Exploring institutional apprenticeship, training to develop workforce for future purpose

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The spate of unemployment and poverty in Nigeria has moved the Industrial Training Fund (ITF) to institutionalize apprenticeship and traineeship in resolving these challenges bearing in mind how well it worked for other countries. ADEOLA TUKURU reports.

The National Bureau of Statistics’ (NBS) report on Labour Force Statistics, Unemployment and Underemployment of Q4 2020, said the number of unemployed persons in the economically active or working age (i.e15 to 65) was 122,049,400.

Of this number, 69, 675,468 were willing to work, but only 46,488,079 were in paid employment.

What could be inferred from the survey was that over 23 million Nigerians that were perhaps qualified and willing to work were without jobs. It also showed that the unemployment rate among the youth (i.e. people between 15 to 35 years) was up by 8 per cent from 34.9 per cent to 42.5 per cent, which was the highest among other age groupings within the period under review.

Skill gap assessment of six priority sectors

Despite this high unemployment rate, especially among the youth, a Skills Gap Assessment of Six Priority Sectors of the National Economy conducted by the ITF in collaboration with the United Nations Development Organisation (UNIDO) revealed that rather than the absence of jobs, vacancies still exist in several sectors of the national economy that either could not be filled by Nigerians because of the lack of requisite skills or were being filled by foreigners.

The question that arises from this paradox is, how can we plug these gaps using apprenticeship? The answer to this question can be found in countries such as Germany, China, Australia, USA and others that at various times faced similar challenges such as we are contending. What they did was to pour greater investments in skills acquisition and apprenticeship training.

Countries that fared well in apprenticeship services

For instance, in Germany about two decades ago, there was mass unemployment with roughly five million unemployed people and low employment rates to the extent that it was labelled “the sick man in Europe”.

Today, nearly two-thirds of young Germans are enrolled in apprenticeships once they leave full-time education using the German Dual Vocational and educational training (DVT), nine out of ten young trainees get a permanent job at the end, with others being offered shorter-term contracts.

Germany is now dubbed a job wonderland and European champion with regard to its high employment rates. In Austria, 40 per cent of youth go on work-based apprenticeship after they finish school. Another country that fared well with apprenticeships is Denmark.

Klavs Dahl Christensen, Senior Consultant for AARHUS TECH International, in an ILO publication of December, 2013 on the need for apprenticeships, noted that apprenticeships were very important during the unemployment crisis in Denmark, as they offered young people an easier entrance into the labour market, while the companies use these systems to make sure they hire staff with the right set of skills and qualifications.

Similarly, England in 2009 made concerted efforts to increase the number of apprenticeships to combat youth unemployment by creating the National Apprenticeship service.

Between 2009 and 2014, the number of active apprentices in the country doubled from 444,800 to 851,500. While France in 2020 alone spent over a billion Euros to boost its apprenticeship programmes.

Apprenticeship in Nigeria

The Director-General/Chief Executive of the Industrial Training Fund (ITF) Sir Joseph N. Ari at the 2nd National Skills Summit held in Abuja recently explained that in Nigeria, apprenticeship has been an age-long tradition and an institution that was jealously guarded by customs, lineage and rituals.

He said it was a common feature of the traditional setting to see people engage in a vocation such as farming, carving, carpentry, sculpting, building, welding, catering and boat-making amongst others.

In his words “This practice, which has persisted to date entailed that the apprentices lived with their masters and received no pay except maintenance and training.

“ After the period of training and after satisfying the required standard of proficiency in that particular trade, the apprentice then graduates to a journeyman.

“The journeyman is a worker who has passed the stage of apprenticeship but is not yet qualified to be a master, and still worked under a master to receive more experience, especially in management, leadership and customer handling, and received a fixed wage for his labour.

Form of apprenticeship regarded as traditional apprenticeship

“This form of apprenticeship is regarded as traditional apprenticeship, which is not viable to enhance the economic development of a country and has not helped in curbing issues of unemployment and various other societal problems in our country.

In appreciation of the potential of apprenticeship and skills acquisition generally, Sir Ari also explained that to enhance employability and job creation, the Federal Government established various institutions that will drive the actualisation of National objectives and coupled with the recognition that investments in human capital had greater potential than infrastructural development or the building of machines.

He said one of such institutions was the Industrial Training Fund (ITF), which was mandated to: Provide, promote and encourage the acquisition of skills in industry and commerce to generate a pool of indigenous trained manpower sufficient to meet the needs of the private and public sectors of the economy.

Mandates of training skills in public and private sectors of the economy

Other mandates are training for skills in management for technical and entrepreneurial development in the public and private sectors of the economy, Set training standards in all sectors of the economy and monitor adherence; and Evaluate and certify vocational skills acquired by apprentices, craftsmen and technicians in collaboration with relevant organizations.

He said in its fifty years of existence, it has pursued this mandate with single-mindedness and vigour, training over 22 million Nigerians whose contributions to the growth of the various sectors of the national economy cannot be easily quantified.

He said in implementing its mandate, as far back as 1978, the Fund commissioned a study of In-plant and Apprentice Training in Nigeria, the outcome of which gave birth to the development of the National Apprenticeship Scheme. Consequently, the Fund established a Vocational Apprenticeship Training (VAT) Department that has evolved into the Technical and Vocational Skills Training Department (TVSTD) today, to take charge of the conduct of the scheme.

According to him, in execution of its function, the Fund promotes apprenticeship/skills training by liaising with employers of labour, appraises companies implementing the scheme, develops curriculum and training materials for craftsmen and Instructors training, and assists industries and training institutions in developing the capability to design, prepare, use training package and aids, supervises, evaluates and offers follow-up services of apprenticeship scheme as well as install/harmonizes apprenticeship schemes in companies.

ITF partners 1,353 companies to conduct apprentice training

He further said between 2010 and 2019 alone, the ITF liaised with a total of 1,353 companies for the promotion of in-company apprenticeship activities, visited and appraised 1,146 companies to determine their potential to conduct apprentice training in identified trade areas.

“In addition, it harmonized 444 existing In-company apprenticeship schemes of companies in line with the ITF National Apprenticeship scheme, installed the scheme in 286 companies as well as monitored 831 companies, leading to the training of 36,397 most of whom are gainfully employed.

“We are also currently working on bringing in some of our skills intervention programmes including; the National Industrial Skills Development Programme (NISDP); Women Skills Empowerment Programme (WOSEP); Passion to Profession Programme (P2PP); Skills Training and Empowerment Programme for the Physically Challenged (STEPP-C); Construction Skills Empowerment Programme (CONSEP) and; Agriprenuership Skills Empowerment Programme (AGSEP) amongst others into the apprenticeship scheme.

“From the foregoing, therefore, this Summit is not an admission of a lack of effort but part of the process of galvanising and deepening apprenticeship in Nigeria for National Development and a search for practical solutions to some of the impediments we had encountered some of which include but are not restricted to poor public conception of the apprenticeship system and skills acquisition, lack of necessary policy framework, lack pedagogical skills by some master craftsmen and poor funding of the scheme.

FG’s efforts under the N-Build programmes

On Federal Government’s continuous efforts, the Minister of state, Industry, Trade and Investment, Ambassador Maryam Yalwaji Katagum said the ITF is currently training several thousand Nigerians under the N-Build programme of Ministry of Humanitarian Affairs and Social Services.

She said the summit is a commendable effort by an Agency that is determined to drive the achievement of the aspirations of the Federal Government which is committed more than ever to lift the country out of poverty and reduce unemployment and return it on the path of sustainable growth and economic stability.

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