Over six months since assuming the headship of the Industrial Training Fund (ITF), Sir Joseph N. Ari has walked his talk in a bid to rejig the Fund’s fortunes and enhance the manpower needs of the nation. COBHAM NSA, who has been monitoring ITF’s activities, reviews the performance profile of the new management striving to achieve its renewed vision, among other set goals
Upon his appointment as Director General of the Industrial Training Fund (ITF) by President Muhammadu Buhari in September 2016, Sir Ari was described by industry watchers as the man tailored for the job, having served the Fund in various capacities. Before his assumption of office, ITF had experienced hard times, with workers demanding fairer deals on welfare matters. Welfare packages such as the ITF Staff Revolving Loan Scheme had either ceased or were reserved for a select group of favoured staffers.
So, he came to the job with an extensive and varied public service experience; great problem solving skills; and a track record of achievements in all positions held both within and outside the Fund. Holder of a Diploma in Broadcast Journalism, Post Graduate Diploma in Journalism and Management, Degree in Law, as well as Master’s Degree in Law and Business Administration (MBA), Sir Ari is one of a kind technocrat, quite knowledgeable in public service affairs.
Realising the need to hit the ground running, Ari has taken proactive steps in rallying the workforce to improve on the dwindling fortunes of the Fund that before now was headed to the valley. As a deep insider on the workings of ITF, Ari, within two months of his appointment, launched a new ITF vision to address and redress these challenges in line with Federal Government’s policy thrust of economic diversification and industrialization as encapsulated by the present administration. Working on the Fund’s mandate, the new envisioned plan hinges on providing adequate skilled manpower to drive sustainable economic growth and development. In tackling these challenges, the ITF leadership has devised a holistic approach towards providing employable skills for job and wealth creation in areas where Nigeria has comparative advantage. These include Agro–Allied, Construction, Services, ICT and Digital jobs, Metal and Solid minerals, Light Manufacturing and Oil and Gas.
Apart from unveiling a plan that is radically different from previous attempts at repositioning the ITF for effective mandate delivery, current efforts by the Sir Ari-led management team represent the Fund’s most ambitious and comprehensive design since its establishment. Considering the need to adhere to timelines in achieving specific targets, the reviewed vision categorises the goals into quick wins, medium and long term goals, with effective strategies.
Quick Wins Strategies
The Sir Ari-led management has categorised its vision into quick wins, medium and long term goals. The quick wins seek to resolve key challenges and turn the tides in favour of development, while also providing skills acquisition expertise. Additionally, the quick wins goals offer a “platform for the proactive participation of employers of labour in skills development; and ensure full optimization of employers’ training facilities for improved opportunities.”
In the Job Matching System categorised under the quick wins, ITF’s objectives is to create 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; significantly enhance the ability of Nigerians to put their skills to work; and unlock the market for work.”
Besides ensuring collaboration with relevant agencies and organisations for the sole purpose of ensuring synergy and strengthening the Fund’s capacity to deliver on her mandate, the new leadership also envisions deepening “relationships with stakeholders; sensitizing the public on activities and programmes of the Fund and working towards cross fertilisation of ideas among stakeholders.”
Under the medium term vision, the ITF seeks to “provide relevant knowledge, skills and attitude for productivity improvement; offer opportunity for the employed to enhance performance on the job; and create opportunity for the under-employed to upscale their skills for better job placement.”
In the apprenticeship cadre, the ITF is developing technical skills for job creation. Here, the strategy envisions a standardised curriculum for training delivery and generating a pool of competent, craftsmen and artisans. The objectives of the apprenticeship programme is to assess company facilities, personnel and training contents; standardise training facilities, instructional materials and learning modules; monitor training implementation and compliance; grant approval; collaborate with relevant agencies for competency certification; and generating a database for the Fund.
With the assistance of the German DVT (German Chamber of Crafts and Commerce), the Fund is out to ensure the ITF MSTC Abuja and ISTC Ikeja become operational soonest. It is projected that before December 2018 ending, no fewer than 400 apprentices will be equipped with various skills from these centres. The Fund is also strategizing on setting ‘training standards in all sectors of the economy; certifying vocational skills acquired by apprentices, craftsmen and technicians in collaboration with relevant organizations; conducting audit exercise of ITF Centres, using TVET-UK; conducting Centre audits for industries; undertaking Safety and Environmental audits for Industries, conducting Quality Management System audit; developing internal capacity to conduct the above Audits; providing training for certification; and developing internal capacity of assessors and verifiers in training Centres for testing apprentices, craftsmen and technicians.’
