal to be attained by the Sir Ari-led ITF is creating modalities for identifying, capturing, storing and sharing knowledge in the Fund. Apart from reducing undue paper works in the ITF through the engagement of ICT consultants to train the Fund’s staff, the new management is set to “facilitate quick access to information on ITF clients; fast track registration and payment processes; reduce unnecessary journeys and facilitate cost efficiency.
One of the long term visions of the leadership is the establishment of Industrial Skills Training Centres (ISTCs) in the South-east, South–south and North-east geo-political zones of the country to be sited in Aba, Abakaliki, Port Harcourt and Jalingo. This strategy shall be achieved through acquisition of land and build workshops and offices; installation of relevant equipment and machinery; development of indigenous capacity to man the Centres and designing and implementing appropriate training programmes.
Also identified as a long term goal is the establishment of three automotive parts production and training centres in line with the Automotive Policy of the Federal Government to be located in Badagry, Nnewi and Kaduna. The objectives of these centres are to facilitate automotive parts import substitution; develop requisite skills in automotive spare parts production and encourage local production of automotive spare parts. The strategy for attaining the vision of automotive policy is developing indigenous capacity to man the Centres; acquire and install relevant equipment and machinery and designing and implementing appropriate training programmes.
The ITF has outlined the establishment of Industrial Skills Training Centres in the 36 states of the Federation and the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), Abuja, before the expiration of 2022. The strategies to achieve such feat are through collaboration with State Governments for acquisition of land, equipment and buildings; build ISTCs in 36 states of the Federation; develop adequate manpower to manage the Centres; acquire and install relevant equipment and machinery and design and Implement appropriate training modules. The main objective is to extend ITF technical/vocational training to all the states of the Federation for job creation, poverty alleviation and inclusive growth, among several others.
Walking The Talk
There is no doubt that the appointment of Sir Joseph Ari as the Director General and Chief Executive Officer of the ITF has brought tremendous impacts on realising the mandates of the nation’s famous human resource agency established to provide skills to the country’s teeming youths. Since his appointment, the DG has been engaged in visiting states of the Nigerian federation and other relevant stakeholders in advocating for relevant partnership to broaden the frontiers of expanding skill acquisition efforts.
As the management of the Fund strives to attain greater strides and take the country to the next level, the Fund is committed to ensuring that the nation’s teeming youths are equipped with relevant skills in other non-oil sector in order to make the nation less dependent on oil for development and employment.
In line with President Muhammadu Buhari’s vision for improved development of the country, the ITF is embarking on various programmes capable of delivering skills to thousands of Nigerians and opening up various centres in the country for many Nigerians to be equipped with technical knowledge in various sectors.
The Fund is not doing this alone, but engaged in partnership with various countries like Singapore, Israel, Brazil, among others, in a bid to fully develop skills in various fields of human endeavours. The vision of the Fund is to fully develop the potentials and upload on the national economy for development.
Over one-and-half years since his appointment, there is cheering news that the ITF is solidly on course and committed to tackling the targets it set for itself when the new leadership assumed power. Having identified the relevance of the ITF’s targets for national development, the Chairman of the newly constituted Governing Council of the Industrial Training Fund (ITF), Alhaji Musa Gwadabe, recently pledged to work closely with the Federal Ministry of Industry, Trade and Investment and the management of the Fund in order to leave an enviable legacy after their tenure as Council of the ITF. Disclosing this at the maiden meeting of the Council at the ITF Headquarters in Jos, the Council Chairman charged members of the 13-man Council to view their appointment as a rare opportunity afforded them by the Federal Government to oversee the affairs of the ITF that is saddled with the herculean responsibility of training and re-training Nigerians in various sectors of the economy for job creation. Expressing confidence and trust on current efforts of the Management of the Fund for achievements recorded thus far, the Council Chairman vowed to do its bests and move the Fund to greater heights, adding that the Council he chairs will support management deliver on its mandates.
Combating Initial Hiccups
The operations of the fund have not been without hiccups and challenges. Taking cognisance of the paucity of funds, the current administration under President Buhari has been desirous of ensuring the realisation of ITF mandates that is anchored on broadening skills acquisition and empowering Nigerians to contribute to the development of the country. More worrisome is the billions of naira owed to the Students Industrial Work Experience Scheme (SIWES), programme before the advent of this administration.
