Sunday, September 15, 2013

Nigerian varsity system producing unemployable graduates – Wapmuk

The Industrial Training Fund (ITF), established by Decree 47 of 1971,
as amended in the 2011 ITF Act, was set up to provide, promote and
encourage the acquisition of skills in commerce and industry with a
view to churning out generations of skilled manpower sufficient to
meet the nation's needs.
But with expatriates all over the country now, has the organisation
been living up to expectation? Its Director General, Prof. Longmas
Sambo Wapmuk, says yes, but quickly adds that the influx of
expatriates is not unconnected with the inability of the nations'
higher institutions to produce quality graduates. He laments that
finance has been the main clog in the wheel of progress of the
According to him, out of the 867,000 companies that are to remit 1 per
cent of their annual staff salaries to the agency, only about 20,000
do so, leaving 847,000 companies out of its reach.This, he blames for
ITF funding woes.
In this interview with Daily Sun, Wapmuk sheds light on the way forward.
National development
The ITF is a very important national institution, charged with a lot
of responsibilities and to be specific, it is set up to provide,
promote and encourage the acquisition of skills in commerce and
industry with a view to regenerating a pool of skilled manpower
sufficient to meet the needs of the Nigerian economy. It has a very
important role of training and developing high level skilled manpower
for the economy. It is also expected to empower the youth with skills
to enable them get employed set up their own businesses. That is
basically the responsibility of Industrial Training Fund. Likewise ITF
is charged with the responsibilty of managing the Students Industrial
Work Experience Scheme (SIWES). This scheme was set up three years
after the establishment of ITF and it remains to provide internship
opportunity for students studying technical courses in the
universities, polytechnics or colleges of education. For the
university, they are expected to spend six months out of their
training periods on attachment to organisations, while for the
polytechnic or colleges of education, the period is four months during
the period of their trainings. It is intended to bridge the gap
between theories and practice and also to get the students prepared
for the world of work at the time they are graduating.
Expatriates influx
The problem now is that Nigeria has trained a lot of people both at
the university level as well as polytechnic and technical
institutions. But these trainees are not properly trained because of
certain inadequacies in our educational system. You found out that a
lot of our education institutions have obsolete equipment where they
exist at all. As a result of that most of the students trained find it
difficult to fit in properly to the work environment. So the
Manufacturers Association of Nigeria (MAN) have complained about the
inadequacies in skills of graduates coming out of our institutions and
hence has to train them for a period of one or two years before they
are competent to perform optimally in their organisations. As a result
of this poor quality products from these institutions, the foreign
companies are constrained to go out and employ people from outside the
country to work in Nigeria whereas we have so many Nigerians that are
unemployed. I feel the way out is that most of our institutions should
be adequately equipped with the necessary materials to a level that
Nigeria will be able to provide the industries with the required
skilled manpower.
I was appointed on August 2006. This means that I'm slightly above
seven years in the organization.
For example, when I came on board , many companies at the time,
particularly the foreign companies, were not interested in training at
the Industrial Training Fund, thinking that our staff were not very
competent. We addressed this problem by training many of our people
overseas. And today, in Lagos, you find out that we have so many
training programmes being given to us to implement by the major
companies. A proof of the rise in training consciousness, on account
of ITF intervention, is the increasing request for reimbursement by
employers of labour registered and the remittance of training
contributions to the fund. Reimbursement of training contributions is
done on condition that ITF guidelines on training are met. Therefore,
the more the employers request for and get reimbursed indicates that
training consciousness has really increased and is daily increasing in
the economy.
I believe the organization has achieved its aim. The ITF was little
known before I took over as chief executive.We have problem of poor
funding. The budget of the organization was around N3.6 billion, which
is far too small to achieve all what we want to achieve. Also, the
staffers are not happy, there is no motivation and the salary was
poor. The relationship between ITF and organized body was not good. My
management was also dissolved. These and many more are some of the
challenges. Since I assumed office as the Chief Executive, we have
scaled up the training of our staff, both locally and abroad, with the
objective of enhancing their professional competence. We trained
members of our staff internationally, particularly, in the area of
technical vocational education. The objective here is for them to come
back and impart knowledge to those who are here at home so that we
would be able to build a core of highly trained technical manpower. At
the home level, we have organised short courses for our staff.
Consequently the ITF has created a crop of well-trained development
officers, some of whom are certified and recognized internationally in
their areas of specialization. For instance, we're very good in the
areas of occupational safety, health and environment. Also, we are
involved in productivity and efficiency improvement training.
Poor funding
Yes, we found out that over the years, the money available for
training has been very low and we thought that there was the need to
improve the level of funding. When I came, I started by soliciting for
money from government. I drew up a plan and followed it up by going to
the supervising ministry, the Education Trust Fund (ETF) and many
other places and found out that I could not generate any revenue from
my efforts.
So I decided to look inwards to see areas of generating revenue if we
are to function properly as provided for in the law setting us up. I
found out that in the so many countries I visited, they have similar
laws but there is no reimbursement clause because they use all the
money to train. But in our own case, we reimburse 60 per cent to the
industry and 40 per cent is left for us to pay our salaries and to do
the training.
On assumption of office as the Director General, I found out that
there was a law establishing a Fund and in this law, there was
provision for collection of some money to sustain the activities of
ITF. When I came in, the level of fund generation was very low as I
said earlier. Apart from the fact that the budget of the ITF was
around N3.6 billion, the law stipulates that ITF should collect 1 per
cent of firms and government agencies' annual staff salary.
You know, ITF is sustained by contributions from the organized private