Long Term Visions
Among the long term vision of ITF’s management is the establishment of Industrial Skills Training Centres (ISTCs) in the South-East, South-South and North-East geo-political zones, with the centres sited in Aba, Abakaliki, Port Harcourt and Jalingo. This strategy will be achieved through acquisition of land and building of workshops and offices; installation of relevant equipment and machinery; development of indigenous capacity to man the Centres; designing and implementing appropriate training programmes in all the centres.
Also in this category is the establishment of three automotive parts production and training centres in line with the Federal Government Automotive Policy. The Centres will be located in Badagry, Nnewi and Kaduna. The objectives 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 this automotive policy vision is to develop indigenous capacity to man the Centres; acquire and install relevant equipment and machinery; as well as design and implement appropriate training programmes.
Similarly, as part of value added policy of the present administration, ITF is set to establish ISTCs in all the 36 states and the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), Abuja, before the end of 2022. To achieve this feat, the Fund will collaborate with State Governments to acquire 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 as well as design and implement appropriate training modules. The main objective is to extend ITF technical/vocational training to all states of the Federation for job creation, poverty alleviation and inclusive growth.
To consolidate on skills acquisition, the Fund will also establish Centres of Advanced Skills Training for Employment (CASTE) in the six geo-political zones. Furthermore, the plans is to set up three specialised centres in Oil and Gas. To realising this dream, ITF would work on developing indigenous capacity to man the Centres; acquire and install relevant equipment and machinery, including designing and implementing appropriate training programmes aimed at extending the Fund’s technical/vocational training to the oil and gas sector.
Walking Tough On The Vision
In its resolve to ensure the success of its quick-wins strategies, the management has so far made laudable strides and going forward with Batch B of the fifth phase of the National Industrial Skill Development Programme (NISDP). This programme, which involves 9,500 youths from 18 states of the Federation, commenced in February 2017 and the 6th phase will have additional 18,000 youths across the Federation, including the Federal Capital Territory.
According to the Director General, 500 youths identified in each of the 18 states will be selected in the new phase of NISDP. Describing the NISDP as one of President Muhammadu Buhari’s initiatives in the areas of job and wealth creation; industrial growth; and sustainable development being actualised by the Fund, Ari had said, “As part of its contribution for the actualisation of the initiative, the Industrial Training Fund (ITF) will commence the next phase of the National Industrial Skills Development Programme (NISDP) on 1st March, 2017.
“Under this phase, the programme will provide requisite employable skills to 500 Nigerians from each of the 18 states of the Federation that have been earmarked to benefit from the programme. The states are Akwa-Ibom, Bayelsa, Benue, Edo, Ekiti, Enugu, Gombe, Imo, Jigawa, Kano, Kebbi, Kogi, Ondo, Osun, Oyo, Rivers, Taraba and Yobe,” Ari announced.
In his words: “Under a tripartite arrangement involving the ITF, Small and Medium Enterprises Development Agency of Nigeria (SMEDAN) and Bank of Industry (BoI), trainees will be provided hands-on vocational and entrepreneurial skills, as well as modalities for business financing”.
Also, realising the key role of Agriculture in developing Nigeria’s economy, ITF, in January 2017, commenced the training of 1,700 youths, using existing farms as training centres in collaboration with financial bodies and off-takers of farm produce. The Agric programme covers poultry, fish farming, crop production and feed processing in 24 pilot states across the six geo-political zones.
Considering the high level of unemployment among the nation’s teeming youths, ITF has already keyed into President Buhari’s vision of tackling the monster of idleness as a potential threat within the youth population by engendering development in the construction industry. The negative impacts of economic recession have pushed many Nigerians to hopelessness and despair. Therefore, as a shield against these harsh times, ITF is set to equip Nigerian youths with requisite skills to develop the construction and services industry. Both sectors are targeted, considering the obvious skills gaps and their potential for employment generation.
With a target to train 18,500 Nigerians in the construction sector in 2017 alone, the Fund has declared its resolve to equip Nigerians with skills in welding and fabrication, reinforcing metal works, domestic electrical installation, carpentry and joinery, tiling, masonry, block and brick making, plumbing and pipe fitting and Plaster Of Paris (POP) making.
