Concerned about inadequate skilled technicians and its consequences on the country’s economy, some stakeholders have advocated curriculum overhaul, especially in vocational institutions.
They are of the view that what is on ground is inadequate.
Mr Bolaji Osunsanya, Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of Axxela Ltd. said on Wednesday that the curriculum review had become overdue.
He spoke when Mr Ladi Lawanson, Chairman, School Based Management Committee (SBMC) and some senior staff of the Federal Science and Technical College (FSTC), Yaba, paid him a courtesy visit in Lagos.
Axxela CEO, Mr Bolaji Osunsanya (2nd right) with Mr Ladi Lawanson, Chairman SBMC, FSTC, Yaba, during a courtesy visit to Osunsanya
Axxela Ltd. is a private sector-led natural gas distributor in Nigeria and a designated natural gas shipper on the West African Gas Pipeline.
Osunsanya urged that Nigeria should be development-hungry and let its education curriculum speak to the hunger.
According to him, many companies’ preference for technicians trained abroad has to do with competence.
He said that only few of about 50 applicants tested by his company recently passed and were selected.
“If you look at the selected few, it is because they had supplementary experience with one of the IOCs or big companies,” he added.
He said that in a bid to contribute its quota toward the development of vocational education, Axxela, through one of its subsidiaries, Gaslink, had begun refurbishing the Welding and Fabrication Department of FSTC.
Osunsanya said that the company’s corporate social responsibility was focused on education as a way of giving back to communities from where it derived income.
“FSTC then became a choice because it ticked both boxes for us. It created input resources for us as an organisation and created a worthy cause for giving back to society.
“There is a dearth of competent local welders and fabricators in the country, and we see that in everyday life.
“This, for us, is strategic. We will be able to access the best skills and put our resources behind this undertaking,” he said.
The CEO gave the assurance that the company’s intervention in the college would lead to establishment of a centre of excellence in welding and fabrication expected to come in four stages.
“One is facility upgrade, which is what we are currently doing. We will also support with curriculum development and teacher training.
“We will invest in teacher training, look at the curriculum and make it more relevant to everyday work and make it global or world class as it needs to be.
“There are developments in that area already; so, we just need to leapfrog that.
“Then, we will be looking at what you will call extension work, making sure that when you impart the skills, they have the opportunity to practise in a live environment.
“We will bring them in and encourage our partners to use graduates of the school in real life experience,” he said.
The CEO added that the company would help the centre to coordinate internships, vacation jobs and opportunities to work.
“We think a combination of these should make for a very strong welding and fabrication professional, and that is what we desire,” he said.
On expectations from graduates of the proposed centre of excellence, the CEO said that the centre would produce quality workmen.
He added that skills obtainable from the centre would continue to be pivotal to operational excellence within Axxela’s segment of the value chain.
“Hence, we need to have an active system for grooming them to become competent welders.
“Our expectation is that whenever we assess these practitioners, it will be clear that some would have passed through FSTC.
“If we track it and it starts to show, then we will know we are getting it right.
“I am hoping that if we call 500 welders for a test, among the top numbers, a sizable number will be from FSTC and it will be clear that we are on the right track,” he said.
Asked if public perception is responsible for low enrolment into technical schools, Osunsanya said: “It is probably the way we look at such professions and how we project them.
“If they think a welder can achieve everything that society expects him to achieve, then they will pay attention to it. I think that is what we need to do, get them trained properly.
“In our field, a welder earns more than a safety officer, and if you have a top welder, he probably will even earn more than a chief engineer in a typical company because it is a highly specialised skill.
“I think first, the trade centre should not be a remedial school that people go into because they could not get admitted into a technology school or university,” he advised.
According to him, it should be a path on its own, and after the trade centre, the students should graduate to be on top of their profession.
He added that there was need to highlight achievements of professionals that had gone through the path to encourage students.
According to him, this can change the perception.
In his remarks, Lawanson lauded the gesture by the Axxela CEO.
He said that the country had not made adequate investment in vocational skills training.
According to him, there is a huge aspect of the country’s economy where such skills are required and the competence gap costs the country much as companies hire expatriates with the skills.
“If we have trained professionals in such areas, then even the equipment we will buy will last longer, even employment within those different trades will help to pay people properly and put them in the economy.
“I think we have this unidirectional mindset that every body must be a white collared job professional, which is not true, as this is not realistic to our national objective.
“Let me then state that this is what drives my passion in accepting to serve in this capacity as the Chairman of the SBMC of FSTC, to help to bring as much awareness and support to that key sector of our livelihood.
“This will basically help us to unlock the potential of these young ones, as well as propel them to contribute meaningfully to the economy and the development of the nation,” the chairman said.
Lawanson notef that a major reasons for setting up SBMC by the Federal Government, was to attract partners, funding, ideas and knowledge to support the schools.
He expressed delight at the ability of the committee to facilitate the Axxela project to the tune of N23 million and others to the college.
He gave the assurance that the committee would continue to look for more collaborations.
“On the Axxela project, he said: “The first stage is the renovation of the welding and fabrication workshop.
“It is also to be able to make linkages between what we are teaching them here and what obtains in the industry out there.
“Part of the attraction is that once they have been trained properly, we will make the linkage for them to be employed there as required,” Lawanson said.