Tackling challenges of inadequate Skilled workforce in Nigeria

—The Role of Sector Skills Councils

Late Sir Johnnny Ogbuene

The challenges of inadequate skilled workforce to drive Nigeria’s socio-economic development will soon be a thing of the past if the current plans to establish Sector Skills Councils in the key sectors of the Nigerian economy come to fruition. The Industrial Training Fund (lTF) is partnering with the United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO) to mobilize employers from identifiable critical sectors of the economy for the purpose of floating functional Sector

Skills Councils which will help to create a large pool of quality skilled manpower to drive the critical sectors. This is based on the understanding that one of the major challenges of the Nigeria economy, is tackling the huge unemployment rate. Huge skills gap and skills mismatch between the demands for skills by enterprise (employers of labor) and supply of skills by education institutions constitute a major factor in Nigeria’s high unemployment rate. This has led to the present situation where many graduates are said to be “unemployable”.

The avoidable consequence is that Nigeria enterprises have to invest hugely in retraining new hires for relevant skills, competence and productivity. Complaint is that educational institutions train without recourse to Labour Market Information (LMI), employers’ demands and needs. Employers and enterprises are not carried along in the planning and design of National Occupational Standards (NOS) and National Vocational Qualification Frameworks (NV QF).

The existing National Apprenticeship Scheme has lots of gaps as it does not serve the needs of employers. Qualifications issued are not only company-specific (lacking transferability) but also lack both national and international recognition.

The proposed Sector Skills Councils are meant therefore to address these challenges as they will help to create an inexhaustible large pool of skills relevant to various sectors of Nigeria economy, enhance employability, reduce training costs and boost productivity.

Why Sector Skills Councils? Sector Skills Councils (SSCs) are employer-led organizations which seek to ensure an adequately skilled workforce for their relevant sectors.

They are normally established and managed by the private sector but funded by the government.

Goals of Sector Skills Councils:

The Sector Skills Councils which will be established for each identifiable sector of the economy aim to:
a) Support employers in developing and managing apprenticeship standards.
b) Reduce skills gaps and shortages as well as improve productivity
c) Boost the skills of the sector’s workforce.
d) Improve learning and training in their sector
e) Develop a skill development plan for the sector
f) Develop National Occupation Standards (NOS) for validation of vocational qualification
g) Develop and operate a Labour Market Information system for their sector.

Relationship between NOS, SSCs, and Vocational Qualifications:

National Occupational Standards (NOS) which helps to breakdown the skills, knowledge and understanding needed to undertake a particular role in the industry are specifically used among others to:

– Develop qualifications
= Develop training programmes
– Define job descriptions and recruitment adverts Establish performance management

The Sector Skill Councils should be able to:

Define and develop their respective National Occupational Standards (NOS) to ensure best fit or fit for-purpose qualifications.

– Collaborate with awarding bodies and institutions to develop qualifications – Get involved in developing and designing new occupational standards.
– Get involved in ensuring the vocational education and training are demand-led rather than supply-led. Assist in improving the relevance of qualifications, including apprenticeship.

What is in SSCs for the Construction Sector?

A functional Sector Skills Council for Construction Sector is expected to help develop an understanding of the future skills needs for the industry, contribute to the development of National Occupational Standards. assist in the design and approval of apprenticeship frameworks and the Apprenticeship Standards and create Sector Qualification Strategies as Well as a large pool of high talent personnel for the sector.

As one of the key sectors of the Nigerian economy whose productivity, profitability and overall performance depend largely on the competence and quality of its huge workforce, stakeholders in the construction sector are called upon to extend their collaboration, support and buy in for the establishment of the Sector Skills Council, given the obvious trickledown benefits.

In view of the importance attached to the SSCs value chain, UNIDO and lTF have been sensitizing stakeholders in the key sectors to key into the programme. Speaking at one of such meetings in Lagos, UNIDO representative Dr. Chuma Ezedinma noted that SSCs could also help to articulate the voice of the employers on skills, develop innovative skills solutions and salvage employer ambition and investment skills and job creation.

On his own part, a representative of the ITF Mr. Dickson Onuoha highlighted the role of skills in realizing the Nigerian Industrial Revolution Plan (NIRP) launched in 2014. As he put it. having conducted Skills Gap Assessment for both demand and supply in collaboration with UNIDO, findings from the supply side indicated that skills Gap cannot be adequately identified without the establishment of functional Sector Skills Councils (SSCs).

UNlDO consultant who is also a Senior Adviser on Industrial Skills Development, Simon Armstrong, identified the absence of Labour Market Information (LMI) as a key disturbing factor in skills gap assessment stating that there is no link between skills supply planning and skills demand from industry. Worse still, Nigerian education is essentially academic and content- driven with almost no linkage to industry; and no monitoring system to trace labour market performance of post-secondary graduates Having laid the card on the table, it is now left for the various stakeholders in the critical sectors of the Nigerian economy to embrace the SSCs establishment in their own interest and in the overall interest of industrial revolution in Nigerian.

This article was originally published in the Nigeria Construction Digest Vol 1 No. 4 June 2016. Images from www,google.com

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