sector. But, you see, when they contribute this money, ITF does not
keep all the money. We require them to train their own staff; so part
of this training is done by them. When they train, in accordance with
our new law, we refund 50 per cent of what we collected from them; so,
we do not keep all the money. What is left is not enough to fund us,
and to equip our centres. That is why, of recent, you see that we have
been making a lot of efforts to collect revenue.
Flouting ITF Laws
Several agencies across all tiers of government as well as about
847,000 private sector operators, registered with the Corporate
Affairs Commission (CAC), have been identified as defaulters in the
ITF law, thus putting us under severe funding constraints.
There are about 867,000 companies registered with the CAC as companies
operating in the country, but only 20,000 companies are captured by
the agency, meaning that as much as 847,000 companies are not
captured; putting all of them on the list of probable defaulters of
the ITF law. The ITF law mandates every employer, including government
at all levels and their agencies, having 25 or more employees in their
establishment, in respect of each calendar year and or the prescribed
date, to contribute to the Fund one per cent of the amount of his
annual pay roll.But ironically, we have discovered that, even agencies
of government who are supposed to be partners of ITF, which is itself
a federal government agency, are not obeying the directive.The law
stipulates that any contribution not paid within the time prescribed
in the Act attracts a sum equal to five per cent of the amount unpaid
to be added for each month or part of a month after the date on which
payment should have been made. The only thing we can do for a
recalcitrant employer is to take such to court. But it's not the best
way. So we have in the law now that anybody who wants to benefit from
FG contract or business should show evidence of payment of ITF
training contributions. As such, some organisations that were not
paying before have started paying because they want to do business
with the FG. We are also collaborating with some other government
agencies like the Customs for those companies who have to clear their
goods at the ports. We believe that with times people will obey the
The National Industrial Skills Development Programme (NISDP) is
ongoing. It is a youth programme to be implemented in all states of
the federation and the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), with 23 states
and the FCT nearly completed, with 13 more states to be followed.The
programme was designed to fasttrack the achievement of the national
industrial revolution plan of the Federal Government's transformation
agenda in line with Vision 20:2020.The thrust of the programme was
meant to shore up the skill shortages by building capacity of the
youth so that they could be employed by others or be self-employed.As
a goal to turn Nigeria's qualitative human and physical resources
advantage to productive advantage, the initiative was geared towards
developing skilled entrepreneurial workforce for small and medium
enterprises in areas where the nation has comparative advantage,
reduce youth restiveness, provide skills to support industrial
revolution as well as poverty reduction.Currently, a total of 10,000
youths from nine states, which include Abia, Anambra, Bauchi, Bayelsa,
Benue, among others, were selected to undergo vocational skills
training and entrepreneurship programme for three months during the
first phase of the programme.In the second phase of the programme, 14
states would benefit, which include Sokoto, Kaduna, Katsina, Adamawa,
Gombe, Enugu, Kogi, Niger, Borno, Ondo, Ogun, among others. We have
identified three trade areas in which the 14,000 youths would be
trained, which include welding and fabrication, plumbing and
autotronics.The prospect of the programme is an opportunity for
members of the organized private sector, who complain of lack of
skilled hands, to draw from the pool of skilled technical middle level
manpower which will help to mop up unemployment.It is expected that
majority of the graduates of the programme will start up their own
businesses while some will be employed in various sectors of the
economy; thus readily becoming potential members of various business
To this end, the Bank of Industry (BoI) would help to provide the
NISDP graduates access to start up loan facilities while Small and
Medium Enterprises Development Agency of Nigeria (SMEDAN) would
provide them with entrepreneurship development and training skills.
As a follow-up, a data bank would be generated for the NISDP
graduates, which would guide prospective employers and clients in
making informed decisions about utilization of their services.
Yes, we have started collecting the money but the money we have
collected so far is not much. This is because we are just implementing
the legislation and there are so many things in the amended Act. If
you look at section six of that law. The level of compliance is not
high, but it has improved. For instance, the number of companies have
improved from 5,000 to 20, 000. Our revenue has increased to about N18
billion now. Mind you, about 800,000 companies are registered with
CAC. So, you can imagine 20,000 companies out of about 867,000
companies. If we can get hold of atleast 300,000 companies, it will
solve most of our problems. We still have a long way to go, though,
but I know we will get there.
Training centres
The ITF training centre, particularly our model skill training centre
has become a 'Mecca' for Technical Vocational Education. We have
centres in Lagos, Jos, Kano; we have a modern one in Abuja. We have
been able to complete the one in Lokoja. When people come around, we
start to showcase our centre which we built with technical support
from the Institute of Technical Education Services of Singapore. The
ITF also is always at the cutting edge of technical vocational skills
training in Nigeria. In addition to bringing people to training, the
ITF takes training to the people, particularly, in the nooks and
crannies of Nigeria by deploying a number of mobile training workshops
decked with the state-of-the-art modern equipment tools and facilities
in 11 trade areas.
So when we have these mobile workshops, we would be able to take
training to the doorsteps of our people. All these attest to our
technology-driven processes, functions and programmes in the ITF. And
definitely, with all these efforts of offering direct intervention in
industrial and commercial skills training and development with these
competent staff, we believe that we will be doing a good service to
our country.
We also proposed something to government, which we presented to
stakeholders, known as NISDP which is an aspect of the national
industrial development plan for the Federal Ministry of Trade and
This plan envisages that we will have industrial skills training
centers in the 36 states of the federation and Abuja. And in each of
these centres, we have provision for training people in 24 trade
areas. We have also made provision in this plan for Centers for
Advance Skills Training for Employment (CASTE) and these are bigger
centers that have provision for about 45 trade areas and these will be
located in the six geo-political zones of the country.

No comments:

Post a Comment