The Director General, Industrial Training Fund (ITF), Sir Joseph N. Ari is not media shy when confronted with issues concerning the Fund’s operations. Recently he took up the gauntlet of engaging journalists on early strides made by his new team since assuming office in September 2016. COBHAM NSA takes a look at the initial quick fixes embarked upon by the Sir Ari-led management and ITF’s renewed vision of actualizing its mandate as outlined in President Muhammadu Buhari’s vision of diversifying the Nigerian economy
Sir Joseph N Ari’s emergence as the Director General, Industrial Training Fund (ITF) in September 2016 may have taken many stakeholders by surprise, but the Plateau-born bureaucrat has left no one in doubt about his irrevocable commitment to ensure the Fund carves a niche for itself as a major player in Nigeria’s drive towards a diversified economy. In his belief, there should be no stopping the ITF in attaining its statutory mandate of empowering Nigerians with skill acquisition needed to engender sustainable socio-economic growth and development in the country.
With vast human resources and an impressive population that could serve as an impetus for development, the new ITF management anchors its vision on providing technology-based knowledge as the fulcrum of growth to push the button of accelerated development to the optimal level.
Hitting The Ground Running
An action man personified, ITF Director General did hit the ground running by identifying quick fixes with time lines in compliance with the Fund’s mandate as provided Decree No. 47 that established it in 1971.
As enshrined in the law establishing it, the major functions/mandates of the Fund include: To provide, promote and encourage the acquisition of skills in Industry and Commerce with a view to generating a pool of indigenous trained manpower sufficient to meet the needs of the national economy; To provide training for skills in Management for technical and entrepreneurial development in the public and private sectors of the economy; To set training standards in all sectors of the economy and monitor adherence; To evaluate and certify vocational skills acquired by apprentices, craftsmen and technician in collaboration with relevant organizations; and To administer Students Industrial Work Experience Scheme (SIWES) on behalf of the Federal Government.
Since its establishment 45 years ago, the Fund has left on its trail laudable achievements by equipping no fewer than 14 million Nigerians with employable and entrepreneurial skills. This is aside the managerial, supervisory and other capacity building programmes implemented for the public and private sectors of the economy.
Key Focus Areas
With a fresh zest to deliver on ITF’s mandate in line with the present administration’s vision and philosophy, especially in key areas of Fighting corruption; Providing adequate security for lives and property; Job creation/reduction of Youth Unemployment; Infrastructural Development (including good health care delivery); and Entrepreneurial Development (innovation and creativity)
For every vision to be realized, relevant strategies must be evolved with the focus beamed on attaining positive end results.
To realise this renewed vision, the management has evolve strategies to reinvigorate and reposition the Fund for productive engagement and effective mandate delivery to the public. Given the track records of many other nations in terms of development, the ITF team has taken a cue from the industrialized nations like Brazil, Singapore and China that dug deep into skills acquisition arena by harnessing their skilled manpower and promoting less dependence on mono-economy to decently leap from developing to developed economies.
Furthermore, empirical evidence from several skills gaps surveys revealed that despite soaring unemployment, especially among youths, vacancies still exist that are currently filled by persons other than Nigerians. Considering the imperative of redressing past challenges, the Fund has carefully reviewed the trend and aligned its mandates/functions with the Federal Government’s policy thrust of economic diversification and industrialization as espoused by the President Buhari administration. In recognition of the charge handed down to the management by the Ministers of Industry Trade and Investment, Dr. Okechukwu Enelamah and Hajiya Aisha Abubakar to the effect that 2017 is a year of performance and a defining period for Nigeria and Nigerians, the Fund has set out to reinvigorate and reposition itself with a clear Road map on its modus operandi.
ITF Reviewed Vision
Resolute in evolving effective strategies and push towards successful realisation of set goals, the Sir Ari-led team has evolved a holistic approach tagged, ‘ITF Reviewed Vision: Strategies for Mandate Actualization’. Besides providing time lines on targeted goals, the document identifies three sections and specific time frame to attain such goals. They include: Quick wins (October 2016 to March 2017); Medium Term (April 2017 to March 2018) and Long Term (April 2018 to 2019).
The journey so far (October to December 2016)
For the National Industrial Skills Development Programme (NISDP) between October and December 2016, no fewer than 10,100 youths acquired employable skills under the Quick Wins programme that is an offshoot of the National Enterprise Development Programme (NEDEP).
Under the Student Industrial Work Experience Scheme (SIWES), the management recognised that non-payment of allowances to participants had adversely affected the smooth running of the scheme. In a bid to turn things around and restore stakeholders’ confidence in the scheme, especially students, the management paid out over N965,222,982 million to over 79,852 students from 136 tertiary institutions across the country. Also, to fashion out new operational guidelines for SIWES, a forum of regulatory agencies was convened on December 6, 2016 and it dovetailed into an enlarged/expanded SIWES stakeholders’ forum for robust engagement to enhance the Scheme.