Realising the relevance of the SIWES programme, Sir Ari has appealed to members of the National Assembly to do the needful and appropriate funds to pay SIWES supervisory and students’ allowances. Making this appeal when members of the Senate Committee on Trade, Industry and Investment visited the headquarters of the Fund in Jos, Sir Ari appealed; “One area we plead with the National Assembly to assist is in appropriations for the Students Industrial Work Experience Scheme (SIWES).
“As you may be aware, the ITF is vested with management of the scheme. Funding for same, however, is the sole responsibility of federal government. Unfortunately, whereas participation in the Scheme has soared due to increased licensing of tertiary institutions and disciplines accredited for the scheme, appropriations for allowances of Supervisors and Students have not reflected such exponential increases leading to a situation where ITF is owing billions as unpaid SIWES supervisory and students allowances”.
In his remarks, Chairman of the Committee, Senator Sam Egwu, said, “The purpose of this oversight visit is to conduct an assessment on the level of judicious budgetary implementation by the Fund, particularly the 2016 approved appropriation. Further to this, we demand to check the level of compliance with the extant Act of the Fund (2011 As Amended).”
Considering the robust relationship with members of the National Assembly, not a few analysts are predicting brighter days ahead. In recognition of the required synergy of providing funds for the operations of the Fund, the assurances by the lawmaker has become a shot in the arm in advancing the objectives of the ITF.
Collaborating With Foreign Countries
The need to engage other countries in advancing the dreams of the Fund has also been on the agenda. Apart from engaging Singapore, Brazil, among others in broadening skills acquisition programmes, the ITF has also sent staffers to under study the skills acquisition programme as embarked upon by some of these countries. Since his appointment, Sir Ari has been engaged in equipping skills centres with equipment sourced from foreign countries.
In the early days of his appointment, Sir Ari has left no stone unturned in equipping the Abuja Model Skills Training Centre. “We have condensed and compressed classes for those who have lingered too long in the programme to be graduated. We have done this in just four months.”
The ITF was also able to get approval from the National Board for Technical Education (NBTE), that equates it certificate to that of National Diploma. As at now, we are focusing on certification.
“I am happy to inform you that we have already secured certification approval. When we wrote to them, they came and inspected our facilities. The certificate says it allows us to operate as an innovation Enterprise institution with effect from 27, December 2016. Our own programmes fall within the ambit of what has been approved in other institutions.
“These are building construction technology; Computer hardware engineering, welding and fabrication. So, graduates of these programmes will be certificated which are now recognised. In addition to this, we followed up to the Federal Ministry of Education. We now have approval for it to operate as a national diploma. After that the student can now go for their HND,” Sir Ari said.
Why ITF Is Partnering With Singapore
There is no doubt that models from other countries may provide inspiration, but the ability of leadership to chart new paths for development cannot be overemphasized. That explains why the ITF has been engaged in collaborating with Singapore to assist in strengthening the skill acquisition capacity of Nigeria.
“Singapore is developed on account of its ability to develop the skills of its citizens. With this level of technical education for its citizenry, it is able to become the anchor of development. The choice of Singapore was deliberate as it is one of the few countries that has deployed technical education to develop. It has more experience on the job training than theory. What we need to emphasise here in this country is practical, rather than theory.
“There is no way a nation can develop without working round the clock to develop various skills of its citizenry. The ITF is poised to develop the potentials of the people and harness them for the development of the country. We are also in partnership with SENAI of Brazil. We are in partnership with Galilee International of Israel. These are the bedrock of the country’s economies. Technical education and acquisition of skills for development is also the bedrock of Singapore’s economy. This was set up by Lee Kwan Yu. When we went to the country, we discovered that the model was good for us.
“The Singaporeans came and constructed everything for us at the MSTC. It is the same standard you have in Singapore. It is expected that after the installation of the offshore equipment, the Singaporeans will remain for some time, and thereafter leave the scene after Nigerians have taken charge. Already, we have Nigerians who have been trained in Singapore to handle these facilities. But we need the Singaporeans to commence training and thereafter leave the scene for Nigerians to fully take charge,” Sir Ari once declared in a media interview.
Empowering Youths With Skills To Stem Rising Migration
Following the recent harrowing misfortunes and avoidable deaths on the Mediterranean sea by youths fleeing to Europe for better prospects, the ITF has been engaged in delivering skills to youths in order to empower them stave off further drift to Europe in search of greener pastures. Calling on stakeholders to partner with the ITF to end the misfortunes of youths dying on the high seas, Sir Ari called for urgent steps in ending what he described harrowing experiences by Nigerians migrating to Europe and other African countries to eke out a living.
