Director-General of the Industrial Training Fund (ITF), Sir Joseph Ari, has said in spite of Nigeria’s high unemployment rate, about 925 technical and Information Communication and Technology (ICT) jobs have been difficult to fill.
He said a major challenge for government has been the dearth of Nigerians with requisite skills even when the National Skills Gap Assessment (NSGA) created openings in six priority sectors of the economy conducted by the ITF in collaboration with the united Nation’s Industrial Development Organisation (UNIDO).
He stressed that the survey and others conducted by several organisations attributed the shortfall to a mismatch between labour supply and requirements of the job market.
Ari disclosed this yesterday in his welcome address at the 14th Biennial Students Industrial Work Experience Scheme (SIWES) National Conference in Abuja, saying: “The SIWES was initiated to provide students of engineering, technical and allied disciplines with practical experience of real work situations they are likely to find after graduation, among other objectives.
“It emerged in response to the growing concerns among employers of labour that graduates of tertiary institutions lacked adequate practical knowledge.”
Commenting on the theme of the conference titled: “Implementation of The Students Industrial Work Experience Scheme in the New World Order: Roles and Responsibilities of Stakeholders,” Ari challenged the participants to seek ways of addressing skills mismatch through the SIWES.
Chairman of the Occasion and Vice Chancellor, University of Jos, Prof. Seddid Maimako, said more attention should be paid to practical teaching than theory in the nation’s tertiary institutions.
His words: “The best way to reduce unemployment in Nigeria is to focus more on practical aspects of education than the theory aspects. We must de-emphasise theory and give room for practical studies, graduates should endeavour to prove themselves in areas outside their specialty to improve their lives. The new world order requires new skills for citizens to grapple with unemployment, we need to look at our employment trends of skills match for our people.”
He added that most students continued to register for newly introduced skills and courses aimed at getting jobs as soon as they complete their studies in the university.
Declaring the two day conference open, Minister of Industry, Trade and Investment, Richard Niyi Adebayo, said the conference was relevant not only for the survival of SIWES, but its resolutions would reduce unemployment, which he said, remained a priority of the President Muhammadu Buhari administration.
“The Federal Government initiated the ease of doing business, special intervention programmes and cash injections into several sectors grow the economy and create jobs for Nigerians and indeed, unemployment was reducing until the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“However, government discovered the fact that some of the vacancies created could not be filled for reasons earlier cited by the Director-General of the ITF.”
He lamented that the nation’s educational system was not producing graduates in the required disciplines for the economy or were training people without employable skills, adding: “Either way, SIWES has a vital role in bridging the gap.”
Adebayo urged the participants to generate foolproof recommendations not only for effective management of SIWES, but also capable of addressing the skills mismatch.
He pledged that the ministry would work with relevant government agencies to ensure adequate funding of the scheme, taking into cognisance its usefulness and importance for the training of indigenous manpower.