– MS Ingawa
The last few days left Nigerians especially unemployed youth angry regarding a communique released by The Sub-Saharan African Skills and Apprenticeship Stakeholders Network (SASASNET) hinting that the much awaited Dangote Refinery has engaged 11,000 skilled workers from India while neglecting unemployed Nigerian youth.
The network noted that the reason for the neglect was that youths from Nigeria lacked the adequate skills needed to be engaged in such assignment.
While acknowledging the concerns of the Nigerian people, its also eminent to understand that this is an unfortunate reality before us. We dont need anyone to tell us that most Nigerian graduates lack on-the job skills for technical operations. There have been incidences where first class graduates of Engineering fail to identify simple unit operations in chemical processing plants because they only know them by name in books.
And this isn’t for the graduates to blame as they only can give what they were given. Simply put, there is a serious disconnect between the academic environment and the practical world. Even most of the lecturers have been to real practical sites occasionally. And this is also not for the teachers to blame as they have little or no adequate tool set to practicalize the knowledge (i wrote about it sometime ago).
Dangote is a business entity with obligation to shareholders and cannot take risk in recruitment process just to please someone. And notwithstanding, the company has been engaging fresh Nigerians and training them for 6 months in same India before eventual deployment. Dangote Refinery has drawn the graduates from many Nigerian Universities for that purpose. I have many friends from ABU Zaria who have gone to India and are currently working with either Dangote Refinery, Fertilizer or Sugar Plants. I was also invited 3 times by Dangote Refinery for interview and couldn’t make it to all of them due to a reason or the other.
However the institutions responsible for providing such skills and Apprenticeship are Polytechnics, technical colleges and other skills acquisition institutions. Our civil service has succeeded in abrogating the importance of such qualifications through poor framework in absorbing persons with such qualifications and the poor knowledge and skill transfer at the institutions also contribute to the unemployability of them by private sector.
At some point China converted over 100 universities to Polytechnics reason being they needed more technical skills than university degrees for Industrialization. While in Nigeria we are battling to remove dichotomy between BSc and HND because the only labour market we have is working on the desk not in factories.
The importance of skills is enormous for employability. Many Nigerians are unemployed today because they are unemployable. @ProfIsaPantami has elaborated so much on this aspect in his book “Skills Rather Than Just Degrees” which is a recommended reading for young people especially in labour market.
In order to bridge this gap and avoid importation of skilled labour thereby encouraging skilled labour acquisition, SASASNET recommended;
1. Development of National Skills Qualifications Framework with adequate provisions for the informal sector.
2. Integration of NEET (Not in Education, Employment and Training) into the apprenticeship training programme to promote inclusivity.
I also recommend;
1. Strong synergy between academic and practical environments through engagement of teachers and students from higher institution days.
2. Training and retraining of lecturers in practical world so they can practicalize the knowledge transfer.
3. Furnishing and upgrading of our Polytechnics into more robust and technologically-driven institutions to enhance the quality of graduates for efficient service delivery.
God bless Nigeria 🇳🇬