Daily Champion (Lagos)

5 July 2006

Nigeria: SIWES: Bridge for Theory, Practicals - Prof. Akerejola

interview

Lagos — Director-General, Industrial Training Fund (ITF), Prof. Olu Akerejola in this interview with Correspondent MOSES EZULIKE, speaks on the Students Industrial Work Experience Scheme (SIWES), the Fund's annual award; industrial productivity scheme as well as its internal capacity building efforts among other issues. Excerpts:

TF Annual Award ceremony and its significance.

The ITF Annual Award Ceremony is the occasion for recognizing individuals who have distinguished themselves in their contributions to the successes of the Fund. For 2005, the story is not any different as it afforded us the opportunity to celebrate duty and diligence, service and sacrifice, modesty and maturity, loyalty and commitment. The occasion is such that ITF makes it a point of duty to give unto Caesar what belongs to Caesar.

In other words, we try to bestow to whom honour is due amongst members of the ITF staff as well as amongst its stakeholders. The significance of this ceremony is that, there is always a reward for hard work and distinction. The award serves as motivation to beneficiaries for their exemplary conduct and performance, while it serves as a challenge to others, to give in their best in leveraging the ITF to greater heights.

Apart from celebrating individual contributions and achievements, during such occasions, we also highlight performance and achievements of the ITF as a corporate body.

On stimulation of industrial productivity.

Yes, part of the responsibility of the Fund as government agency is to help enhance industrial productivity by way of facilitating human capital development in the Nigerian economy. To this extent, promoting and encouraging the acquisition of skilled manpower in industries and commerce, is the major activity of the Fund. I am proud to say that we have undertaken this activity with all sense of responsibility and commitment in 2005.

It is the Fund's standard practice to provide training intervention to bridge the gap in individual and corporate performance. Accordingly, the Fund stepped up the identification of training needs in companies in 2005, at a rate of 33.8 per cent. In relation to that, the Fund also achieved 83.7 per cent success rate in undertaking in-depth diagnostic studies in small and medium scale enterprises. Through the identification of training needs and in-depth diagnostic studies, the Fund generated a lot of data and information on the basis of which it developed suitable and relevant training programmes for industry and commerce. A success rate 68 per cent was thus achieved by the ITF in designing, developing and test-running of new training programmes. This is an indication that the ITF is responding proactively to the changing skills and needs of industry and commerce. To ensure that employers get value from the training they conduct themselves directly or as out-sourced to consul tants.

It is important to note that, in 2005, the ITF has responded not only to the learning requirements in industry and commerce, but also that of other sectors of the economy by implementing 176 scheduled training programmes as well as 104 unscheduled training programmes. A total of 31, 173,000 workers were trained on those programmes.

While addressing the general training needs in industries and commerce, it is significant to bring to public notice that the Fund places emphasis on boosting the stock of technical skills in the Nigerian economy. In this regard, the ITF scaled up its apprenticeship training services in 2005. I am glad to say that in this area, we achieved 128 per cent success rate in monitoring Apprenticeship programmes in industry, throughout the nation. Again, we achieved 58.5 per cent performance rate in the installation and harmonization of Apprenticeship training programmes in industry in 2005.

Reimbursement to employers.

The Fund has continued to improve in living up to its statutory obligations of reimbursing contribution of employers that trained their workers according to ITF guidelines. In the year under review, all the 184 companies that submitted training claims to the ITF, were granted the statutory reimbursement. Reimbursement is an incentive for encouraging employers to train their workers so that value addition would increase within the nation's economy. To that extent, the Fund would continue, as it has done in 2005, to organise workers on Reimbursement Schedule Officers in industry and commerce, on how to process their claims in line with the reimbursement scheme.

STUDENTS INDUSTRIAL WORK EXPERIENCE SCHEME (SIWES) and training needs

The operations of SIWES in the Fund were stepped up in 2005. Our performance rate in SIWES orientation exercise rose to 82.8 per cent. In the year under review, a total of 40 universities, 72 polytechnics and monotechnics, and 56 colleges of education participated in the SIWES. The sum of N34, 455,151.00 was paid as allowances to 58,151 students who participated in the Scheme from the Universities. For the polytechnics and monotechnics, N38, 083,100.00 was paid to 63,265 students, while 3,0508 students from the Colleges of Education were paid N11, 427,000.00.