Again, strongly supporting the need for constant training by employers to equip their employees with requisite skills, ITF has continued to encourage internal and external skills acquisition trainings for workers. Already, the management has commenced reimbursement of training cost. Between October and December 2016, the sum of N2,206,305,343.34 billion was paid to 277 companies as reimbursement claims in line with the Act with further commitment that the management would always ensure speedy payment of reimbursement claims.
Model Skills Training Centre (MSTC)
Conceived in 2010 by the ITF, the Centre eventually took off in 2011. It went through many ‘due processes’, together with Institute of Technical Education Services of Singapore. So, the MSTC is a Singaporean Experience. The Fund was desirous of foreign expertise to evolve lasting and productive system that could assist Nigeria in developing its potentials as a nation. In effect, the Centre was established to run in five trades areas namely, Mechatronics, Computer Networking; Electrical Electronics, ICT; and Culinary. They all have international certification. ITF’s current plan for the course of the training, which is modular in nature, involves the Singaporeans coming into the country to set the exams, mark them and release the results for the students. It is a two-year training course. Within the two years, it is expected that trainees would be sufficiently equipped with all required skills to develop their capacity and potential for productive ventures.
The task of developing MSTC has received priority attention from the management since coming on board six months ago. With the Centre giving ITF a negative image in the past, the management, on assumption of duty, tackled the matter head long by doing the following among others: Secured Ministerial Tender Board’s approval for the procurement of all outstanding equipment in some of the Trade Areas; Awarded contract for the supply of these equipment with time line of supply; Secured approval of training programme from the Federal Ministry of Education on the issue of National Diploma Certification; and Secured approval from the National Board for Technical Board (NBTE) in respect of the National Innovative Diploma. This is to enhance the trainees’ status upon graduation. In addition, there is the National Institute of Technical Education Certificate (NITEC) due to the graduands in line with the partnership of ITEES of Singapore; Additionally, Management set up a committee comprising staff and trainees to address other challenges associate with the MSTC’s operations; and Commencement of classes in February with a September 2017 timeline for graduation.
Within the period under review between October and December 2017, ITF graduated 274 trainees graduated from our ISTCs in Lagos and Kano in various trade areas. 21 trainees graduated at Truck Masters under our Training Skills Development Programme (TSDP) which is run in collaboration with Nigerian Employer’s Consultative Association (NECA) the umbrella body of the Organized Private Sector.
Engaging collaborations with relevant countries has been a strong factor in sourcing for both local and international expertise. Within this period, the Fund has firmed up collaborative efforts with local and international organisations as shown below: (i) Galilee International Management Institute (GIMI) Israel. Six staff of the Fund just returned from training in Food Production and Processing; (ii) SENAI Brazil also for capacity building; (iii) Institute of Technical Education, Education Services (ITEES) Singapore for apprenticeship training; and (iv) German DVT, GIZ Apprenticeship Training and the Organized Private Sector.
The Fund has on a continuous basis carried out Needs Assessment taking into cognizance the identified sectors for industrialization as captured in the Nigeria Industrial Revolution Plan (NIRP) document and strategic framework for job creation. Also, the Fund is focusing on providing employable skills in areas where Nigerians have comparative advantage, they are (i) Agro-Allied; (ii) Construction; (iii) Services; (iv) ICT and Digital Jobs; (v) Metal and Solid Minerals; (vi) Light Manufacturing and Oil and Gas.
In the last three months under assessment, the Fund has maintained industrial harmony through strict adherence to the condition of service and internal staff capacity building to meet current and emerging challenges in the economy.
Quick Wins From January – March, 2017
In its avowed determination to ensure success of its quick wins strategies, ITF’s target is to accomplish the following in continuation of low-hanging fruits (Quick Wins), and going forward with Batch B of the fifth phase of the NISDP that will involve 9,500 youths from 18 states of the Federation that commenced in February 2017 and the 6th phase of the NISDP involving 18,000 youths in the Federation, including the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) that is, 250 per state.
Realising the key role of Agriculture in developing the nation’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 covering the 6 geo-political zones of the country.
To combat the threat of unemployment among youths, the Fund has already keyed into President Buhari’s vision of tackling the monster of idleness as a potential threat among the youth population through engendering development in the construction industry. Considering the negative impacts of economic downturn, the current recession has pushed many Nigerians down the slopes of hopelessness and despair. But the Sir Ari-led ITF is set to ensure Nigerians are equipped with requisite skills to develop the construction and services industry. These sectors are being targeted in view of the obvious skills gaps and their potentials for employment generation.
With a targeted vision of training 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.