Equipping youths and providing them with skills for employment and entrepreneurial adventure, according to the Fund’s helmsman, is capable of staving off further rising migration. The ITF’s helmsman therefore wondered why youths are looking for greener pastures in Europe and other African countries when surveys by the ITF and other organizations have clearly indicated skills gaps that were being filled by foreigners. In a bid to fill these skills gaps, the ITF, according to its Director General has embarked on a number of initiatives and expanded existing programmes to ensure that more Nigerians are empowered with skills to check unemployment and promote entrepreneurship.
According to him, “Some of the programmes including, the National Industrial Skills Development Programme (NISDP), Passion to Profession, Training on Wheels Using Mobile Training Units, the Women Skills Empowerment Programme (WOSEP), the Technical Skills Development Project (TSDP), as well as the Vulnerable and Indigent Youth Empowerment Programme (VIYEP), amongst several others”.
In a bid to fast track skills acquisition to Nigerians, the Director General said the Fund, through NISDP, has trained over 100,000 Nigerians since inception, but quickly added that under the current phase, comprising the 36 states and the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), the ITF is training 11,100 trainees with skills in Welding and Fabrication, Tailoring and Garment Making, and Plumbing and Pipe Fitting.
70,000 Youths Participated In NISDP
In the last one year, Sir Ari revealed that no fewer than 70,000 Nigerians benefited from these skills acquisition programmes, adding that all the beneficiaries were given starter packs to start their businesses, adding “about 90 percent of the beneficiaries are either currently successful entrepreneurs or earning livelihoods as paid employees according to the monitoring and evaluation of graduates conducted by the ITF”.
In identifying with the collaboration of both private and public agencies in order to check unemployment and promote entrepreneurship, the ITF has always called on state governments to collaborate with the Fund towards the establishment of Industrial Skill Training Centres (ISTCs) that are to be managed by the ITF on their behalf.
Taking a long appraisal of the population explosion that may be made worse by absence of skilled work force, the ITF Chief Executive Officer reiterated on the need to equip the youth with skills in order to attain development for the nation. With the country’s population estimated to hit 250 million in 2030, the time is now for Nigerians to embrace skills acquisition as the only means of avoiding an uncertain future populated by unskilled hands.
Creating Innovations For Skills Development
In a bid to broaden skills development for the country’s teeming youths, the ITF has restated its commitment to improving as well as taking giant strides with renewed skills and vigour towards creating innovations.
Taking into consideration of the Fund’s main mandate of the Agency which “is aimed at realizing the mandate of skills development sufficient to meet the needs of the Nigerian economy in the public and private sector,” the roles of stakeholders in the affairs of the Fund has brightened the prospects in attaining the dreams of the ITF.
Growing Interest on ITF’s Programmes
The renewed vision of the ITF has attracted interests from not only states, but the organised private sector. Just recently, the ITF embarked on state visits to avail governors on the need to take advantage of ITF programmes in providing skills to youths and providing a platform for empowerment. In line with attracting relevant stakeholders to be part of the ITF’s renewed vision, the Plateau State Government under Barr. Simon Lalong has been engaged in not only encouraging youths from the state, but also expressed confidence that current unprecedented efforts at providing skills to the nation’s youths is the right approach to ensuring a safe future.
Governor Lalong, who is full of applauses to the ITF for its immense efforts in creating jobs for the youths, added that he had no doubt that Sir Ari would perform well when he was appointed the Director General by President Buhari.
He charged the trainees to take good advantage of this opportunity provided by the ITF to become employers of Labour. One of the trainees, Mr. Audu Emmanuel, who was trained in Plumbing, thanked the management of the ITF and pledged on behalf of all trainees to multiply the new knowledge acquired.
Sir Ari is full of commendation for Governor Lalong, whom he described as a believer in skills acquisition for youths. The DG called on states and other stakeholders for support and assistance towards promoting ITF’s intervention programmes like the Women Skills Empowerment Programme (WOSEP), Technical Skills Development Project (TSDP), and Agripreneur, which are targeted at job/wealth creation.Bridging the Skill Gap For Development
The ITF recently presented a report on skill gap assessment to enhance government investment in skill development of Nigerians. The report, according to analysts will go a long way in providing roadmap in bridging the skills needs of the youth and provide an effective means providing the much needed skills for development.
With the right leadership in place at the ITF, the march to realising the renewed vision as encapsulated by the Fund is on course. As the Sir Ari-led management of the ITF continues in its irrevocable commitment in tackling skill deficits in Nigeria, there seems to be a silver lining in the nation’s skies in developing non-oil sector and empowering the country’s teeming youths.