The import of SIWES cannot be over-emphasised, in that, it helps to bridge the gap between theory and practice in the teaching-learning process in the institutions of higher learning. Consequently, the ITF, along with other collaborating agencies, has undertaken a number of activities in 2005 at reforming the SIWES, to suit current and future learning dynamics, both in school and at work.

Accordingly, the ITF organised series of sensitisation seminars last year at Ibadan, Port-Harcourt, Kaduna and Lagos, to prepare the ground for the introduction of cooperative education in Nigeria. Cooperative education is a synergistic process that promotes work-integrated learning. It advocates and advances work-integrated learning (WIL) as a human resource development strategy. It also builds network of leaders in educating, industry and government for the purpose of spreading needs of the individual, economy and the society.

In introducing cooperative education, the ITF believes that stakeholders' commitment and participation in SIWES would be strengthened. Also, work-integrated learning, which is the primary income outcome of cooperative education, would enhance mutual integration and symbiosis between industry and school. Creativity and innovation would multiply and impact positively on the Nigerian economy as it is the case with South Africa, from where we borrowed the concept of cooperative education. The ITF will continue with the cooperative education crusade for the benefit of Nigeria.

On internal capacity building at ITF

It is said that no teacher or trainer can give what he or she does not have. Therefore, while we strive to administer to the changing training needs of the economy, we have also been adding value to our professional competence. To this extent, we have in 2005, sent 307 members to institutions of higher learning. In order to acquire international best practice and techniques in human resource development, we have sent eight officers on courses, workshops and study tours abroad in 2005. We will send more officers on such internal capacity sojourns, both at home and abroad, in the coming years. After all, we can only prove the performance of others if we improve our professional competence. As a matter of policy, we have set aside 25 per cent of our personnel cost for staff training and development. We will pursue this policy with consistency, determination and resolute result-orientation.

Linkage and collaboration programmes

In spite of our achievements, we are humble enough to realise that the Fund cannot do capacity building alone. We have, therefore, stepped up our linkages and collaboration. In the year under review, ITF and the Directorate of Technical Cooperation in Africa (DTCA) signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU). Based on the compatibility of the mandates of the ITF and the DTCA, we are synergising resources and efforts for optimum delivery of our individual and collective services. While the ITF has the statutory responsibility of promoting training and ensuring the availability of skilled indigenous manpower for the industrialization and sustainable development of Nigeria, the DTCA has the onus of facilitating the development of competent professionals and experts across the continent, to shore up manpower gaps for even the sustainable development of Africa.

As can be clearly seen, human capacity building is the strategic interface between the ITF and the DTCA. The MoU provides the framework within which the two organisations engage in joint research and publication of research findings, data-banking on professionals and experts training and development skilled personnel, networking with local and international agencies engaged in similar endeavour, among other programmes and projects.

I am glad to say that the union between the ITF and the DTCA was consummated last November at Lokoja were we jointly organised a workshop on Internal Capacity-Building for DTCA-ITF Programmes/Projects Implementation staff. While, we have concluded arrangements for a follow-up to the Lokoja workshop, the DTCA has requested the ITF to provide experts who would facilitate at a workshop on test development and curriculum development for examiners in Freetown, Sierra Leone.

Also, in the period under review, the Fund initiated collaboration with the German Technical Cooperation Agency (GTZ). It is our hope that this collaboration will come into fruition in the in-coming year. Progress is also being made in the collaboration between the ITF and the Small and Medium Enterprises Development Agency of Nigeria (SMEDAN) and the National Board for Technology Incubation (NBTI). We will continue to expand the network so that, through technical collaboration institutional synergy would be brought to bear on the impact and result of human capacity building in Nigeria.

Assessment

In conclusion, I want to restate that we have recorded success in various areas of our activities and services. I strongly believe that our clients, most especially the Organised Private Sector (OPS) are quite satisfied with the services the ITF render. We assure that we would sustain the good work and do better in the years ahead.

While making that pledge, I wish to acknowledge that the achievements made so far were possible on account of contributions made by individuals and agencies that relate with the ITF. Our thanks go to the OPS who have so much faith in us. We thank employers of labour for their responsiveness. We look forward to your continuous response to the call for training and remittance of training contributions to the ITF. We are grateful to all the stakeholders in SIWES for cooperating with the Fund in running the scheme without hitches. Our gratitude also goes to the government and people of Plateau State for being very generous and accommodating hosts to the ITF, as well as my all my colleagues in the Fund, the ITF management team and all other staff, who worked relentlessly, with high sense of sincerity of purpose, for the Fund to get to its current level of achievement.

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