According to the new plan, the reviewed vision will deploy the ITF Industrial Skills Training Centres and selected satellite centres to realise its objectives. To ensure achievement of this laudable vision, the Fund will partner with agencies and organisations like Cement Technology Institute of Nigeria (CTIN), Nigerian Institute of Builders (NIOB), Julius Berger Plc and SETRACO, among others for the necessary technical and financial assistance.
Already the Fund is equipping Nigerians with skills in these areas as indicated in its January to March 2017 action plan, just as 3,700 Nigerians are expected to be trained and provided 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
For the Services’ industry, the Fund has commenced capacity building of Nigerians in 17 trade and craft areas such as GSM repairs, generator repairs, computer hardware repairs, software installation, marketing, catering services, event management, automobile and tri-cycle maintenance and repairs, 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, about 9,250 Nigerians will be equipped with these vital skills between January and December, 2017.
In addition, the Fund recognizes that adequate skills training infrastructure are required if more Nigerians must be equipped with skills, and has stepped up efforts with moves to formally commission the Lokoja ISTC, even as plans are underway to set up 36 Industrial Skills Training Centres in the 36 states of the Federation and the Federal Capital Territory (FCT). Similarly, three Automotive Parts Production and Training Centres will be established in Badagary, Nnewi and Kaduna, while six Centres of Advanced Skills Training for Employment (CASTE) are to be sited in the six geo-political zones of the country. Also, three specialized Centres in Oil and Gas will be established soon. All these projects are expected to be completed between 2018 and 2020. Indeed, it has been quite an active time for the ITF management with capacity building for over 3,700 Nigerians in 17 Vocational Trade areas
Graduate Up Skilling Programme
The Fund is set to provide about 3,000 graduates of Tertiary Institutions with employable skills in partnership with the National Youth Service Corps (NYSC). Under the ITF-NECA Skills Development Programme (TSDP), ITF will provide 750 youths with employable skills, using the OPS training centres (50 youths per centre). All the six geo-political zones will be captured in the program. 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 such as: Industrial Sewing; Air conditioning and Refrigeration; and Instrumentation and Process Control, the Fund plans to deploy them for regular training programmes as part of efforts to bring its services closer to the rural areas.
On the UNIDO-ITF Skills Gap Study, it is important to note that the report has been concluded and is presently being edited in preparation for public presentation.
In a bid to promote apprenticeship by establishing model training schemes in industry through – Appraisal, Installation and Harmonization, about 2,000 artisans have been penciled down to participate in this programme.
The ITF intends to commission the following centres: (i) ISTC Lokoja; (ii) Minna Area Office; (iii) ISTC Kano; and (iv) Lagos Island Area Office.
Promoting Micro Small and Medium Enterprises (MSMEs)
The Fund intends to provide this through Business support services and linkages (Networking and Business mentoring)
Process and Productivity Improvement Training (PPIT)
To achieve the PPIT’s objectives, the Fund intends to positively impact about 132 companies nationwide with an avalanche of trainees from its various skills acquisition centres.
Plans are on for ITF to convene Nigeria Skills Summit with concrete deliverables through actionable steps for developing employable skills in Nigeria; Examine best practices for aligning skills development to market needs; and Leverage on the summit outcome to develop a national skills policy
Here, the Fund has identified as imperative the setting up/establishment of one Automative Parts Production and Training Centres through facilitating Automotives Part Import Substitution; Developing requisite skills in Automative spare parts production; and Encouraging local production of automotive spare part.
The ITF management intends to leverage on our three (3Es) which are Expanse – Presence in every state of the Federation, including Abuja with 33 Area Offices and 5 ISTCs; Expertise – Over 2,000 staff with specialization in various discipline; and Experience – Over 45 years and still counting.
Irrevocably committed to providing dynamic and proactive services aimed at achieving its mandate in line with the current Federal Government’s agenda, the ITF management is singing a new tune 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 came up with policy and implementation strategies meant to position itself as a leading light in Human Capital Development that would continuously strengthen the Federal Government’s policy on diversification, industrialization and subsequently breathe required life into the nation’s economy.
For sure, many stakeholders have endorsed ITF’s modus operandi at this precarious time as a necessary blueprint that would enable the Fund leaves indelible footprints of development on the nation’s sands of time. But as the Fund strives to secure the future and ensure Nigeria’s development through technology-based knowledge to safeguard our posterity, industry watchers are quick to advice that undue external interference in the Fund’s internal workings should be avoided as a deadly plague.
And to achieve the onerous task of providing the required skills for national development, Forefront reliably gathered that ITF is not only seeking the cooperation but also galvanising the support of all stakeholders in skills development for job creation, especially Agencies under Federal Ministry of Industry, Trade and Investment (FMITI), the OPS, Media and International Collaborators.
Going forward, evidence of the initial milestone recorded by the Fund in the last couple of months under review, it is obvious the Sir Ari-led team is on a firm path of realising the ITF’s renewed vision of greater Nigeria and Nigerians with requisite skills to engender sustainable economic development and growth in the polity.