By the reviewed vision, ITF will deploy its Industrial Skills Training Centres and selected satellite centres to realise set goals. To ensure effective achievement of this laudable vision, the Fund will partner with agencies and organisations for necessary technical and financial assistance.
Already, ITF is equipping Nigerians with skills in these specific areas as indicated in its January to March 2017 action plan that flagged off with the training of about 3,700 Nigerians, with specific aim of providing them with employable skills in: (i) Welding and Fabrication; (ii) Reinforcing Metal Works; iii. Domestic Electrical Installation; (iv) Carpentry and Joinery; (v) Tiling; (vi) Masonry; (vii) Block and Brick Making; (viii) Plumbing and Pipe Fitting; and (ix) Plaster of Paris
In the Services’ industry, capacity building has commenced in 17 trade and craft areas covering GSM repairs, generator repairs, computer hardware repairs, software installation, marketing, catering services, event management, automobile and tri-cycle maintenance and repairs. Others include: Autotronics, tailoring, air condition and refrigeration maintenance and repairs, ICT web design, satellite dish installation and maintenance, facility maintenance and repairs and interior decoration. In all, over 9,250 Nigerians will be equipped with these vital skills between January and December, 2017.
Graduate Skills Programme
In partnership with the National Youth Service Corps (NYSC), about 3,000 graduates of tertiary Institutions will be provided with employable skills. Also, the ITF-NECA Skills Development Programme (TSDP) will have ITF providing 750 youths with employable skills, using the OPS training centres (50 youths per centre). For equitable distribution, all the six geo-political zones are captured in the programme. Going forward, the ITF Industrial Skills Training Centres (ISTCs) is expected to produce about 7,425 highly skilled youths in 15 trade areas. With three mobile workshops in trade areas like: Air conditioning and Refrigeration; Industrial Sewing; Instrumentation and Process Control, ITF plans to deploy the youths for regular training programmes as part of efforts to bring its services closer to the rural areas.
On the UNIDO-ITF Skills Gap Study, the report has been concluded and is presently being edited in preparation for public presentation.
The management has also intensified efforts at commissioning the following centres: (i) ISTC Lokoja; (ii) Minna Area Office; (iii) ISTC Kano; and (iv) Lagos Island Area Office. In collaboration with relevant government agencies and financial institutions, the Fund is focused on promoting Micro Small and Medium Enterprises (MSMEs), including providing business support services and linkages (Networking and Business mentoring). There is also engagement on Process and Productivity Improvement Training (PPIT) to achieve the sole objective of impacting positively on about 132 companies nationwide in various skills acquisition centres.
On the card also is the plan by the ITF to convene Nigeria Skills Summit with concrete deliverables through actionable steps for developing employable skills in Nigeria; examining best practices for aligning skills development to market needs; and Leveraging on the summit outcome to develop a national skills’ policy.
Rallying Stakeholders For Support
To achieve any vision; there is need for stakeholders’ collaboration. In the last six months, the Director General has been engaged in visits and familiarising himself with challenges facing various state offices of the Fund. Aside visiting corporate organisations and traditional monarchs, Sir Ari has also visited many governors and engaged them on the ITF’s renewed and reviewed mandate and vision. More than any management in the past, the Ari-led team is upbeat, carrying the staffers along and ensuring they are favourably disposed to the new vision of taking ITF to new heights of concrete achievements.
Keeping Firm And Focused
Irrevocably committed to providing dynamic and proactive services in line with the Federal Government’s economic growth agenda, the ITF management is singing a new tune of a better future where all its set goals will be achieved within the stipulated framework and timeframe.
It is against this backdrop that the Fund reviewed its vision and developed policy and implementation strategies to position itself as a leading light in human capital development. This is not only to continuously strengthen the Federal Government’s policy on diversification and industrialization, but also to breathe required life into the nation’s economy.
To achieve this onerous task of providing the required skills for national development, ITF is not only seeking the cooperation, but also galvanising the support of all stakeholders in skills development for job creation, particularly agencies under the Federal Ministry of Industry, Trade and Investment (FMITI), the OPS, Media and International Collaborators.
Considering the bold initiatives at moving the Fund forward for greater achievement in the face of current economic recession and upgrading the skills of Nigerians in various human endeavours, the prospects of broadening Nigeria’s economic potential through skills acquisition have assumed an irrevocable dimension and possibility. With its renewed vision in place, ITF is therefore fixed on the path of attaining countless feats in developing the nation’s manpower for economic prosperity.